Ferdinand Berthoud FB 1L Collection

Baselworld 2019: Hands-On With Ferdinand Berthoud's New FB 1L Lunar Watch Collection

Ferdinand Berthoud's high-precision lunar model combines cutting-edge innovations with traditional craftsmanship. With the Chronométrie FB 1L collection, a new astronomical interpretation recalls the past and heads boldly into the future.

By Vincent Daveau

Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, co-president of Chopard, acquired the rights to the name Ferdinand Berthoud in 2006. In 2015, he decided to revive the historical brand and built the Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud in the heart of Fleurier, a village in the area where he was born. Scheufele is known for his steadfast commitment to craftsmanship, and this is abundantly clear in the renaissance of Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud. Scheufle has a decidedly contemporary vision in watchmaking and has engineered an artistic approach into Berthoud's innovative watchmaking.

"With the Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud, we effectively transposed into modern terms what Ferdinand Berthoud might have conceived had he lived in our times," said Scheufele. "We based our contemporary interpretation on some of the most remarkable achievements of this 18th-century genius and gave life to a modern iteration, one that deployed some powerful features reminiscent of the iconic constructions of the past." Scheufele explained his new, creative approach for the Ferdinand Berthoud brand: "we don't aim to design nostalgically commemorative pieces, but to propose contemporary watches that are worthy of the great name they carry and of the excellence that inspired them."

Celebrating astronomy during the Age of Enlightenment

Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud recently unveiled a new experimental collection at Baselworld called the Chronometer FB 1L. The collection pays tribute to the scientific minds of the Age of Enlightenment and their exceptional watchmaking creations. The collection's two versions are cased in white gold, with just 10 pieces accented with ceramic lugs, and another 10 has ceramized titanium lugs. 

These powerful case designs also grace the new FB 1L.1 "Near Side of the Moon" watch. In another nod to history, a hemisphere representing the visible face of the moon (the near side) is also limited to just 10 pieces. The FB 1L.4 "Far Side of the Moon" version displaying the dark face of the moon that's not visible from Earth, will also be produced in only 10 watches. 

The new timepieces are a tribute to scientists' astronomical research during Berthoud's lifetime, who tried valiantly to solve the problem of determining longitude through observation of the stars. 

A tribute to the nautical almanacs, or "Lunars"

The Chronometer FB 1L pays tribute to the pioneering scientists who pooled their talents to achieve a level of chronometric and astronomical precision that would change the course of history. Navigators would be able to sail across oceans without getting lost. The manufacture revived the use of the tourbillon-regulated fusée and chain calibre. Berthoud added mechanical elements to the manually-wound mechanical movement of chronometric quality that provides some very useful astronomical information concerning the Earth's natural satellite, the moon.

To pay homage to the quest for longitude, this watch has been produced in two finishes and features both a moon age and a moon phase indication. In combining these two distinct measurements, first associated almost three centuries ago to enable the accurate calculation of longitude, the manufacture celebrates the quest that inspired a great many endeavors undertaken by Ferdinand Berthoud.

Legible displays for optimised measurement 

Everyone, or nearly everyone, will be familiar with the moon phases, a complication that gives a visual indication of the lunar cycle. The four phases of the moon are respectively: the new moon, the first quarter, the full moon and the last quarter. A lunar period is the interval of time between two new moons. The duration of the lunar phase currently stands at 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes and 2.8 seconds. For all its poetry, it must be admitted there is a certain lack of accuracy when it comes to relying on these measurements.

The master watchmakers have thus added a more accurate Moon age feature, which is used to count the number of days since the last new moon. This measurement, when combined with the time obtained chronometrically, enabled those sailors equipped with nautical almanacs to calculate their longitude with precision. It has been combined in this piece via two different, yet complementary features. The first displays the age of the Moon in days, in a sector numbered 1 to 14 (from the new moon to the full moon), by means of a hand that advances and retreats continually between the full moon and new moon once each is fully attained.

This retrograde indication is coupled with a second function. This is indicated through a dial opening at 5 o'clock by means of an arrow-headed ring containing a hemisphere graphically representing the Moon and its two sides. It is possible to see here, at a single glance, the corresponding phase of the moon in the lunar cycle, in other words, whether the moon is waxing or waning. Interestingly, this display is inspired by the one used by Ferdinand Berthoud to indicate the equation of time, another basic method for precisely calculating longitude.

In search of ultra-precision

Before broaching the subject of accuracy in this astronomical complication designed by the manufacture to deliver the big picture of the lunar cycle, we should perhaps linger a while on some of the main characteristics of a fascinating calibre that is steeped in tradition with an eye to the future. We start with the original calibre, referred to by the in-house craftsmen as FB-T. FC.L displays the hours and minutes on a dedicated dial at 12 o'clock, features a central seconds hand, a 53-hour power reserve indicator on the back and provides information on the current age and phase of the moon.

This manually-wound movement of chronometric quality is equipped with a unique suspended fusée and chain construction that delivers a constant force to the escapement. This system, used in the early days of watchmaking to provide smooth power transmission from the barrel spring via the gear train to the regulator group, has been coupled with a tourbillon regulator designed to correct the residual gravitational errors of the balance. Finally, combining both functions provides the guarantee of a watch of flawless precision, paired with an advanced complication designed to track the lunar cycle, to ensure astronomical precision corresponding to a one-day difference in 577 years of operation.

(Photography by Pierre Vogel)

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FB 1L - Age and phases of the moon display