Ferdinand Berthoud Finds The Right Balance Between Rarity And Choice With The New Régulateur Squelette FB RS
The high-end brand will make only 20 examples of its stunning, new openworked Régulateur Squelette FB RS movement, with customers able to choose case shape and material as well as personalize other details.
It has been nearly six years since Chopard Group and its co-president Karl-Friedrich Scheufele revived the distinguished Ferdinand Berthoud name with the launch of the FB1 in 2015.
In that time, Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud has steadily wowed connoisseurs as well as picking up two GPHG awards, including the aiguille d'or top prize. And this thanks to its ultra-high-end, complicated, finely-finished timepieces that pay tribute to the work of the acclaimed 18th-century Swiss watch and clockmaker after whom the company is named.
These creations have been characterized by multi-patented, in-house movements featuring pillar-and-plate architecture and top-notch chronometry (achieved by pairing an inverted fusée-and-chain system with either a tourbillon or remontoire), regulator style displays, and octagonal or round cases with portholes affording views of the mechanical wizardry within.
I Want to Have What I Can’t Get
While Chopard is a big player in the luxury sector, Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud is often placed alongside independents like MB&F and H. Moser & Cie. because of its high level of craftsmanship and creativity coupled with its low volumes (just 30 pieces per year) and lofty prices. Indeed, its least expensive model is priced at around CHF 200,000.
But beyond recognizing intrinsic value based purely on the level of design and craftsmanship, collectors are increasingly looking for rarity in their next purchase and, more than that, unattainability, in an expression of an “I want to have what I can’t get” mindset.
Added to this quest for rarity is another phenomenon: Even within limited editions, collectors want to deviate more and more from the “set menu” presented to them in terms of materials, colors, finishes, and strap options.
Limited to Just 20 Movements
With those consumer dynamics in mind, Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud decided to use its latest release – the Régulateur Squelette FB RS – to introduce a new business model. That is to say: with the Régulateur Squelette FB RS, the brand manages, from the outset, to incorporate the necessary rarity to generate desirability while, at the same time, giving collectors ample scope for customization.
The Régulateur Squelette FB RS will be limited, but not in regards to its case material and dial color combinations: It will be restricted simply in terms of the number of movements that will be produced – just 20.
Customers can pick the 44mm case of their choice – be it an octagonal case in carburized steel or 18k red gold or a round case in 18k red gold one – and even discuss dial colors and finishings that may deviate from the default combinations proposed by the company. Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud says it will study all requests.
Scheufele, who combines his role at Chopard with being president of Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud, says of the new approach: “Our primary objective is to safeguard collectors’ interests. By explicitly specifying a pre-determined number of movements, we engage in a fully transparent procedure.”
He continues: “Collectors are as sensitive to the rarity of their timepiece as they are to that of the caliber powering it. By communicating about both, we are placing watch movements and customers firmly front and center, thus preserving the integrity of their collection.”
Inherent Wow Factor
Of course, rarity and openness to “study” bespoke requests are, on their own, not enough to make something desirable. There needs to be an inherent wow factor as well, and the Régulateur Squelette FB RS definitely manages to deliver on that front.
There are, admittedly, familiar elements on the Régulateur Squelette FB RS dial that we have seen on previous Ferdinand Berthoud pieces, including the regulator layout with a minutes sub-dial at 12 o’clock, an arced opening with sapphire hour disc at 2 o’clock, and a power reserve indicator at 10 o’clock.
Also returning is the large sweep-seconds hand directly driven by the 60-second tourbillon at 6 o’clock. The tourbillon, of course, is helping to improve the timing rate by averaging out positional errors due to gravity.
Turning over the watch – or looking through the case porthole – we see the familiar Ferdinand Berthoud’s fusée-and-chain system once again used to compensate for the diminishing torque of the mainspring over the 53-hour power reserve to deliver constant force to the escapement, for a further boost to precision.
In fact, not only is each movement COSC-certified, but each fully finished watch is subjected to the Fleuritest to evaluate its precision over a 24-hour period in conditions simulating real-life wear. This belt-and-braces testing and certification are virtually unheard of for such a high-end timepiece but pretty much de rigueur for Ferdinand Berthoud watches.
However, the Régulateur Squelette FB RS is not just a repackaging of Ferdinand Berthoud mainstays.
Unprecedented Views of the Mechanics
New to the dial side is the spectacular skeletonization of the “regulator” dial plate as well as the movement mainplate and bridges, all in German silver and treated with black PVD for the first time. The plates and bridges alone stand out for their contrasting finishes – polished, matte, vertical satin-brushed, and sandblasted – which required almost a year of trials to achieve.
The pared-down bridges are especially noteworthy, for they now boast complex, eye-catching shapes that feature no fewer than 124 sharp, internal angles that have been beveled and gentian-polished by hand.
Thanks to this new openworked architecture, we are treated to unprecedented views of the mechanics. And taking center stage is the tourbillon, with its immense 16.55mm titanium cage, large 12mm beryllium-copper balance wheel, and gilded gears driving the sweep seconds. The V-shaped tourbillon bridge is a mini work of art on its own, featuring mirror-polished and chamfered surfaces, polished flanks, and sandblasted underside.
Also on show are the spiral spring and levers of the power reserve indicator and gears for the minute display and time-setting mechanism, plus we can even see most of the sapphire hour disc.
On the reverse side, the inverted fusée and mainspring barrel plus stopwork form a visual triumvirate with the tourbillon. The latter is supported by an elegant, arrow-headed balance bridge that is just as well-finished as the dial-side tourbillon bridge.
Finally, to the right of the tourbillon, as viewed from the back, we get a glimpse of a suspended, truncated cone and mobile arm that help to transmit the state-of-wind information to the dial-side power reserve indicator.
Pricing And Availability
Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud is offering the Régulateur Squelette FB RS movement in different cases as two default references: the FB 1RS.6 in octagonal carburized steel case priced at CHF 235,000, and the FB 2RS.2 in 18k red gold case priced at CHF 244,000. Both prices include the Swiss VAT rate of eight percent.
For more about the Régulateur Squelette FB RS, head over to the Ferdinand Berthoud website.
(Photography by Pierre Vogel)