Hands-On: Ferdinand Berthoud's FB 1 Oeuvre d’Or, A Masterpiece Of Decoration
This great name of the history of chronometry – renowned for marine chronometers in the 18th century – reappeared in 2015 thanks to the former co-president of Chopard, Karl-Friedrich Scheufele. His passion for the preservation of watchmaking heritage has propelled Ferdinand Berthoud to new heights. In 2019, the Chronometer FB 1 family added two ultra-limited editions celebrating decorations of the finest watchmaking traditions.
Ferdinand Berthoud FB 1 Chronometers are exceptional timekeepers. Winning the Aiguille d’Or at the GPHG in 2016, the FB 1.1 now offers two new versions in grey gold (FB 1.1-2) and rose gold (FB 1.2-1) adorned with decorations inspired from the astronomical pocket watch N°3 from Ferdinand Berthoud, dating back to 1806.
An homage to golden savoir-faire
Contrary to previous versions where titanium and ceramics appeared, these two models presented at the Carré des Horlogers of the SIHH 2019 boast cases and dials fully made of solid 18K gold. The three half-bridges of the FB-T.FC-3 caliber are also carved out of the precious metal. But the decorations impress even further.
A unique patina of the golden dial is achieved through painstaking handwork by and engraver. The grained surface is then softened with a special tool, a “rocker”, that delicately flattens the reliefs. It creates a shimmering effect as if the light was reflected on an ancient gold mirror patinated by time. The respective faces in yellow and rose gold of the FB 1.1-2 and FB 1.2-1 are decorated with delicate hand engravings with Ferdinand Berthoud’s name, the individual number of the limited series “N° X/5”, as well as “Haut” and “Bas” (high and low) for the power reserve indicator located at 9 o’clock. The whole universe of Ferdinand Berthoud condensed in a few elegant calligraphic curves. More than two months are necessary to make this rendering.
The back of the movement, visible through a crystal sapphire back, receives just as much attention. It is adorned with “pyramid” engravings, executed by the expert hands of in-house engravers. They meticulously chisel every millimeter of available surface. All the characteristic elements of these exceptional chronometers are highlighted: the tourbillon, the constant force wheel, and the fusée-chain. It is simply beautiful. (For all technical details, read here).
Both models, adequately named “Oeuvre d’Or” and limited to 5 pieces, benefit from the characteristic horological architecture with pillars of the caliber. But the FB 1.1-2 in grey gold is actually the very first to be set with 20 baguette-cut diamonds for 1.99 carats. They are set in place where the sapphire crystal portholes stood, as well as on the crown. The contrast of the grey gold case, the yellow gold of the dial and the discrete scintillating diamonds is striking and very elegant.
Ferdinand Berthoud's Chronometry
The fame of Ferdinand Berthoud comes initially from the precise chronometry of his marine instruments in the 18th century. Their modern heirs proudly boast the same quality, guaranteed by the drastic COSC certification. Some of the lucky collectors who have managed to get their hands on these rare timekeepers say their precision is even greater than the 0/+2s required by typical chronometer certifications. The reputation of the historic watchmaker remains safe even after the rebirth of his name. Ferdinand Berthoud's watchmaking heritage is perpetuated as much through the decoration as much as the performance of the incredible movements.
With the FB 1 Oeuvre d'Or, the manufacture from Val-de-Travers clearly presents a quite unique offering in the Swiss watchmaking world. Whether by its original design or its unique mechanical architecture. The imposing case – sized at 44mm and 13mm thick – and its minimalist face are tamed with time. The coherence of the storytelling and the perfect chronometry are striking a vivid chord among the most demanding collectors in search of exceptional timepieces. Very fine watchmaking that shines bright with these 2019 novelties which present Ferdinand Berthoud’s savoir-faire perfectly.
Their respective prices in rose gold and grey gold are CHF 258.000 et CHF 282.500 (VAT included).
(Photography by Pierre Vogel)