Review: Ferdinand Berthoud Oeuvre d’Or FB1.1-2 & FB1.2-1

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Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud unveils the “Oeuvre d’Or” collection, a new artistic interpretation of its original creation, the Chronomètre FB 1. These two versions were announced in SIHH 2019. Both with new entirely hand-crafted decorations are lavished on both the dial and its engravings, as well as the movement half-bridges, entirely crafted in 18-carat gold. The white gold version is also the very first gemset creation from Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud.

The Berthoud Oeuvre d’Or FB1 in white gold, gemset.

F. Berthoud FB 1

This model previously existed in two gold versions: white gold with titanium lugs (FB 1.1) and rose gold with black ceramic lugs (FB 1.2). The collection now welcomes two additional variations, reprising the precious metals of their predecessors, white gold (FB 1.1-2) and rose gold (FB 1.2-1) respectively, while adorning them with original decorations.

The FB1.1-2 in white gold and very discreet gemset along the case side and crown.

The new FB1.1-2 & FB1.2-1

These two new editions are issued as a limited edition of five pieces each. The base of the new models are not changed from earlier versions. Thus the opinions expressed in our review of the original FB1 remains.

You may want to read the F. Berthoud FB1 as a refresh.

The big differences are in the finishing. Let’s go into the details.

The case and dial

Both watches use the same case and dial basics as the original FB1. The details in the new models are in the finishing. The dial layout is exactly the same as the FB1.

The Chronomètre FB 1.1-2 is built on a 18-carat white gold case with an 18-carat yellow gold dial. The distinctive design of the watch face offers a broad surface on which to express the hand-crafted patina. This patina is created using a combination of engraving techniques.

The rose gold case of the FB1.2-1.

First the gold is finely grained with a graver. The surface is then crafted at length using a tool called a “rocker”, enabling the light to glide across the dial to the rhythm of the shimmering reflections of the moiré effect thus created. The inspiration behind this finish is the dial of the astronomical pocket watch No. 3.

Dial engravings on the Oeuvre d’Or are quite artistically done, and with great mastery.

Each of the five dials in this limited edition is hand-engraved and then subtly coloured. Overall legibility is very good, despite the engraved words on the dial. The engravings are manually made, and say: “Ferdinand Berthoud – Chronomètre – Val-de-Travers – Suisse”, followed by the individual limited-edition number, “N° X/5”. Opposite these engravings are those indicating the power reserve of the movement: “Haut” and “Bas” (High and Low). Though the engravings are very artistically done, and remind us of those on Berluti products, we would have preferred fewer wordings. But this is perhaps an artistic taste point.

The new FB 1.1-2 model in 18-carat white gold stands out in terms of the case itself, since some of its faces are adorned with baguette-cut diamonds for the very first time. When first told of this arrangement, we were very skeptical, for fear that it would be very bling. Especially when there are four locations where the diamonds appear: on either side of the crown and alongside the engraving of the limited-edition number facing it at 9 o’clock. But handling the watch up close, it is surprisingly discreet and though the diamonds are present, they remain “quiet”.

Baguette diamonds on the side of the FB1.1-2.

The FB 1.1-2 model is the first to feature gem-setting instead of the sapphire crystal portholes that historically revealed the key movement components. And as the diamond and gem business is a rather strong component in the Chopard company, who have the same owner as F. Berthoud, it is clear where the expertise is drawn from.

The rose gold FB 1.2-1.

The second edition is the FB 1.2-1, displays most of the characteristics of the 1.1-2 model. The movement, finishes and dial engravings are similar. The differences lie in the fact that its case is entirely made of 18-carat rose gold, as are the dial, lugs, fastening screws and three half-bridges visible through the back. And for the first time, Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud has applied the use of rose gold to all these elements.

The movement FB-T.FC-3

The basics of the movement is the same as the earlier editions. What’s new is the finishing on the bridges and surfaces.

The bridges and plates are decorated with a “pyramid” motif decoration. The material is cut free-hand with flawless precision and regularity using a graver. The effect looks like a hobnail effect, but totally executed by hand.

The magnificent tourbillon and fusee chain system in the earlier editions remain. And remain to be a joy to view.

Concluding thoughts

Overall, the new FB1s are beautiful. The aesthetics remain unmistakable, with the DNA of the earlier editions, and those of the original Berthouds created in the 19th century. The commitment to handwork by the F. Berthoud team is impressive. From the dial, the hands, the case, the movement. All magnificently hand worked.

The F. Berthoud FB1 has always been a very impressive watch for us. In all its editions we have seen so far, including the FB1.1-1 and FB1.2-1 reviewed here, we are totally blown away. Ticks all the boxes. The price of the Berthoud, any Berthoud is rather high. But so is the design, styling, materials used, and the amount of handwork. Very high level. Crème de la crème. Top Top! This arguably makes it worth the asking price. And if one can afford the cost of entry, then we highly recommend it.


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