In Conversation: Giles English, Co-Founder Bremont
Previous
RANDOM
The Bronze debate
Next

Review: Karl-Friedrich Scheufele presents the Ferdinand Berthoud FB1

by Peter Chong on November 12, 2015
Reviews

We caught up with Karl-Friedrich Scheufele in a private dinner in Singapore. He had just recently re-launched the brand Ferdinand Berthoud. We discussed his motivations for creating the brand, and do a full review the Chronomètre Ferdinand Berthoud FB1: the new watch build from ground up, equipped with a very large diameter tourbillon regulator, and constant force via a fusée – chain system. 

 

Ferdinand Berthoud

 

The year was 1753, and the Master Clockmaker Ferdinand Berthoud sets about to create accurate marine chronometers which can be used to measure longitudes to less than half a degree. This was a matter of national pride, as with this instrument, France can vie with England for maritime supremacy. John Harrison had solved the Longitude timekeeping problem with the H4 in 1761, and England’s navy was in possession of a highly accurate chronometer. Ferdinand Berthoud also produced his marine clock no 1 in 1761 and no 2 in 1764, and earned himself the title  “Horloger Mécanicien du Roi et de la Marine” -Horologist-Mechanic by appointment to the King and the Navy- under the reign of Louis XV.

In the Chopard LUC Museum in Fleurier is a chronometer created by Ferdinand Berthoud. This was the Marine Clock M.M. no 6, dated 1777. Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, co-President at Chopard has been fascinated by the clock and the person of Berthoud. He often pondered on the problems of chronometry solved by these chronometers, and dreamed about creating chronometers.

 

Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, co-President of Chopard, and President of Ferdinand Berthoud wearing the Berthoud FB1 in rose gold and black ceramic.

Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, co-President of Chopard, and President of Ferdinand Berthoud wearing the Berthoud FB1 in rose gold and black ceramic.

 

He was driven by a desire to revive the Berthoud as a brand. But at that time, the name Ferdinand Berthoud was already owned by others, and they had their own plans to revive the name. Karl-Friederich arranged to meet with them, and discovered that their ideas for the brand was totally not in line with what he had in mind. He then began a project to persuade them to sell him the brand. An agreement was made in 2006, and Karl-Friedrich could start on his dream and adventure.

The plan was simple. To create a niche brand, interpreting what Ferdinand Berthoud would have done. But simple plans are often the most difficult to execute. The movement itself took 3 years of research and development and the combined effort of 4 specialists – 2 watchmakers and 2 in R&D. Plus the access to the Chopard LUC facilities. Not a project which can be pulled off by an independent or one who is less well funded. To this we say Bravo to Chopard and Karl-Friedrich Scheufele. Chapeau!

 

Ferdinand Berthoud FB1

Design and case

 

The Ferdinand Berthoud FB1 in rose gold with ceramic accents. The visual aesthetics is one which is quite powerful, and very beautiful in the flesh. The watch also has great presence both visually and in the heft it feels on the wrist.

The Ferdinand Berthoud FB1 in rose gold with ceramic accents. The visual aesthetics is one which is quite powerful, and very beautiful in the flesh. The watch also has great presence both visually and in the heft it feels on the wrist.

 

The immediate reaction as we were handed the watch was one which is very positive. The watch exuded quality. The tone of the rose gold against the black satin finished dial was magnificent. A center cutout reveals not a tourbillon cage (though the lower one is part of the tourbillon) but two wheels which form the directly driven center seconds hand system. The heft of the watch is substantial, and the polish on the case is exemplary.

 

Ferdinand Berthoud FB1. The case is constructed using a pillar type architecture typical of marine chronometers of the 18th century.

Ferdinand Berthoud FB1. The case is constructed using a pillar type architecture typical of marine chronometers of the 18th century. Interestingly, the dial is marked “Val-de-Travers” and “Switzerland”. Val-de-Travers being the valley where the Fleurier is located.

The image above is available as a wallpaper sized 1920 pixels x 1200 pixels. You may download it with a free to use license by clicking here with the condition that it is only for personal, non-commercial use, and you agree not to modify the image in any way.

 

The case design is also interesting in that the base design is octagonal, with a round bezel, to reflect the round cases gimballed within boxes in marine chronometer. Perhaps due to the round bezel gently sloping down to the case middle, the shape of the case is not apparent. Karl-Friedrich called it an “octagon masquerating as a circle”. The round bezel is topped with a domed, arched and glareproofed sapphire crystal.

 

Case side of the Berthoud FB1, showing the crown. The insert shows the fusée cone visible.

Case side of the Berthoud FB1, showing the crown. The insert shows the fusée cone visible.

 

The case is 44mm in diameter, and the octagonal shape provide for the placement of 4 sapphire glass portholes. These portholes allow light into the movement as well as a glimpse inside. The construction of the movement comprising of pillars allowed unimpeded view from the sides.

 

On the non-crown side, the flat surface of the octagon provides a place to engrave the Model number of the watch and limited edition number.

On the non-crown side, the flat surface of the octagon provides a place to engrave the Model number of the watch and limited edition number. Visible through the left porthole is the chain wound around the mainspring barrel.

 

The case also features strap bolts in black ceramic for the rose gold version we were able to photograph here. The watch is also available in white gold with titanium inserts. The same black ceramic inserts are applied to the screw down lock crown, and as inserts on the inter horn space. The crown is hefty, with a knurled finish to aid ease of handling.

 

The movement FB-T.FC

 

From the back, the fusée and chain system is visible, as well as the tourbillon with a very large cage, whose diameter is almost the radius of the case.

From the back, the fusée and chain system is visible, as well as the tourbillon with a very large cage, whose diameter is almost the radius of the case.

 

The Berthoud FB1 is equipped with three features to lay claim to chronometer performance. These are the use of a constant force regulating device in the form of a fusée and chain system, the incorporation of a tourbillon regulator and a large central seconds hand. The FB1 is also equipped with a power reserve indicator.

We focus first on the fusée and chain. The fusée and chain system is one has been around since the 18th century to compensate for variations in the mainspring torque caused by the varying degrees of wind. It is commonly found in the marine chronometers, and indeed featured in those made by F. Berthoud.

The first time this constant force system appeared in a wristwatch was in 1994, when A. Lange & Söhne released the Tourbillon Pour le Mérite. This was the first miniaturization of the system which until then was only used in marine chronometer clocks and in some pocket watches. Many other wrist watches followed, including the Cabestan Winch Vertical Tourbillon, the Leroy Chronomètre à Tourbillon  and the Zenith Academie Georges Favre-Jacot.

 

The fusée is on the left, and the barrel on the right. Note that on the barrel is a Malteze Cross arrangement which blocks the system once the mainspring is fully wound to prevent the chain from being ripped off. Note also both fusée and barrel are flying, as they are only anchored on one side (on the plate dial side).

The fusée is on the left, and the barrel on the right. Note that on the barrel is a Malteze Cross arrangement which blocks the system once the mainspring is fully wound to prevent the chain from being ripped off. Note also both fusée and barrel are flying, as they are only anchored on one side (on the plate dial side). Also partially visible under the fusée is the maintaining power mechanism which allows the mainspring to continue to discharge as the watch is being wound. Some traditional fusée and chain systems are not fitted with this, and the watch stops when it is being wound.

 

The Lange (and the Zenith) system uses what is technically a reverse fusée, where the chain wraps around the fusée in the same direction as to how it wraps around the barrel. The Berthoud FB1 (and the Cabestan and Leroy) implementation is the rather more technically efficient reverse fusée, where the chain makes a figure of 8 around both fixtures. This method is more efficient as it distributes the pulling torque in such a way as to be equalized around the pivots of the fusée and the barrel. In the Lange system, the torque is only on one side, and theoretically this may cause premature wear on one side of the pivot, although the Lange watchmakers tell us that in practice it makes little difference.

The Power Reserve mechanism also very interesting. It features a mobile cone to measure the power reserve. The mainspring barrel also drives a special mechanism which uses the waxing and waning of the mainspring to make a truncated cone move up and down an arbor secured on the mainplate. A finger, tipped with a roller jewel serves as a feeler spindle measuring the motion of this cone and transmits this to a hand to be displayed on the dial side as the power reserve. This system is inspired by a mechanism developed by George Daniels, and is a nod to the ties between England and F. Berthoud (Berthoud was an Foreign Associate Member of the Royal Society in London). The watch runs on a power reserve of 53 hours on full wind.

We next look at the tourbillon.

 

The very large tourbillon cage measuring 16.55 mm beating at 21,600bph. The tourbillon makes one revolution every minute. Finishing is immaculate, and absolutely first grade. Note the fine polishing on the titanium cage, and the single arm bridge. Also note the 18kt gold studs which are used for poising is also beautifully polished.

The very large tourbillon cage measuring 16.55 mm beating at 21,600bph. The tourbillon makes one revolution every minute. Finishing is immaculate, and absolutely first grade. Note the fine polishing on the titanium cage, and the single arm bridge. Also note the 18kt gold studs which are used for poising is also beautifully polished.

 

The image above is available as a wallpaper sized 1920 pixels x 1200 pixels. You may download it with a free to use license by clicking here with the condition that it is only for personal, non-commercial use, and you agree not to modify the image in any way.

 

The tourbillon carriage is very large, measuring 16.5mm and carries an equally large balance wheel of 12mm diameter. The hairspring is equipped with a hand shaped Phillips terminal curve, as can be seen in the photograph above. The balance beats at 21.600 bph, and the tourbillon makes one revolution a minute. The balance is made of copper beryllium, and the tourbillon cage is in titanium. The tourbillon carriage itself is designed in a rather traditional tri-armed cage, and is held in place by an one arm bridge.

The movement is COSC certified. We asked Karl-Friedrich if it would be submitted for the Qualité Fleurier certification, and he answered negative, as the QF certification requires a mandatory destructive testing, and it would only raise production costs for the very small run of limited edition watches.

The central seconds display is also an interesting aspect. As a chronometer, the large central seconds hand is essential for synchronization of time.

 

The central seconds hand is driven directly by a wheel coaxial to the tourbillon carriage. This directly driven central seconds is unusual, and a patent request has been filed.

The central seconds hand is driven directly by a wheel coaxial to the tourbillon carriage. This directly driven central seconds is unusual, and a patent request has been filed.

The image above is available as a wallpaper sized 1920 pixels x 1200 pixels. You may download it with a free to use license by clicking here with the condition that it is only for personal, non-commercial use, and you agree not to modify the image in any way.

 

The most common method of a direct driven seconds hand is to attach a hand to the pinion of the fourth wheel. In a tourbillon, this is not possible as the fourth wheel is fixed and stationary. In a regular tourbillon, the cage rotates at the rate of one revolution a minute, and hence a hand mounted on the cage usually serves as a seconds hand. In both these scenarios, the seconds hand is by necessity off centered as the fourth wheel or the tourbillon pinion is not centrally located. To create a central seconds, the hand would have to be indirectly driven via a set of wheels driven either by the fourth wheel or by the tourbillon carriage. This means that the central seconds hand is not in the power flow, and can result in hand flutter.

For a tourbillon regulator to drive a seconds hand, the tourbillon itself has to be placed centrally. Omega makes one such watch, as does the Beat Haldimann H1. But in the Berthoud FB1 has its tourbillon at 6 o’clock position, so a second hand mounted on the carriage is not a solution and another method is to be found. A wheel is attached to the central seconds hand and this is directly driven by another wheel which is fixed coaxially to the tourbillon carriage. This achieves the objective of a directly driven central seconds hand. A brilliant and simple solution and a patent request has been filed for this unusual construction.

 

Finishing

 

As we have briefly touched on, the finishing on the watch is superlative. The case, dial, hands, and the movement are finished to the very highest standards.

 

Detail on the tourbillon. Note the sharp points on the decorative stylized triangle on top of the three arms of the tourbillon cage. These points are executed par excellence. And the polishing very well done.

Detail on the tourbillon. Note the sharp points on the decorative stylized triangle on top of the three arms of the tourbillon cage. These points are executed par excellence. And the polishing very well done.

 

Aesthetically the movement design calls for many interesting details which require very high levels of hand finishing. There are many opportunities of outward points and inward points for the virtuoso watchmaker to apply his craft, and all are executed with great precision and beauty. Polishing is exceptionally well done, as are the anglages on all the bridges. Also of note is the juxtaposition of different kinds of finishing: some parts in frosted finish and some in high polish, setting a beautiful contrast in textures and creating a very pleasing aesthetic.

The movement plates are in untreated maillechort and gives it a characteristic glow and will develop a lovely patina over time.

 

Concluding remarks

 

On the wrist the 44mm case sits well. The watch has a certain heft, and exudes quality.

On the wrist the 44mm case sits well. The watch has a certain heft, and exudes quality.

 

 

The Ferdinand Berthoud FB1 is an example of what can be tastefully done with good backing and resources of a real watchmaking manufacture. The watch is solidly designed, well engineered and beautifully finished. The combination of a fusée and chain constant force system providing power to a tourbillon is not new. As we mentioned, Lange did essentially the same in 1994. The brief looks very similar. Fusée and chain tourbillon with power reserve indicator. But the interpretation as executed by the Berthoud team cannot be more different than that chosen by Günter Blümlein. Even the way the fusée and chain is implemented is different. As is the method to derive the power reserve. Not to mention the case design, the dial layout. Both are brilliant, and both are highly desirable in a top  collection. The Berthoud FB1 is strongly reflective of the marine chronometer it seeks to pay homage to.

 

Berthoud FB1.

Berthoud FB1.

 

We are extremely pleased with the level of finishing lavished on the Berthoud FB1. The level of detail and finishing execution is top notch.

The Berthoud FB1 Chronometer is priced at SFr220,000 before taxes, in either versions. Distribution is via 8 specialist retailers worldwide and directly from Ferdinand Berthoud in Fleurier. Available from December 2015.

Many thanks to Karl-Friedrich Scheufele for his personal insights on this fabulous watch, and we look forward to more interesting watches from Ferdinand Berthoud.

 

Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, President Ferdinand Berthoud.

Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, President Ferdinand Berthoud.

 

Technical Specificatins Chronomètre FERDINAND BERTHOUD FB1

Limited edition 50 pieces in rose gold and 50 pieces in white gold.

Case:
Bimetallic in 18-carat rose gold with black ceramic inter-horn space or Bimetallic in 18-carat white gold with titanium inter-horn space
Total diameter: 44 mm
Thickness 13 mm
Water resistance 30 metres
Crown in 18-carat rose gold with black ceramic medallion or 18-carat white gold with 18-carat rose gold medallion
Octagonal case fitted with four watertight portholes in glareproofed sapphire crystal
Screw-in case-back with glareproofed sapphire crystal
Domed, arched and glareproofed sapphire crystal

Movement:
Mechanical hand-wound FB-T.FC
Total diameter 35.50 mm
Thickness 8 mm
Number of jewels 46
Balance wheel diameter 12mm
Tourbillon cage diameter 16.55mm
Frequency 21,600 vph (3 Hz)
Power reserve 53 hours
Suspended fusée – chain constant-force transmission regulation
Suspended mobile power-reserve cone – 3 Hz low-frequency tourbillon with central seconds
Balance-spring with hand-shaped Philips terminal curve
Nickel silver half-bridges supported by stylised titanium pillars
Chronometer-certified (COSC)

Dial and hands:
Vertical satin-finish black or rhuthenium dial with cut-out centre
18-carat blued gold hours, minutes and power-reserve hands
Blued bronze seconds hand

Functions and displays:
Display of the hours, minutes at 12 o’clock on a white lacquered dial
Power-reserve display in an openworked subdial at 9 o’clock
Tourbillon at 6 o’clock

Strap and buckle:
Hand-sewn rolled-edge alligator leather strap
18-carat gold double-blade length-adjustable safety folding clasp

Ref FB 1.2 – in 18-carat rose gold and black ceramic
Ref FB 1.1 – in 18-carat white gold and titanium

 

 

 

 

 

What's your reaction?
I Love It
75%
Cool
25%
It's OK
0%
What?
0%
I Hate It
0%
powered by gf