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Watchscapes: F. Berthoud FB 1R Chronometer 1785 Edition with patina

by Peter Chong on June 28, 2018

We covered the Ferdinand Berthoud FB 1R regulator in our detailed report for SIHH 2018 found here. In Baselworld 2018, Berthoud released an extension to the watch featuring five watches, all crafted in bronze with a different artistic patina. These timepieces honour the most important expedition in French naval history, that of the Astrolabe and Boussole frigates. The frigates sunk in a storm, and on board were five Marine Chronometers made by F. Berthoud. The new watches are a re-imagination of these 5 chronometers, and designated as the F. Berthoud FB 1R Chronometer 1785 Edition.

 

Three of the 1785 Edition and a regular FB 1R-5.1. Note the patina on the three 1785 Editions.

 

The frigate Astrolabe was built in 1781 at Le Havre as the flûte Autruche for the French Navy. In May 1785 she and her sistership Boussole (previously Portefaix) were renamed and re-rated as frigates, and fitted for round-the-world scientific exploration. The two ships departed from Brest on 1 August 1785, Boussole commanded by Lapérouse and Astrolabe under Paul Antoine Fleuriot de Langle. On board the frigates were five Marine Chronometers on board, made by Ferdinand Berthoud.

 

 

The expedition vanished mysteriously in 1788 after leaving Botany Bay on 10 March 1788. Captain Peter Dillon in Research solved the mystery in 1827 when he found remnants of the ships Astrolable and Boussole at Vanikoro Island in the Solomon Islands. Local inhabitants reported that the ships had been wrecked in a storm.

 

A marine chronometer made by Berthoud, shown just as a reference. We are not clear what the actual chronometers carried on board the frigates were like.

 

The fate of Lapérouse, his ships and crew was a subject of mystery for some years. Louis XVI reportedly often inquired whether any news had come from the expedition, up to shortly before his execution. It is also notably the subject of a chapter from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne.

 

F. Berthoud FB 1R Chronometer 1785 Edition

As a tribute to the sunken marine chronometers, F. Berthoud decided to create five versions in of their FB 1R regulator wrist watches in bronze, each with an artisanal patina. We managed to photograph three of these five.

The base is the same as the F. Berthoud FB1R-6.1 which we reviewed. All technical and aesthetic descriptions and views apply here as it does in our original review. We also covered the News Release of the FB 1R5 in detail here.

 

The F. Berthoud FB1 5 in its presentation box, which is built like the gimbal system which holds marine chronometers.

 

‘the movement is the stunning Calibre FB-T.FC.R-2, visible from the display case back.

 

Each patina is unique, and the finishing is made using a distinct formula, chosen after dozens of trials and tests. The aim was to achieve the desired shades, and an imagination of how the original Marine Chronometers might have looked like after these centuries under the oceans.

 

On the wrist, the case surface has a dull, but very attractive patina which is dry to the touch, akin too passing your fingers over an old bronze object.

 

 

 

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