Ferdinand Berthoud Makes A Historic Splash With The New Chronomètre FB 2RE
By staying faithful to the design and mechanics of Berthoud’s historic marine chronometers, the FB 2RE is bound to become a collector favorite.
Ferdinand Berthoud: The Man Behind The Brand
In the mid-18th century, Ferdinand Berthoud was one of the most exceptional watchmakers of his era. And, following the success of his Marine Clocks No. 6 and No. 8, he was given the official title of “Clockmaker and Mechanic by appointment to the French King and Navy” under Louis XV. If that sounds like a big deal, that’s because it was a big deal.
Berthoud toiled for many years to perfect a seaworthy, accurate chronometer. Accurate timekeeping on ships was crucial for more precise navigation on the open seas, where previously surveying the stars and other maritime observations were the only references for direction and distance. After Berthoud’s appointment, King Louis XV commissioned Ferdinand Berthoud to make 20 clocks, a huge undertaking for the time.
A Historic Revival
Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, co-president of Chopard, brought the dormant brand back to life in 2015, having bought the rights to the Ferdinand Berthoud name in 2006. Now, the brand pays homage to Berthoud’s legacy and historical timekeeping accomplishments.
Last year, the brand debuted its Chronometer FB 1L with a sophisticated moon phase. The prominent moon fixed on the top of the dial symbolizes the scientific efforts to determine longitude via the stars. Of course, Ferdinand Berthoud made a reliable seaworthy marine clock that alleviated the pressure on the astronomers aiding navigation. Which now brings us to this year’s new FB 2RE watch.
The FB 2RE - Mechanical Mastery
After paying homage to scientists with the FB 1L, this year, Berthoud’s Marine Clock No. 6 is being honored in a logical and welcome progression. “This new timepiece reinterprets the architecture and design of this Marine Clock. Fitted along its middle with a large panoramic window, the round 18-karat gold case frames a grand feu enamel dial with a complex two-tiered construction,” according to the brand.
The FB-RE.FC caliber was crafted with a focus on visual symmetry. “Its organs are symmetrically positioned, legible and clear, as if the order reigning in its operation were expressed through the elegance of its visual balance,” according to the brand. The construction of the caliber, with its 26 bridges supported by 10 steel pillars, is modeled after the movements in Ferdinand Berthoud’s groundbreaking marine chronometers.
The hand-wound mechanical movement uses a fusee-and-chain transmission, creating a constant-force escapement. But there are a couple of unexpected twists to the FB-RE.FC’s fusee. First, the fusee is reversed. Secondly, both the barrel and the fusee are suspended in the mechanism, each held just to the mainplate.
Deadbeat Seconds that are Very Much Alive
In another homage to marine chronometers, the FB-RE.FC movement enables deadbeat seconds, also called true seconds, through its third hand. A deadbeat second movement allows a second hand that ticks then stops with every second. The much more common sweep second hand moves in a continuous motion around the dial. However, the hard stop of the deadbeat second hand is a very visible sign of the movement’s precision. This movement is equipped with a one-second remontoire, visible through the caseback, that regulates the seconds.
A Two-Tiered Dial
For legibility, Ferdinand Berthoud designed his Marine Clock No. 6’s dial in with two levels. The hours were displayed in the center circle in Roman numerals, distinct from the minutes indicated in Arabic numerals on the outer circle. The FB 2RE’s dial reflects this design; however, the brand chose the intricate grand feu enamel method for each of the dial’s two layers, heightening the complexity level of the piece. The peripheral outer ring is domed in shape, while the inner circle, positioned slightly lower, is flat. The Roman and Arabic numerals are true to Berthoud’s original clock. The rose gold version features a black enamel dial, while the white gold’s dial is white.
The 18-karat hour and minute hands are dagger-shaped, similar to the hands of the FB 1, and the hour hand lies flush with the central hour dial. The deadbeat seconds are indicated with a titanium hand, rendering it extremely lightweight and therefore requiring less power from the movement. A fourth indicator is visible through the caseback. An 18-karat white gold arrow-shaped hand, coated in blue CVD, tracks the power reserve, which is an impressive 50 hours when fully wound.
The is crafted in 18-karat gold, with ten individually numbered pieces in rose gold, and 10 in white gold. It measures 44mm across and is 14.3mm thick. There’s a side view of the watch’s movement in all its glory made possible by a large panoramic sapphire crystal at 10 o’clock. The crown is oversized, relatively speaking, and knurled, making it easier for the owner to wind the watch when it needs it every couple of days.
(Photography by Pierre Vogel)