The wristwatch was more than a century away from becoming mainstream when Ferdinand Berthoud died in 1807, but his standing as one of the greatest of all chronometer-makers lives on, thanks to the efforts of Chopard co-president Karl-Friedrich Scheufele.
Born in Neuchâtel, Switzerland in 1727, Berthoud moved to France at the age of 18 to serve as a “watchmaker's companion” at the Parisian guild, ending up as master clockmaker to Louis XV, king of France, just eight years later. He was subsequently elected to the Royal Society, appointed horologist-mechanic to the King and Navy for his work in perfecting the ship's chronometer and went on to be awarded the Légion d’Honneur by the Emperor Napoleon.
Having acquired the right to use Berthoud's largely forgotten name in 2006 — and after a subsequent decade of research — Scheufele set out to return it to the limelight in 2015 with the launch of a range of impeccably finished, highly innovative and decidedly rare Ferdinand Berthoud wrist watches aimed at wealthy connoisseurs.
This latest, the FB 2RE, pays tribute to Berthoud's advancement of marine timekeeping with a 44mm by 14mm modular case based on the cylindrical copper drums that protected early maritime clocks and featuring exposed, ship-like, bolts and a large diameter, knurled crown.
The simple, uncluttered appearance of the fired enamel dial — which, like many ship's chronometers, is of two-tier construction — belies the complexity of the hand-wound movement that comprises 1,200 individual parts and can be seen through the sapphire crystal case back of the watch.
Designed to be as symmetrical as possible, the movement is built on 26 bridges supported by 10 steel pillars in the style of an 18th century Berthoud chronometer. Among the standout features of the mechanism is its fusée-and-chain transmission that, as the name implies, uses a minuscule chain to regulate the torque delivered from the mainspring.
As the watch is wound, the rotations of the winding barrel cause the chain to be “stacked” around the upwardly narrowing cone of the fusée (or rocket) so that the energy released remains roughly constant due to the varying diameter of the cone compensating for the diminishing amount of power produced by the spring as it gradually unwinds.
In addition to this system, the FB 2RE also features another device for enhancing accuracy in the form of the remontoir d’egalité — a secondary spring that is wound by the mainspring every second and serves to smooth any irregularities caused by the meshing of the gear train teeth.
The complexities of the FB 2RE's mechanism combined with the multiple, high-end finishing techniques it demands means only 10 watches will be made in “fair mined” white gold and 10 in rose gold — each with a fair-if-you-can-afford-it price tag of £190,000.
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