When Karl-Friedrich Scheufele puts his mind to something, rest assured he will do it to the best of his ability, and in the most authentic, most genuine way possible. We’re all familiar with the beginnings of Chopard’s watchmaking division and the brilliance that is the Calibre 1.96, more of which you can read about here.
But we’re not here today to talk about Chopard, we’re here to talk about Scheufele’s other brainchild: Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud, a brand Scheufele resurrected to pay homage to master clockmaker Ferdinand Berthoud (1727-1807), horologist to the King of France, chronometer maker for the French Navy and one of the greatest authors of horology ever. The niche brand is a relative newcomer, having only joined the halls of SIHH in 2018, but it has some serious heft; a mere baby at three years old, the company already has an Aiguille d’Or from the 2016 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève under its belt.
Scheufele’s mentality towards Chopard’s watchmaking division extends to Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud. The goal was to raise awareness of this old, old way of watchmaking, of making marine chronometers; it was a lesson in precision and luxury watchmaking more than a profitable meal ticket. At the hands of the Schuefeles, this we knew for sure: the brand was never going to slap the name of Ferdinand Berthoud on a number of existing movements and call it a day (much to the relief of serious watch enthusiasts). If the brand has set its sights on making tribute watches to one of the greatest horologists in history, then it’ll not do it half-heartedly.
Launched in September 2015, the first offering was the FB1. Speaking to our own Sophie Furley, Scheufele says the watch was never meant to be super complex, for Ferdinand Berthoud was “rather scientific and practical, but highly precise.” The distinctive looking watch features an octagonal case with watertight portholes, and a hand-wound mechanical calibre FB-T.FC that comprises more than 1,120 components, featuring a tourbillon with central seconds, a fusée and chain regulating system and a power reserve indicator at 9 o’clock. The architecture is perhaps the highlight in the design; one of the oldest type of movement construction dating back to 16th-century spring powered portable clocks, the “pillar-and-plate” design is one that is rarely found in modern watchmaking today, making it even more unique. First released in limited editions of white gold and rose gold, the FB1 also came in platinum. You can read more about the wristwatch here.
Last year was when we began to see new developments: the Chronométre FB 1R.6-1 came with an unusual and thoroughly intriguing regulator configuration that broke from conventional rules of watch design. Inspired by Ferdinand Berthoud’s Marine Chronometer No. 7, the wristwatch featured a central seconds hand and a minutes subdial, instead of the other way around which is the usual way. The case is made from ultra-resistant carburized stainless steel, while the sapphire caseback displays the FB-T.FC.R tourbillon calibre beating within. Funnily enough, the tourbillon is hidden on the rear side, leaving the dial side mostly solid. Made of nickel silver, vertically satin-brushed by hand and black rhodium-plated, the three apertures on the dial are shifted towards the upper left side of the dial, giving the watch a tremendously striking look.
The sophomore creation was a sleeper hit within the community. Not long after, at Baselworld, Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud revealed Edition 1785, five unique pieces of the Chronomètre FB 1R in bronze, each featuring a different patina. Bronze wasn’t just a trendy choice, it was the material used in Ferdinand Berthoud’s marine instruments of the time. The brand managed to balance contemporary with its wonderful heritage, and come out with masterpieces that still manage to delight jaded journalists and sceptical collectors alike.
No one is doubtful Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud is well on its way to becoming something quite impressive. Word from the grapevine is that two new timepieces will be shown at SIHH 2019. We’ll have more information when the time comes, stay tuned.