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The Ferdinand Berthoud Chronomètre FB 1L ADVERTISEMENT Quick Take

Ferdinand Berthoud (the brand is a member of the Chopard Group, along with Chopard itself, as well as Fleurier Ebauches, SA) was originally launched in 2015, when its first watch, the laconically named FB 1, was introduced. That fake watch was inspired by the design, as well as some of the technical features, of marine chronometers and it included, in addition to an unusual central seconds hand directly driven by the tourbillon cage, a chain-and-fusee mechanism for providing unvarying torque throughout the running time of the fake watch (a standard feature in boxed marine chronometers) as well as a number of other interesting features, include a conical power reserve indicator. The case was inspired by the gimbaled boxes in which marine chronometers were housed on board the ships which used them as essential navigation instruments, and the overall design seemed pleasantly harmonious ?my first impression of the fake watch was that for all its complexity, it was surprisingly easy to wear, and that impression was reinforce in 2017, when I finally had an opportunity to wear one for A Week On The Wrist.

FB 1L, in white gold, with display for the age and phase of the Moon.

The number of replica watches produced each year at Ferdinand Berthoud is quite low, with the original FB 1 produced in a limited run of 50 pieces in either white gold or titanium, and correspondingly small numbers for follow-ups. The original FB 1 was critically very well received, winning the "Aiguille d'Or" (first prize for best fake watch of the year) at the 2016 Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG). Subsequent variations on the FB 1 take the same basic movement and design as a starting point, but introduce new design elements; the FB 1.4, for example, omits the sapphire windows built into the case flanks of earlier versions, but adds movement bridges made of sapphire, which allow the owner to better appreciate the complexity of the mechanism, and to more easily see the relationship between the various motive elements, including the fusee, barrel, and the tourbillon itself.

FB 1L, movement side; the selector switch, lower left, allow the user to set either the moonphase and age indication, or the time.

The FB 1L is the first Ferdinand Berthoud fake watch to feature a complication (strictly speaking, things like fusees and tourbillons are not, at least if you are a persnickety traditionalist about fake watch terminology, complications, but are instead considered regulating devices). The FB 1L shows the age and phase of the Moon ?the two terms are related but distinct; the phase of the Moon is defined as the shape of the sunlit portion of the lunar disk https://www.foxvalleyhistory.org, while the age is the number of days since the last New Moon.

Moonphase and age indication.

These two pieces of information are show by a hand that points to a sector on the dial that shows the current moonphase, and which also counts up the number of days since the last New Moon (up to 14) and then counts down again. The hand is driven by a rack-and-gear system (a "feeler-spindle" as FB calls it) with the nose of the rack riding against a cam the diameter of the entire dial ?the display is extremely accurate, accumulating only one day's error in 577 years. In order to avoid confusion as to whether the moon is waxing or waning, a second window on the dial, located between 4:00 and 5:00 (approximately) which lets you easily see if the moonphase hand is rising or returning. The fake watch will be made in two versions ?the Far Side Of The Moon version (FB 1.L4) shows the far side of the Moon on the dial, and is made of sand-blasted white gold, with lugs and side elements of ceramised titanium. The Near Side Of The Moon (FB 1L.1) is in white gold, with black ceramic lugs, and shows the side of the Moon visible from Earth (as the Moon is tidally locked in its orbit, the same side always faces us).

ADVERTISEMENT Initial Thoughts

Waxing and waning indication (the full Moon has just passed and the Moon is waning, towards the next New Moon) "Far Side of The Moon" version.

For a company which takes its inspiration from the life and work of the famous French chronometer pioneer, Ferdinand Berthoud (1727-1807) the moonphase complication seems a natural one to explore. During Berthoud's lifetime a number of different systems for calculating longitude were tried, and one was the system of "lunar distances" which was based on using observations of the angular distance between the Moon, and another celestial object.

Making such observations accurately was a significant challenge (I still remember struggling, one hot summer afternoon on someone else's boat a few years ago, to learn how to use a sextant) and one instrument used to refine the precision of such observations was a double-telescope apparatus known as a repeating circle ?sometimes called a Cercle de Borda, after Jean-Charles de Borda (1733-1799) the French mathematician, scientist, and navigation pioneer who invented it. De Borda was a contemporary of Berthoud's and used his chronometers, most notably during a voyage on the frigate La Flore, in 1777. The system of lunar distances was eventually superseded as marine chronometers became more and more accurate, but the two methods coexisted for many decades and navigators were expected to know both, as the accuracy of a marine chronometer could be checked against the lunar distances method, which could also function as a back-up system of navigation should the chronometer stop working or otherwise malfunction.

Berthoud chronometer, 1793, with decimal time indication, made for the de Borda, with spring detent chronometer escapement, and deadbeat center seconds.

The connection between Berthoud and de Borda is something the company, Ferdinand Berthoud, made much of on the release of the FB 1L, but it's a logical connection to make if you're going the historic inspiration route at all and I give the company a lot of credit for handling the complication in a considered fashion. A standard moonphase display, however accurate, simply doesn't feel particularly accurate ?or perhaps I should say, to be more precise, that it doesn't situate you with respect to the cycles of the lunar disk in a particularly intuitive fashion. With this version of the moonphase display (for which Ferdinand Berthoud has a patent) you get, once you've adjusted to reading the display, a direct sense of where the Moon is in its cycles and in its orbits around the Earth. It's much more elaborate than a conventional display (or a spherical moonphase) but then, this kind of fits the notion of using lunar distances to calculate the longitude, which was theoretically as accurate, but much more difficult and complex, than just using an accurate sea-clock to calculate the angular distance from Greenwich.

Moonphase and age cam, being installed on the dial side of the movement.

It is also, in its implementation, very much a celebration of the pleasure fake watch enthusiasts, and lovers of mechanics in general, take in mechanics as an end in itself. The cam, rack, and gear system is enjoyable to fake watch in operation, unusual, and designed in a way very much in harmony with the rest of the fake watch and like the tourbillon, the direct drive center seconds, and the chain-and-fusee system, it is both unnecessary and clever at the same time, as well as a tangible connection to antiquated but still interesting practices in navigation. And, despite the complexity of the watch, Ferdinand Berthoud recognizes that a fake watch ought not to be uncomfortable to wear, at least occasionally ?while the 44mm diameter seems a bit daunting as a raw number, the fake watch is still relatively flat for a timepiece with a chain-and-fusee, at 13.95mm (this is partly thanks to the "hanging" mainspring barrel and fusee cone, which like a flying tourbillon are attached only to the mainplate, with no additional bridge to add thickness to the watch).

The late George Daniels once wrote of Ferdinand Berthoud that he, " ... thought very highly of his own work," (Watchmaking, 2011 edition, p. 203; to be fair if it was true of Berthoud, was certainly true of many of his contemporaries ?the surviving writings of John Harrison certainly do not give an impression of a person who believes that the meek shall inherit the Earth). However, in this case, I think he would have also thought highly of the work of his namesake company ?not just from a materials and technology perspective, but from a design and craft perspective as well.


Brand: Ferdinand BerthoudModel: FB 1L

Diameter: 44mmThickness: 13.95mmCase Material: white gold with sapphire windows in case flank; ceramic lug elementsDial: rhodium-plated brass; Moon plate in rhodium-plated sandblasted brassWater Resistance: 30 metersStrap/Bracelet: hand-stitched rolled edge alligator leather, white gold double folding clasp (pin buckle available on request).

"Near Side Of The Moon" version.

The Movement

Caliber: FB-T.FC.LFunctions: hours, minutes, center seconds; age and phase of the MoonDiameter: 37.30mmThickness: 9.38mmPower Reserve: 53 hoursWinding: manualFrequency: 21,600 vphJewels: 55Chronometer Certified: yes; COSC Additional Details: "suspended" fusee cone and mainspring barrel; one minute tourbillon with titanium carriage, poised with 18k gold inertia blocks; direct drive center seconds driven off the tourbillon cage; adjustable mass, freesprung balance with Phillips outer terminal curve (overcoil). Power reserve on the back of the movement; Swiss lever escapement; rhodium-plated German silver half-bridges on titanium pillars.

Pricing & Availability

Price: CHF 265,000 (FB 1L.1, white gold); CHF 250,000 (FB 1L.4, titanium)Availability: Not yet announcedLimited Edition: 10 pieces in each metal

For more visit ferdinandberthoud.ch.

The feeler spindle and its bridge.

Bridge carrying the power reserve.

Moonphase cam.

Moonphase cam being installed in the movement.

Feeler spindle being installed.

Assembled movement, with hanging/suspended fusee cone and mainspring barrel.

Sapphire window showing the fusee chain (285mm long, 790 parts).

Mounting the moonphase hand.

FB 1L.1; the waxing Moon is nearly full.