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Ferdinand Berthoud - FB 1R.6-1

Ferdinand Berthoud FB 1R.6-1

La Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud has unveiled a regulator built on its manufacture calibre. This extraordinary timepiece will be made available to just 20 extremely discerning collectors!

The latest creation of La Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud will no doubt be one of the most fascinating watch faces of the SIHH 2018, largely because it has been one of the most keenly anticipated. Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, at the helm, has spent two years bringing it to this point. It will be a fitting marker for his SIHH debut.

Horological semantics

FB 1R.6-1 doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue, which is no doubt why the watch has become known as the “Regulator”. FB obviously refers to Ferdinand Berthoud; 1 designates the calibre; R is for the “regulator” variation; 6 stands for steel (according to the watchmaker’s internal system); and the final 1 shows that this is the first version of this new watch. So much for the semantics.
Now that we’ve got that all straight, it’s clear that the essential characteristics of this piece are its regulator and its steel case. The steel in question is carburised, which means it has been strengthened with carbon, making it highly scratch-resistant. The regulator itself has a distinctive aesthetic, and a reverent pause is definitely in order. We are a long way from the traditional regulator display, which has three separate counters, one each for hours, minutes and seconds.

FB 1R.6-1

FB 1R.6-1 - the movement © Ferdiand Berthoud

Atypical layout

Here, the hours are on the right, in an aperture at 2 o’clock, where the Arabic numerals glide past a fixed hand on a sapphire disc. The minutes are located in a subdial at 12 o’clock, which has a cutaway centre revealing some of the internal gearing, and giving a glimpse of the pyramid motif inspired by the decoration of a skeletonised astronomical clock made by Ferdinand Berthoud. 
The power reserve is located at 10 o’clock. Its graduated scale – from 0 to 1 – strikes an odd note. Given that the watch provides a power reserve of 53 hours, why not 0 to 53, or Full to Empty, either of which would be more intuitive than a number 1 that actually corresponds to 53...? The colour is a matter of taste, and everyone will have their own opinion on that.

A full power reserve

Unlike many watches, the power reserve indicator has no red section. The red section generally alerts the wearer that the watch is entering the zone where the power is so low that isochronism can no longer be guaranteed. In other words, when the watch begins to run out of power, it slows down, and that’s what the coloured zone represents.
But this is not an issue with the FB 1R.6-1. Because it is driven by a constant force movement, it stops when the barrel can no longer supply sufficient energy. The watch therefore retains its precision for 53 full hours – a perfectly coherent technical choice for a chronometer-certified regulator.

un Acte II de haut niveau

The back side of the FB 1R.6-1 © Ferdinand Berthoud

The importance of the seconds

The seconds hand is in the central position. It glides over the uncluttered dial, which is in fact the back of the complications plate. The lack of clutter is no accident; the FB 1R.6-1 is a regulator, and chronometric precision is its raison d’être. This was the historic function of this type of instrument. The central second, which is highly legible and precise, is thus a logical technical and historic decision for a regulator. It is also the only hand that is gold – all the others are blued – underlining the critical role it plays.
If I have one reservation, it would be that the seconds track around the perimeter of the dial could have made more of this precision by using a more finely graduated scale. Rather than merely marking off complete seconds, smaller gradations would have drawn attention to the watch’s chronometric capacities, even if it beats at “only” 3 Hertz.

One of just twenty

The movement is based on the FB1. It therefore has the tourbillon with its suspended fusée-and-chain construction. Many modifications have nevertheless been made to turn it into a regulator. The main change is in the power reserve mechanism, which works using a cone with a feeler spindle attached. This mobile arm moves down the cone according to how much power remains. The vertical movement is transmitted to a spiral spring on the dial side, which in turn moves the power reserve hand.
With just 20 watches, priced at over 200,000 francs each, the FB 1R.6-1 is an extremely high-end piece that will appeal to enthusiasts of exceptional mechanical horology. La Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud has confirmed what the FB1 established two years ago: a distinctive style, cutting-edge watchmaking technique and outstanding finish, combining to create the ultimate watch. The bar has been set very high indeed, particularly for the long-awaited FB2.


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