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Ferdinand Berthoud - You Should Be Impressed By This Watch

Ferdinand Berthoud You Should Be Impressed By This Watch

And I’m going to tell you why, in just 800 words

I know you’re only supposed to say this sort of thing at the end of the article, where you conclude with a grand summarising statement, but I’m just going to get straight to the point right now — I am really digging this watch. I dig it so much that I’m willing to break conventions of article writing for it. Everything about it hits the mark, from the overall concept and movement to the smallest design details. If you thought the Ferdinand Berthoud Chronomètre FB 1, launched in 2015, was special, the FB 2RE will blow your mind. (In case you didn’t know, I am not easily impressed, and words of praise do not issue lightly from my lips. Ask my writers.)

Ferdinand Berthoud Chronomètre FB 2RE

The Chronomètre FB 2RE © Ferdinand Berthoud

Q: What is the defining characteristic of a chronometer?
A: Precision and stability of rate.

Precision can come in many forms. There is precision of time measurement, which you can implement and augment in a number of ways, with constant-force mechanisms, for instance, or high-frequency escapements, anti-shock systems… The list goes on. Not to self-promote or anything, but I wrote a thing about advancements in precision watchmaking, to be published in an upcoming book. You should check it out.

There is also precision of time display, which I feel is something that a lot of people don’t place enough importance on — they tend to assume that a precise time-measurement system will naturally lead to a precise indication of the time. This is true to some extent, though it’s not a 100 percent causal relationship. That’s like saying that a good education leads to a good job. I mean, it helps, but not always, you know.

As a consequence, I am deeply in favour of how the Chronomètre FB 2RE controls both types of precision, with zero messing around. This watch is not here to party and waste your money. This watch means business. Let’s talk a little about how it measures time precisely.

Ferdinand Berthoud Chronomètre FB 2RE

The remontoir d'égalité of the Chronomètre FB 2RE © Ferdinand Berthoud

We start with the mainspring, the primary energy source for the movement. I don’t have time to go into it, but basically the barrel gives out lots of energy, or torque, when the mainspring is fully wound, and very little when the mainspring is nearly unwound. In between the two extremes, you have a substantial sweet spot where the barrel feeds the movement with an optimum level of torque; not so much that the balance suffers from what we call rebat (overstimulated like a kid with ADHD and a sack of candy), not so little that the balance underperforms (like me at my desk after eating pasta for lunch).

Ferdinand Berthoud Chronomètre FB 2RE

The fusée-et-chaîne system is combined with a Maltese cross to optimise torque delivery to the movement © Ferdinand Berthoud

The Ferdinand Berthoud Chronomètre uses two mechanisms here. The first, a fusée-et-chaîne setup, serves to extend this said sweet spot and also to standardise the torque output throughout. The second, a Maltese cross, limits the turning of the barrel such that the two extreme ends of the mainspring are completely blocked off, and the movement does not receive excessively high or low levels of torque. In this way, the balance of the Chronomètre FB 2RE is fed an optimised and standardised energy diet, like an elite athlete preparing for the Olympics.

Here’s a graph showing how the combination of fusée-et-chaîne and Maltese cross improves the energy output of the barrel. It’s fine if you don’t really get it; it’s mostly for the occasional geek readers we have, who like graphs and figures and stuff.

Ferdinand Berthoud Chronomètre FB 2RE

This is not a professionally-designed graph; I clearly just drew it myself

Now, we come to the interesting bit. There is a secondary energy reservoir integrated within the escapement, a spiral spring that adds another level of energy equalisation to the torque that goes to the balance. This kind of secondary spring, known as a remontoir d’égalité (literally translated as “equalising winder”, but you can think of it as an intermediate mainspring), is considered a constant-force mechanism, just like the fusée-et-chaîne system. Horological theory tells us that the efficacy of a constant-force mechanism increases as it approaches the escapement, which is why a remontoir d’égalité is considered more exclusive than a fusée-et-chaîne system. Also, it’s more challenging to set in place and regulate. Also, it’s more fun to look at. (That’s my personal reason for liking the remointoir d’égalité more than the fusée-et-chaîne, but I don’t normally tell people this, since it makes me look shallow.)

Ferdinand Berthoud Chronomètre FB 2RE

The remontoir d'égalité also provides the dead-seconds indication © Ferdinand Berthoud

The absolute, hands-down, totally best thing about the remontoir d’égalité, however, is that if you set the spring up to reload once every second — because you can get them in whatever time interval you want — you can have a very nice little dead-seconds indication right there in your hands. This makes me so excited; I can’t even tell you how much. And this is how you do precise time measurement and precise time display all in one single mechanism.

Also, the watch is beautiful, and that’s my 800 words.

Ferdinand Berthoud Chronomètre FB 2RE

The classically beautiful FB 2RE © Ferdinand Berthoud




Lecture 1 Comment(s)

26 August 2020
Bruce berman
THank you MIss Wong, but I still contend quartz is king when it comes to super accuracy, along with gps/satellite , leaving solar, ecodrive, selfwinding/mechanicals, etc., buried under the rubbles of antiquities.

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