written by:
the eclecticum

published:
2021-09-15

categories:
analysis, Ferdinand Berthoud, Novelty 2021

Ferdinand Berthoud limits ‘fine watchmaking at the peak’ by movement (Calibre FB-T.FC-RS) number – a smart strategy that pays off!

With the new Régulateur Squelette (calibre FB-T.FC-RS) Ferdinand Berthoud introduced a strategy to limit by movement. At Geneva Watch Days 2021, we sat together with them and now want to share insights collected and some snapshots taken, plus our first impressions/thoughts.


´Régulateur Squelette`; Calibre FB-T.FC-RS



Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS(Calibre FB-T.FC-RS; front and back)

20 movements, and that’s it! With the ‘new strategy’ putting the movement at the centre of considerations, it’s obvious to have a look at it first, and it is a pure delight:

Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS


Functions

  • Hours appearing on a disc at 2 o´clock, pointer-type minute display at 12 o´clock, central sweep-seconds hand and power-reserve indication at 10 o´clock


Movement

  • Mechanical hand-wound                   Calibre FB-T.FC.RS
  • Diameter                                            37,30 mm
  • Thickness                                          9,89 mm
  • Lignes                                                15 ¾
  • Jewels                                               49
  • Frequency                                          21,600 vph (3 Hz)
  • Power reserve                                    53 hours
  • Components                                      1,158 (including the chain)
  • Chain                                                  790 components
  • Chain length                                       285 mm


Technical Characteristics

  • Tourbillon with fusée-chain transmission (constant force); more on this later
  • Regulator-type display
  • Power-reserve indicator with levers and spiral spring
  • Variable-inertia balance with four gilded nickel silver inertia blocks
  • Balance-spring with hand-shaped Philips terminal curve (steel)
  • Swiss lever escapement
  • Openworked and engraved black PVD-treated nickel silver semi-bridges, supported by polished stylised pillars
  • Hand-crafted finishes in keeping with the highest watchmaking standards
  • Officially chronometer-certified by COSC, and in-house using the Fleuritest Chronometry Cycle, executed by the Fleurier Quality Foundation


(Side note: Ferdinand Berthoud is very serious about ´chronometry` and in case of interest or even doubt, we recommend to read our article here: Certified: Ferdinand Berthoud backs up the chronometric performance of the FB 2RE.2 with independent data – the eclecticum)


The technical features and functions are impressive, but more on this later with the watches in hand and some snapshots to share. Look at the pictures – and judge by your own!


Tourbillon anyone?



Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS


1-Minute-Tourbillon
with fusée-chain transmission, made from 67 components -Tourbillon carriage Ø 16.55 mm (titanium):

  • Suspended fusée – winding differential system (Patent)
  • Suspended barrel – Maltese cross stopwork system (Patent)
  • Suspended power reserve – mobile cone system (Patent)
  • Tourbillon with direct-drive seconds (Patent)

Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS

Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS

Let’s get close to the tourbillon bridge. It´s huge (for what it is) and black polished, i.e., polished such that it reflects almost all light (hence ‘black’). That’s an unforgiving decoration technique, and (we guess) none of us can imagine how difficult it is to do a perfect job on such a comparably large and to make matters worse, curved, surface to be treated. Indeed, during the product development phase, the team at Ferdinand Berthoud initially thought it would be impossible to finish to their standards, but one employee was able to do the job finally. It takes him (or her) about two days, each time for each tourbillon bridge!


Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS(picture credit: Ferdinand Berthoud)


Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS


´Constant Force´ (ok, the appropriateness of this terms can be debated vis-à-vis the lack of a remontoir, but this is complaining at a very high level) aka ´Fusée-Chain`: imagine that the chain is made from 790 parts at only 285 mm length (that equals to almost 4 parts/mm…)!

Ferdinand Berthoud Chronometry FB 1R 1L 1 chronometer tourbillon assembly watchmaking movement chaine chain fusee(Assembling the chain in the Ferdinand Berthoud ateliers)


Luckily, Ferdinand Berthoud allows us not only the usual view from top, but also offers a side view through a porthole at the case band:

Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS


Close, closer … it´s hard to get tired once you are passionate about fine watchmaking at the peak.


Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS


We took way too many images of this marvel (who would blame us?) and we can´t share them all, but our final movement picture (for now) will show you three special features – in a single nutshell:


Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS

  • 1st, the patented power reserve cone (on the right)
  • 2nd, the gorgeous large tourbillon escapement (centre; bottom)
  • 3rd, the constant power delivery thanks to a fusée and chain arrangement

 

The watches

So far, we have seen two different shapes for their cases – the ‘traditional’ octagon and the recently introduced round ones. Available in a relatively wide range of materials (platinum, rose gold, white gold, yellow gold, titanium, carburised steel …).

We won’t keep back any of two different versions with the same calibre we were shown and would like to start with the round one in gold.

 

REF. FB 2RS.2 (calibre FB-T.FC-RS)

Round case in 18-carat rose gold (of certified ethical origin), fitted with a transparent sapphire porthole.



Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS


Case

  • Diameter                                44 mm
  • Thickness                              14.26 mm
  • Water resistance                   30 metres
  • Crown diameter                     9 mm; dynamometric crown (decoupling system)


Dial

  • Open worked regulator plate (dial) in vertical satin-brushed black PVD-treated nickel silver
  • Hours indication on sapphire disc at 2 o’clock
  • Open worked, sandblasted and silver-toned minutes dial at 12 o’clock, with black Arabic numerals
  • Flat seconds inner bezel ring framing the sapphire dial
  • “0_1” grey-coloured power-reserve indication engraved on the regulator plate at 10 o’clock


Hands

  • Facetted and open worked dagger-type minutes hand in 18-carat white gold with blue CVD treatment
  • Steel fixed hours pointer with blue CVD treatment
  • Arrow-type power-reserve hand in 18-carat rose gold
  • Gilded bronze central sweep-seconds hand


Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS


Look at the details, and try to find a common one or at least one part that doesn´t match the highest level of fine watchmaking.

 

On the wrist

Watches deserve to be worn and for sure an outstanding piece from Ferdinand Berthoud is no exception. To us it´s crucial how it feels on the wrist – our wrist(s).

Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS

Given a diameter of 44 mm it´s not self-evident that it suits an average wrist, especially when not dressed casually. Short lugs can do the trick and worked nicely for both of us at ´the eclecticum`. The watch shown is a classical beauty, but not understated – at least not in our book. Depending on the circumstances and personal lifestyle the round case in rose gold isn´t a bad choice, isn´t it.


Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS

On each angle the movement (and the case, of course) has something to detect and is a feast for the eyes.


Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS


REF. FB 1RS.6 (calibre FB-T.FC-RS)
Octagonal case in ultra-resistant carburised stainless steel, fitted with two transparent sapphire portholes.


Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS

Case

  • Diameter                                44 mm
  • Thickness                              13.95 mm
  • Water resistance                   30 metres
  • Crown diameter                     9 mm; dynamometric crown (decoupling system)


Dial

  • Open worked regulator plate (dial) in vertical satin-brushed black PVD-treated nickel silver
  • Hours indication on sapphire disc at 2 o’clock
  • Open worked, sandblasted and silver-toned minutes dial at 12 o’clock, with black Arabic numerals
  • Flat seconds inner bezel ring framing the sapphire dial
  • “0_1” grey-coloured power-reserve indication engraved on the regulator plate at 10 o’clock


Hands

  • Facetted and open worked dagger-type minutes hand in 18-carat white gold with blue CVD treatment
  • Steel fixed hours pointer
  • Arrow-type power-reserve hand in steel
  • Rhodium-plated bronze central sweep-seconds hand


An octagonal case may not be for everyone but for us it´s an eclectic choice, one that we like, and made from carburised steel is just the cherry on the cake. Carburised steel you may ask, what is it for? Well, it´s lighter than the same case in conventional stainless steel and on top the surface is extremely resistant to scratches and corrosion – 1200 Vickers, to be precise.

Side note: in case you are interested in a carburised steel case, for now it´s not available in the round case. Simply because so far, they didn´t yet manage to finetune the process such that it remains water-resistant like the octagon case.

The very eclectic (second) version looks and feels amazing on our wrists. It is completely understated for what it is, and this is even more to our taste.


Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS


See and take your own decisions, which one is your favourite and why as we have a couple of pictures to share with you – as you may have already guessed.


Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS

Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS

Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS

Keep in mind, the movement is the same – even in the details.


Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS

The shape and material of the case makes a huge difference as it changes the character of the “object” a lot. It´s not about good or bad. It´s just different and a matter of personal preferences and taste.


Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS

Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS

Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS

Close, closer … yes, we won´t get tired with that kind of details shown.


Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS

When reading the description above carefully you will remember that some of the hands are different in the details.


Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS

Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS

The folding buckle is very well done and fits well.


Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS

On the wrist


Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS

To make it short: the look, touch and feel is 100% to our taste.


Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS

Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS

Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS

Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS

It´s (also) an amazing piece from each angle and we are still not done as it was just too nice to shoot. We need to share more pictures if you don´t mind.


Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS

Looking at the case – side view: So simple yet sophisticated!


Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS

Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS

Incredible details to observe (once more) and we just love the different surfaces, angles, corners, rounding’s, shades of grey … – a feast for the eyes of connoisseurs.


Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS

Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS

Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS

Ferdinand Berthoud – the genius stroke to limit the movement

After all these salivating images, let’s ponder for a moment on the already mentioned “new strategy”. Limited to the calibre number instead of a given watch. In this case it´s only 20 pieces, for now. What, and why, is it all about?

In a bid to strengthen ties with the original inspiration of its founder, Ferdinand Berthoud (1727 – 1807), the Manufacture bearing his name is introducing an evolved version of its business model: as of now, Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud will communicate the total number of units for each inhouse-made calibre.

“Our primary objective is to safeguard collectors’ interests. By explicitly specifying a pre-determined number of movements, we engage in a fully transparent procedure. Collectors are as sensitive to the rarity of their timepiece as they are to that of the calibre powering it. By communicating about both, we are placing watch movements and customers firmly front and centre, thus preserving the integrity of their collection.”

(Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, President of Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud)

It may be uncommon to limit the movement and not the watch, but once everyone got used to it – even the retailer – everyone should be more than pleased. For us as collectors, we like to think about it as putting the watchmaking essence, an exceptionally fine movement, at the centre, and by its limitation convey the message of rarity – there are very, very few artisans who can create at this stratospheric level!

Ferdinand Berthoud Chronometry FB 1R 1L 1 chronometer tourbillon assembly watchmaking movement balance wheels poise

Ferdinand Berthoud Chronometry FB 1R 1L 1 chronometer tourbillon assembly watchmaking movement(In the Ferdinand Berthoud ateliers: watchmakers working on a balance wheel; a movement partially assembled)


With the calibre given, potential clients have plenty options to specify case shape and material, colour, and a few other details. In the context of an ambitions, small atelier like Ferdinand Berthoud this solves a lot of problems:

As a manufacturer that expressed from the beginning to produce only an extremely limited number of timepieces each year (currently about 30) on the highest level of fine watchmaking and with an appropriate price tag, it helps to be different – for good reasons.

A major aspect here is customer-facing marketing: At an annual production of less than three dozen watches in total: Can you imagine how difficult it is to have stock – even when there are only a few points of sale around the world anyway – in general and even more difficult to have one that matches the desire of your customer(s)? One could master that challenge with logistics, but transaction costs are far from being low – time consuming and at a risk.

Imagine you are in the position of a retailer, and you want to place your order – it’s your risk to choose the ‘right’ one vis-à-vis your clients, but at least you know your version of that specific watch is available only in very (!) low numbers. This appears different from the perspective of a final customer him/herself placing the order, with all options decided on according to one’s own taste. It´s not a bespoke piece in a strict sense, but something close and much more convenient to order.


Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS
(Régulateur Squelette; calibre FB-T.FC-RS; two different versions: octagonal in carburised steel (left) and round in rose gold (right))

So, placing the final customer at the driving wheel solves above issue of matching anticipated vs. actual preferences or tastes at limited resources. We at ´the eclecticum` also like the idea to relax the process of buying this way (especially if we talk about luxury goods) – it is an investment in our pleasures. Enjoy the process, take your own decisions and be eclectic!


But there’s more to this: when we discussed the lessons learned with Vincent Lapaire, General Manager at Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud, who was ready to share a few fascinating “empirical facts” they collected: it appears there is a kind of a pattern when it comes to taste and markets. North America and Europe mainly go for the round cases. Octagon cases are favourites of Asia and Middle East markets. Exception there is one, it´s Japan with 50:50 orders. A similar distinction could be observed regarding the colours, with core European clients expressing a preference for more ‘stealth’ shades of titanium stainless steel or platinum.


Further, and very importantly, the new possibilities to commission a watch to taste opened markets to Ferdinand Berthoud which previously were hard for them to crack, such as the core European countries.


Talk about ‘practical’ hands-on market research!


Finally, let’s think about individuality in the face of the need to amortise your development cost and production infrastructure. We it is safe to state that we know watches very well, nurtured by our horological addiction over quite a long time – good or bad. What we noticed in the past and more so today are parts (including at times entire movement constructions) that are shared between several brands, mainly to improve the business case or at least to recover significant upfront costs. Sharing is no problem in general and very frequently practiced in the lower to medium market segments, but it doesn´t fit to fine watchmaking at the peak – and particularly not in such rare cases of accomplished approaches like Ferdinand Berthoud. Every detail is proprietary, and the fruit of thorough thought combined with the freedom which family ownership (the Scheufele family) and the industrial prowess of Chopard in the back brings with it. Yet, the focus on the (costly!) movement while letting the client decide on the ‘clothes’ allows for exploiting a given construction and simultaneously maintain exclusivity – both as a company and as a client!


In other words, an already rare watch gets even more rare with the latest strategic decision from Ferdinand Berthoud that offers lots of pros and almost no cons.


It goes without further saying that you get a (very!) well thought out product in every part – function, style and finishing.



Conclusion

In the (crazy) world of watches there is no lack of incredible fine watches, but still it´s a minority compared to the all-over volume of watches produced, today. It´s no secret that we at ´the eclecticum` have a serious weakness for watches from Ferdinand Berthoud a brand that only was “restarted” a couple of years ago.

Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS

Each piece produced so far, which is about 30 pieces per year, is outstanding on its own. The face, the case … and later the backside of the movement, on could get lost observing – especially with a loupe at hand, time available and (at least) some in-depth knowledge about the challenges to produce such a masterpiece. To fully appreciate a piece from Ferdinand Berthoud it´s not enough to be able to afford it (which, yes, even may be a major challenge on its own for most of us). You need a serious passion for fine watchmaking and ample personal experience with ´Haute Horlogerie` pieces before to fully appreciate such a timekeeper. It´s not a must, but very helpful indeed!


Ferdinand Berthoud Regulateur Squelette Calibre FB-T.FC-RS

The brand’s approach to fine watchmaking is just so consequent and connoisseurs with a good eye will find details even the best masters that come to their mind would be proud of. Example: Even the teeth are polished by hand, which is not even done by (the one and only) Philippe Dufour.

In case you didn´t already read our article about the brand in general, we recommend reading it for a better understanding what we think about the brand and why we like it that much:

The pinnacle of (fine) watchmaking: Ferdinand Berthoud – the eclecticum


Our choice (see above) is no secret anymore, but which one would you choose? What do you think about the latest strategy of Ferdinand Berthoud to limit the movement and to give more options to choose from to their customers?

Be eclectic!

´the eclecticum`

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