Few things in our industry give me as much joy as being pleasantly surprised. It seems I have become, wholly unintentionally, a bit cynical. Although never quick to dismiss, I am rarely deeply impressed. Up until this point, Chronomètrie Ferdinand Berthoud had consistently gruntled me with its technical achievements but had somehow failed to light that fire in me much lesser pieces have been known to. With the release of the Chronomètrie Ferdinand Berthoud Chronométre FB 1L. watch, that has finally changed. And although I’m often a sucker for aesthetics, it was the functions that got me this time. Novelty is a tired word in the watchmaking world, but here it is apt. So, if you’re interested in a masterfully wrought horological machine that looks like it should be strapped to the wrist of any self-respecting Jules Verne hero, read on.
Brand: Chronomètrie Ferdinand Berthoud
Model: ChronométreFB 1L.
Dimensions: 44mm × 13.95mm
Water Resistance: 30 meters
Case Material: 18k white gold and black ceramic lugs, or anthracite ceramicized titanium and 18k white gold
Crystal/Lens: Sapphire crystal
Power Reserve: 53 hours
Strap/Bracelet: Black leather strap
Price & Availability: 10 pieces of each case material; $250,000 in titanium, $265,000 in white gold
The large hand that occupies the southwest quadrant of this dial tracks back and forth, indicating the age of the moon. The handy moon icon, surrounded by what looks like a very masculine arrow, is pointing at a graphical readout of the moon’s phase. It’s incredibly unusual and thoroughly awesome to see both of these measurements (which are actually slightly different) displayed together, let alone in such a visually engaging way.
In previous models, such as the FB1 oeuvre d’or, I’ve found this case shape to sit a little uncomfortably with the overall aesthetic. With this futuristic, celestially focused complication, I would say it works perfectly (despite the shape actually being inspired by Berthoud’s marine chronometers that first saw the light of day in 1760). The 44mm housing is available in either 18-karat white gold with black ceramic lugs or an anthracite titanium that has been “ceramicized.” Although that process sounds painful, I can assure you no watch cases were harmed in the production of this model.
Here’s the really crazy thing about this watch. The movement isn’t just packing a sweet moon phase/moon age complication. It’s also got a tourbillon and a constant force mechanism on the inside. Seriously. In a case that measures just 13.95mm-thick, that’s pretty impressive.
With a strict limitation of just 10 pieces per colorway, the worst thing about the Chronomètrie Ferdinand Berthoud Chronométre FB 1L. watch is that not so many people will be able to enjoy it. Coming in at $250,000 for the titanium (FB 1L.4) model and $265,000 for the white gold (FB 1L.1) version means it’s stratospherically high-hanging fruit that is unlikely to be tasted by many of us soon. It is, however, engaging as a piece of mechanical art and a conversation starter in terms of design. And for that, I think we can probably forgive it for being so understandably hard to snare. Learn more at ferdinandberthoud.ch.