Back to the Fu­ture

In­spired by a master clock­maker of the 18th cen­tury, Chopard’s Karl-friedrich Scheufele has cre­ated a her­itage brand and a watch wor­thy of their il­lus­tri­ous name­sake, writes Sean Li

Hong Kong Tatler - - Style -

Those who fol­low mod­ern watch­mak­ing seem to be on a peren­nial quest for some­thing new, and nu­mer­ous en­tre­pre­neur­ial spir­its have sought to make their mark with a new brand—or the re­vival of a his­toric name. Karl-friedrich Scheufele, the co-pres­i­dent of Chopard, has most re­cently taken the lat­ter ap­proach, re­viv­ing the name of Fer­di­nand Berthoud, an il­lus­tri­ous Swiss clock­maker of the 1700s, and launch­ing the brand’s first time­piece. Scheufele has paid par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to the qual­i­ties that built Berthoud’s rep­u­ta­tion and the tech­ni­cal as­pects that could be brought into the

present day.

Fer­di­nand Berthoud may not be a house­hold name to­day, but he was one of the most prom­i­nent clock­mak­ers of his era. Not only did his chronome­ters con­trib­ute to key mar­itime ex­pe­di­tions, his teach­ings were al­most re­quired read­ing and be­came part of the horo­log­i­cal know-how of the era. Scheufele is no stranger to this his­tory. He has a num­ber of Berthoud’s cre­ations in his col­lec­tion and knows of their sig­nif­i­cance to watch­mak­ing.

Scheufele had not been look­ing to start a new ven­ture, but a few years ago he heard some­one had the rights to the Berthoud name and was about to launch it as a brand. He felt so strongly about the im­por­tance of Berthoud’s her­itage that he ac­quired the rights, shelved the former owner’s plans and de­signs, and set out to cre­ate some­thing wor­thy of the 18th-cen­tury master.

Berthoud’s well-doc­u­mented work fo­cused on clocks, marine chronome­ters and pocket watches, as wrist­watches were yet to be in­vented. So Scheufele took as many tech­ni­cal and aes­thetic cues as he could from Berthoud’s time­pieces and imag­ined what the clock­maker would cre­ate to­day.

Scheufele an­nounced some three years ago that he was go­ing to launch a brand us­ing the Fer­di­nand Berthoud name, but he has kept very quiet since then while he and a ded­i­cated team of five watch­mak­ers toiled at cre­at­ing the new brand’s first time­piece. While the team was housed in Chopard’s man­u­fac­ture in Fleurier, Switzer­land, and col­leagues in the build­ing knew they were work­ing on a new watch, the team mem­bers were sworn not to dis­close any of the specifics.

All was re­vealed in late Septem­ber, when Scheufele gath­ered the me­dia at the Yacht Club de France in Paris to un­veil the

Chronomètre Fer­di­nand Berthoud FB 1. And the watch doesn’t dis­ap­point. The move­ment is en­tirely new and un­doubt­edly in­spired by Berthoud him­self. Fea­tur­ing a fusée-chain tour­bil­lon, the FB-TFC cal­i­bre takes its ar­chi­tec­tural cues from the marine chronome­ters Berthoud built—in par­tic­u­lar, the marine clock MM No. 6 dated 1777, which is part of the Chopard mu­seum’s col­lec­tion.

While the fusée chain is highly prized by watch col­lec­tors, its con­struc­tion is very del­i­cate. Some 474 steel links and 316 pins have been used in the FB 1’s chain alone, with the move­ment con­tain­ing a fur­ther 330 com­po­nents. A dif­fer­en­tial has been added so move­ment will not stop when the watch is be­ing wound, a key char­ac­ter­is­tic of the most ac­cu­rate time­pieces. The highly vis­i­ble tour­bil­lon may be a clas­si­cal fea­ture in a watch, but its con­struc­tion is thor­oughly mod­ern. The use of ti­ta­nium for the car­riage and cop­per beryl­lium for the bal­ance spring en­dow the FB 1 with some re­sis­tance to mag­netic fields. The un­usual oc­tag­o­nal case, which has aper­tures in its flanks that al­low you to peer in­side, gives the FB 1 an in­stantly recog­nis­able pro­file. Ev­ery de­tail of the watch has been care­fully honed, from the shape of the hands to the type­face.

The nascent brand is pre­par­ing to ship the first pieces of the Chronomètre Fer­di­nand Berthoud FB 1 by the end of the year, with 50 pieces of each ver­sion—white gold and ti­ta­nium, or rose gold and black ce­ramic— be­ing avail­able. For Scheufele, how­ever, this is only the be­gin­ning. He has de­vel­op­ment un­der way for less com­plex time­pieces and also even more ac­com­plished ones. If the FB 1 is any in­di­ca­tion, there is lit­tle doubt the Berthoud name is in safe hands and we can look for­ward to see­ing the brand grow over the next few years.

FER­DI­NAND BERTHOUD MAY NOT BE A HOUSE­HOLD NAME TO­DAY, BUT HE WAS ONE OF THE MOST PROM­I­NENT CLOCK­MAK­ERS OF HIS ERA

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