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Ferdinand Berthoud takes us to the moon

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The Chronomètre FB 1L is one of those watches that stops the heart. This beautiful piece shows the time at 12 o’clock and “large hand at 6 o’clock indicates the age and phases of the moon in a continuous back and forth movement.” The watch is accurate to within 577 years of operation. Yeah, you read that right: the moon phase will be correct for centuries.

This limited edition piece is is based on early work by original founder Ferdinand Berthoud in the 1700s. From the release:

What exactly happened at 23 Quai Conti, in Paris? This is the address of the French Académie Royale des Sciences, which became the Académie des Sciencesin 1666. It is here that during the 1750s Ferdinand Berthoud submitted several documents, the first forms of patents on his many inventions, under sealed cover. 

At the same time, at the same location, the knight Jean-Charles de Borda also submitted his first works as an engineer, a few years later, embarking on various ships to clarify the calculation of longitude. For these missions, he used measuring instruments created by Berthoud.

This collaboration between watchmakers, engineers and sailors forms the essence of Ferdinand Berthoud’s period, the famous age of Enlightenment, which he lived through in its entirety. Its purpose was to disseminate and enhance knowledge. Ferdinand Berthoud actively contributed to both missions, as well as writing a large number of articles relating to horology for Diderot and d’Alembert’s Encyclopaedia– the first systematic attempt to provide an exhaustive summary of human knowledge – as well as authoring 11 watchmaking treatises in 30 years. 

Berthoud indeed dedicated his entire life as a researcher and watchmaker to the enhancement of knowledge. His countless works on chronometric accuracy and longitude calculation were regarded as authoritative for decades. A master watchmaker at only 26 years of age, he devoted a large part of his work to marine chronometers, essential instruments for accurate measurements related to the calculation of longitude. 

As early as 1752, the accuracy of these readings was greatly improved thanks to an instrument optimized by the same Jean-Charles de Borda, after whom it was named the Borda circle (also known as a repeating circle). This instrument was designed to measure angular distances by repeating the same observation several times on the circle without returning to zero. Its particularity: the more the measurements it performs are repeated, the smaller its margin of error. The Borda circle was the essential link that made it possible to pass from the octant (with an accuracy of 150 nautical miles, or more than 270 km) to the sextant (accurate to 0.2 miles, or 370 metres). 

The Borda circle was conceived as an improvement of the reflecting circle invented in 1752 by Tobias Mayer, a German astronomer known for his lunar tables, which made it possible to determine the position of the Moon and hence longitude in a precise manner. 

The pieces come in “Near” or “Far,” black or white, and are cased in titanium or gold.

The FB 1L.1 “Near Side of the Moon” model favours a warm and luminous approach reminiscent of the visible face of the Moon and the intensity of the full moon. The piece has a case middle, side elements and crown in 18-carat polished white gold. Its lugs are made of black ceramic. 

The FB 1L.4 “Far Side of the Moon” version evokes the dark and mysterious tones of the Moon’s hidden face. This time, its white gold case middle is sandblasted and, in place of ceramic, the lugs and side elements are made of dark grey ceramised titanium. On average four times harder than standard titanium, ceramised titanium is part of the sustainability approach adopted in the making of Ferdinand Berthoud creations, which has already led the Manufacture to develop a carburised steel with similar properties. 

I, for one, welcome these moon landers. No pricing yet, but expect to pay a pretty penny.

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