Two years ago, Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, co-President of Chopard and President of Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud, announced the launch of ‘Naissance d’une Montre 3’.
This corporate project brings together artisans and apprentices in the group (Chopard and Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud) to pursue a common goal: ensuring that the art of watchmaking lives on. Going against the flow of the current tendency to automate and industrialise, the synergies formed are seeking to produce a timepiece using only traditional, manual techniques.
Act I of this project unveiled the chain and fusee mechanism, a hallmark of Ferdinand Berthoud’s work on timekeeping for the French Navy in the eighteenth century. Now, Act II presents the tools and machines required to carry out a project of this scope, bearing in mind the strict criteria inherent in work performed by hand.
There’s no point in trying to keep an art alive unless it can also be passed on to the next generation, but doing so is easier said than done. The art of Fine Watchmaking is sedimentary in nature, developed over the course of centuries. Knowledge is built up, often passed on, but sometimes lost. Restoring such knowledge is not an idle pursuit; it’s a duty and a responsibility.
Therein lies the mission of the ‘Naissance d’une Montre’ project. Launched by the Time Æon Foundation, the project is now embarking on its third stage with Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud, part of the Chopard Group. The timepiece born out of this initiative is due to emerge in three years’ time, in 2024. Just 11 watches will be made – and the workshop in question is already operational.
A workshop that’s been two years in the making
In projects like this, preparation takes at least as long as execution itself. Making a timepiece by hand involves bringing together the required skills, knowhow, and highly specific tools, many of which are obsolete nowadays.
The aim of the ‘Naissance d’une Montre’ project is to recover the legendary tricks of the trade and pass them on to today’s watchmakers, most of whom work on digitally-operated machines. The timepiece’s caliber will be designed in line with the capabilities of legacy machines – rather than the other way round, as is the case in mass-produced contemporary watchmaking.
A bespoke facility
Historic tools and machinery have been installed in the Chopard Manufacture in Fleurier. Five pieces of equipment dating from the 1950s and 1960s have been brought together in a new venue designed to promote artisanal work: the ‘Hand Made’ space. Within this facility, at present wholly given over to the ‘Naissance d’une Montre 3’ project, Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud’s watchmakers and decorators rub shoulders with other Craftsmen practising arts such as enamelling and hand-engraving.
The equipment includes a 1960 Schaublin 102 Lathe, used to fashion circular components: shafts, fusees, pillars, pinions, gears, barrel drums, pins, winding stems, screws, and the like.
A 1960 SIP jig boring machine has been enlisted for boring, milling, drilling, grinding, and tapping operations on various components: rockers, levers, base plates, wheel platforms, bridges, and springs. The cutting tools include an Ewag machine with a diamond grinding wheel, to be used for the hardest materials.
For all the processes involved, the experts from the firm’s different departments will use only tools that are themselves also custom-built – and hand-made. An Aciera F3 milling machine will be used to produce and fit this equipment.
“The timepieces we’ll be unveiling in 2024 will mark the culmination of a five-year process,” explains Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, co-President of Chopard and President of Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud. “ ‘Naissance d’une Montre’ 3 is a corporate project that brings together historic watchmaking and technical craftsmanship. To achieve this, we’re bringing to bear a whole range of skills and machines that haven’t been together in the same place, at the same time, for the same purpose, for the best part of half a century.”
About “Naissance d’une Montre”
Begun in 2009, “Naissance d’une Montre” is a joint undertaking to reverse the loss of traditional watchmaking knowhow. The initiative brings together a select group of leading independent watchmakers and Fine Watchmaking firms within the Time Æon Foundation, established with the specific aim of ensuring this heritage is passed on through documentation, preservation, and training for the next generation.
One practical outworking of this mission is the production of hand-made, hand-decorated timepieces using historic, manually operated machines without the use of digital technology. Each piece is the fruit of the labours of multiple watchmaking experts – and the apprentices who will one day inherit the responsibility of sharing this knowhow.
Known for his particular commitment to preserving watchmaking heritage, President of Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud and Co-President of Chopard Karl-Friedrich Scheufele has been keen to support the Time Æon Foundation by being part of the “Naissance d’une Montre 3” project. Eleven Ferdinand Berthoud timepieces will be made as part of this initiative; the first watch will be sold by auction, with the proceeds going to the Foundation.