Chopard expands, establishes new Ferdinand Berthoud brand

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October 2015

Carrying the name of a historical watchmaking great, Ferdinand Berthoud is the new luxury brand started by Chopard. The new company has already presented its first watch, called the FB 1, which appears to be a masterwork. But what does Chopard’s move suggest for the watch industry?

Chopard Manufacture has made news by introducing a new brand to operate under the larger company, called Ferdinand Berthoud. Ferdinand Berthoud, a Swiss historical horologist, was the maker of excellent marine chronometers. His name is now synonymous with the new, high-end watchmaking brand by Chopard.

Chopard expands, establishes new Ferdinand Berthoud brand

Ferdinand Berthoud (the brand) will produce luxury timepieces in strictly limited editions. In fact, the first run of production will be limited to a single timepiece, appropriately named the FB 1. With a price tag of approximately 220,000 euro, the new timepiece is complicated, and of course rather expensive to produce. So much so, that a dedicated team at Chopard will only manage to produce a few examples each month operating a full capacity.

Chopard expands, establishes new Ferdinand Berthoud brand

The timepiece pays tribute to the accomplished Ferdinand Berthoud himself, and its newly developed movement - named the Caliber FB-T.FC - is a fitting piece of engineering that does the name justice. It even features technical elements that can be found during Berthoud’s era, including a chain-and-fusee transmission. Of its 1,120 components, about 700 are found in the chain alone, indicating just how complicated the watch is to produce.

Chopard expands, establishes new Ferdinand Berthoud brand

At face value, it appears that the FB1 is a fine piece of mechanical work by a new brand housed within one of the bigger players in the watch world. But what might its introduction have to say about the industry at large? In a special commentary, Fabio Anderaos de Araujo, Editor of The Mechanical Watch, gives us a few hints:

"In the both prestige & luxury segment the majority of watch brands belongs to few large groups, like Richemont, Swatch Group and perhaps Kering.

The Swatch Group manages 18 watch brands, from which seven belong to the prestige and luxury segment. Richemont owns no less that ten in those categories. In my humble opinion, these two large groups seem to be comfortable with their portfolios, as the two biggest of the world watch industry.

Rolex, Breitling, Patek Philippe and Chopard, on the other hand, are exceptions. Rolex, for instance, dominates the scene in the prestige & luxury segment and the company is focused in keeping its high market-share in the industry.

In that context, the recent introduction of a new watch brand, the Chronometrie Ferdinand Berthoud by Chopard, is important news. On the back of the announcement, small and independent watch brands in that segment in particular may face additional business challenges – perhaps with the rare exception of brands like Audemars Piguet.

Chopard has two big advantages in relation to its smaller and independent watch brand counterparts in the prestige & luxury segment:

- the company has expertise in watchmaking, jewellery and accessories and its products are very well known and accepted by the luxury clientele in Europe, Asia and Middle East.

- the company enjoys a comfortable cash base from which to operate from.

These two combined advantages allow the company to introduce a new brand, not only in watchmaking, but also in the other very competitive businesses, like jewellery, fragrances and other accessories.

The new FB1 model from Chronometrie Ferdinand Berthoud, moreover, has the appeal to attract the attention of watch collectors in particular, due to its mechanical ingenuity."

For more insights on the watch industry direct from its HQ in Brazil, be sure to check out: