In anticipation of the production of a small collection of watches inspired by the Francis Ford Coppola Blue prototype (we are talking about a production of about 5 pieces a year at a cost of 830000 Swiss francs excluding taxes), a one-off created for Only Watch 2021, it seemed useful to revisit its genesis and its unique way of telling time, made possible by a hand whose fingers come to life as the hours go by.

The story of the birth of FFC Blue is like a fairy tale and for this reason it deserves to be told to those who don't know it. It all started in 2009, when Mrs. Eleanor Coppola, wife of Francis Ford Coppola, gave her husband, the illustrious registrar, the Chronomètre à Résonance, a watch that she found very elegant. Happy with the gift, she immediately sent an invitation to its creator to join him and meet him at her "Inglenook" winery in Napa Valley. When they met in 2012, they discussed the different principles of representing the passage of time and the director asked if a watchmaker had ever considered showing the hours the way our ancestors taught us, by counting the hours on our fingers. François-Paul liked the idea of ​​ticking off the 12 hour digits with the help of 5 fingers who, in 2014, wanted to take up the challenge: to invent an animated hand capable of indicating them in the same way. His determination led him to develop the prototype of the FFC Blue watch already that same year, which would then be put up for sale at Only Watch in 2021 (photo below).


After having sought the solution with Francis Ford Coppola to present the 12 hour digits with one hand and 5 fingers, François-Paul set out to design a mechanism able to adequately transcribe these digits into digital signs. For the drawing of the hand, in order to avoid falling into realism, the artist, known to have a passion for history like one of his sons who is now a professional historian, suggested drawing inspiration from the design of a prosthesis made by the famous French barber-surgeon Ambroise Paré (1510-1590).




Artificial hand illustrations by Ambroise Paré 


For those who don't know him, we owe him an undeniable progress in medicine, thanks to his expertise and knowledge of the human body. This mechanized hand, found on the front of the FFC Blue, is inspired by the one designed by the Renaissance doctor.

Initially conceived for the bronze watch by its inventor, the final hand was made of machined and lightened titanium, to reduce the weight of the moving components, so as not to affect the energy consumption of the mechanical movement, Octa 1300.3 caliber presented by the Manufacture FPJourne in 2001. As François-Paul points out, “the most important thing in watchmaking is what is least visible. In this case, the question was how to get five fingers to move with minimal effort."



To use only the energy coming from the barrel, which ensures a 5-day power reserve for the watch, the choice was to install a "remontoir d'égalité" between the primary wheel train and the indication, as it happens for the bell tower clocks, when the hands to move are long and heavy.

The rémontoir d'égalité takes 40 minutes to wind a spring formed by a blade wound in a barrel locked by a trigger and a sort of anchor mounted on a wheel with an eccentric in the centre. This system described by François-Paul as a sort of escapement which clicks once every hour, precisely on its stroke, releases all the accumulated energy and sets in motion the series of 10 cams which control the movement of the fingers of the hand.

Located on the left side and visible between the ultra-thin rotating ring of the minute indication mounted on micro-ball bearings with a fixed cursor at noon, the 10 cams complete a revolution in 12 hours, each activating a series of springs and they allow the ascent and descent of the 4 fingers and also the translation of the thumb. Each cam, equipped with its own toothing, acts on the fingers mounted on a steel structure. These move with virtually no friction, like a loom shuttle. Thanks to this ingenious system, the energy required to operate a single finger or four fingers, as occurs between 5 and 6 as well as between 9 and 10, is always the same. It is calibrated so that it can operate in complete safety and, above all, without affecting the chronometry of the regulator unit.


Through miniaturization pushed to the extreme and seven years of unceasing work spent on making the system reliable, the Master, supported by the skills gathered within his manufacture, managed to integrate all the components of the automatic caliber into this surprising sculpture. anthropomorphic mobile in a 42mm diameter case in platinum for only 10,7mm thickness. Consequently, despite the complexity of the whole, this watch is no thicker than any other model equipped with an Octa automatic movement. To achieve this feat, François-Paul did away with the dial and replaced the minute hand, which was impossible to use in the traditional way, with a large, ultra-thin rotating ring mounted on ball bearings, as he did for the annual calendar of the Astronomical Souveraine. This modification made it possible to gain the few millimeters necessary for the positioning of the articulated hand carved by a master engraver. So in the end, what is the added value of this specimen compared to traditional time reading? He demonstrates that the best way to make a complicated clock is to think about how to save energy without having to add more in order to make it work.

In the end, the Octa's caliber is perfect for this approach, as it has constant, linear force and torque over 5 days. By improving the elements that rub against each other and using only the smoothest part of the spring, a very linear drive torque is achieved, which allows additional functions without the movement stopping working. Here is the proof!



Ambroise Paré, a French genius (1509/1510-1590)

As they say, fortune favors the bold. Who could have imagined that the young Ambroise Paré, who came from a humble family of barbers and began practicing that profession before he was fifteen in his native village of Laval (300 km West of Paris), would become the first surgeon real and would have introduced important medical innovations?

The hand of the apprentice

At that time, barbers dealt with hair, skin and blood, as well as general care. This, however, was not enough for the young Ambroise Paré! He dreamed big! A diligent worker with a quick and creative mind who defied the social barriers of the time and took his destiny into his own hands by becoming a surgeon!

As a result, he went to Paris, where the renowned Hôtel-Dieu hospital was located. It was one of the most important medical centers in the kingdom. There, Paré studied anatomy, practicing on cadavers, learned the correct dosage from drugs, and assisted surgeons-barbers. For three years (1533-1536), he worked hard, learned much and was highly respected by his fellow students…

Unfortunately, he knew neither Greek nor Latin, which is inconceivable for a barber-surgeon! At the age of twenty-six, he failed the barber-surgeon graduation exam, due to his inability to answer a theoretical question, despite the fact that medicine is an empirical art. This, however, did not discourage him! He decided to seek advancement through a different route: a military career…

The Surgeon's hand

Extremely pragmatic, in 1536 Paré enlisted in the French army as a barber-surgeon – without having passed the exam. He realized that the best way to seek advancement was to practice. At the time, Europe was embroiled in a long war between two of the major powers of the time – the kingdom of France (ruled by Francis I) and the kingdom of Spain (ruled by Charles V).

This experience led Paré to realize that medicine, as it was traditionally taught, was incapable of healing the kind of wounds created by the revolutionary new weapons that had come into use. The arquebus was a sort of cannon that was carried on the shoulder and whose projectiles shattered, crushed and burned the bodies of the victims… The teachings of the great physicians of antiquity (Hippocrates and Galen) had been rendered obsolete by these new weapons… Paré explained that these new types of wounds should not be treated, as was the custom, with boiling oil followed by the application of a red-hot iron. He understood that after the bullets were removed, the inflammation of the wound had to be reduced using new types of soothing balms and ointments, in order to reduce the risk of septicemia. In 1542, he invented new tools for removing bullets. Thus, his creative genius became evident for the first time on the battlefields…

However, his fame grew even more when, in 1545, he published his first book in French: “Les méthods pour soigner les plaies par arquebuses (Methods for treating wounds caused by arquebuses)”. He revolutionized classical medicine, and went even further by rejecting Latin, which was then the language of medicine… In fact, he was making fun of the medical school, and he wasn't the last to do so. In the same year, Francis I died and was succeeded by his son Henry II, who continued the war with Spain.

During the campaign of 1552, he introduced an innovation that was perhaps the most important and one that enhanced his medical reputation: the ligation of arteries and veins after amputation. There would be no more cauterizations or frequent sepsis! Ambroise Paré became the “Father of Modern Surgery”!

Thanks to the support of Henry II and the nobility, in 1554 he became one of the most accredited royal surgeons and was later awarded the title of Surgeon by the Faculty, eager to please the king.

The hand of the courtier

At court, Paré proved to be a skilled strategist, in order to advance the cause of surgery. However, he was unable to help when, on July 10, 1559, Henry II was speared by Gabriel de Montgomery during a joust organized to celebrate the recently signed peace treaty with Spain. Prince Francis II, who succeeded him, confirmed Paré in his functions. Unfortunately, the young king died in 1560 at the age of sixteen, despite the surgeon's best efforts to save him.

These two unfortunate incidents increased Paré's desire to understand the causes of the deaths of the two kings. He performed autopsies on their bodies – a great innovation – and thus became the father of forensic medicine. This new practice made a huge impression on the Queen Mother and Regent Catherine de' Medici. In 1561, she appointed him first royal surgeon, in the service of King Charles IX (the third son of Henry II).

Ambroise Paré lived in difficult times. War between France and Spain lasted throughout the first half of the 1559th century, ending only in 1560. It was followed by the Wars of Religion between the Catholic and Protestant French, which began in 1564. The situation brought the regent Catherine de' Medici suggesting that the royal court became itinerant from January 1566 to May XNUMX. The idea was to travel through the cities of France, so that tensions and disagreements would be allayed by King Charles IX's introduction to his subjects. Paré, first royal surgeon, accompanied the procession of high dignitaries. Far from being overly proud of this distinction, he took advantage of the long journey to meet and learn from many barbers, orthopedic surgeons and pharmacists.

The hand of the writer

The political and religious climate worsened when the massacre of Saint Bartholomew took place on August 24, 1572 in Paris, where Ambroise Paré lived. The situation became even more chaotic in 1574 with the death of Charles IX. He was succeeded by Henry III (the fourth son of Henry II), who confirmed Paré as first royal surgeon and gave him two new appointments: valet de chamber and king's adviser.

Now sixty, Paré would never leave Paris. He decided to use his money and his influence for the collection of medical knowledge of his time. He wrote new treatises and modernized the old ones, while refining his earlier works. The first edition of his works was published in 1575 in French, so as to be accessible to all. The Faculty, who were not happy, embarked on a campaign to tarnish his reputation. Despite this, he had the support of King Henry III and thus benefited from a degree of protection from their petty acts. His works were reprinted several times: a second edition appeared in 1579, a third in 1582, a fourth in 1585, while a fifth appeared posthumously in 1598. His works comprised twenty-nine volumes with 1228 large illustrated pages. The work is a remarkable compendium of sixteenth-century medical knowledge.

The hand of the Inventor

Throughout his long career, Paré was concerned with the welfare of his patients. An example of this is his avant-garde attitude towards prosthetics. Some of his inventions were due to aesthetic considerations, an artificial eye that fit into the eye socket; a metal nose that was attached by wires, to follow the original shape of the face; ears made of boiled leather that were attached to the existing cartilage.

He also invented artificial limbs, masterpieces of ingenuity and technical knowledge. His prosthetic arms and legs are so mechanically complex that it would require many pages to do them justice…

However, its prosthetic hand, with its almost horological design, should be mentioned. The mechanism of the mechanical hand caused the fingers to open when a button was pressed, and two springs returned them to their original position, as if the hand closed naturally.

The prostheses developed by Ambroise Paré remained important references from the 1914th century until the First World War (1918-XNUMX). Paré is considered the Father of modern surgery, thanks to his ingenious inventions and observations.