L\'ART DE L\'HORLOGERIE EN FRANCE DE ...
Geneva, Hotel Des Bergues, Nov 14, 1993
Claude François Bailly à Morbier, circa 1770.
Very fine and rare fruit wood quarter eight-day
going, striking "Comtoise" weight driven long
C. Fruitwood with elaborately carved roccoco
scroll work plinth on four feet mounted with
chinera, the sides panelled in reserve, the front
with drawers and carved in high relief with three
panels, the lover with Marie Medicis paying her
astrologer, on the door a group in a salon playing
"trie-trac", above, a similar interior with a musical
scene, further carved decoration and a horn devil
mask on the shallow arched hood. D. Gilt bronze
with Roman numerals and outer Arabic minute
ring on enamel cartouches, white enamel centre
plate. Brass pierced hands. Cast bronze fret
chased with a sun, birds and scrolls. M. Three
train posted frame, the going train with verge
escapement. hldependent striking trains for hours
and quarters. Striking on three bells. Signed
below the dial.
Height : 275 cm.
In very good condition.
CHF 20,000 - 25,000
Sold: CHF 21,850
Claude François Bailly used to work in Morbier
from 1766 to 1774.
Ferdinand Berthoud, Julien Le Roy and Breguet are the three most famous names in French clockmaking.
Berthoud was born at Plancement, commune de Couvet, canton de Neuchâtel, Switzerland, on 19 March
1727. His father, an architect and magistrate of the Val de Travers, had at first destined him for an
ecclesiastical career, but as at a very early age he showed interest in mechanical matters, he decided to
have him taught clockmaking. At the age of 14 Ferdinand was apprenticed to his brother Jean Henri.
When he vas 19, he borrowed 200 livres to go to Paris, where another brother, Jean-Jacques, a designer,
was already established. It is thought that he worked for Julien Le Roy for some time, before setting up
his own workshop in the rue du Harley, not far from the house in which the latter was still working. At
this time he made the acquaintance of Pierre Le Roy, 'ho, throughout his career, vas his only rival.
In 1752 lie presented to the Academy of Science an equation watch with a perpetual calendar.
His knowledge of mathematics and physics, together with his ability to impress the authorities with his
capacities, enabled him in 1764 to obtain the office of "Horloger de la Marine Royale" (Clockmaker to the
Royal Navy), with an annual pension of 3000 livres, which ensured, witb his other activities, an average
income of 7,500 livres a year. By order of the King, he vent twice to England, with Camus and Lalande, to
examine John Harrison's marine docks. Although he was able to study docks number 1, 2, and 3,
Harrison refused to show him dock number 4. After having learnt some English, during his second
journey, in 1766, Berthoud obtained from Thomas Mudge, who, with Kendall and Matthews, belonged to
the committee responsible for examining and giving an opinion concerning this famous time-piece, the
information he reeded concerning Harrison's watch number 4, which allowed him to enlarge his own
researches. He then undertook the construction of his own marine clocks 6 and 8, which were taken to
Rochefort, and handed over on 3 November 1768 to Eveux de Fleurieu, commanding the frigate Isis, who,
assisted by the astronomer Pingré, vvas to test them during a voyage on the high sens.
The precision instruments that he invented enabled Berthoud to perfect a rigorous experimental
technique, adopted by all his successors, and particularly by his nephew Pierre Louis Berthoud.
He can be criticised for having sought to appropriate the important discoveries concerning marine
watches made by Pierre Le Roy, his celebrated rival. However, it would be unfair to think that Ferdinand
Berthoud's considerable quantity of work did not contribute to the progress of chronometry.
We owe to him many experimental marine watches, most of which, purchased by the Government, are
preserved in the Musée National des Techniques (C.N.A.M.), Paris. They include watches and docks with
equation of time, seconds watches, and superb astronomical longcase clocks fitted with compensated
pendulums which he invented. All the timepieces that he made show his great dexterity, and the
exceptional quality of his execution.
He left many documents on clockmaking, printed at State expense, in which his experiments and
inventions are described in great detail. From a small pamphlet, published in 1759 under the title L'art de
conduire et régler les pendules et les montres à l'usage de ceux qui n'ont aucune connaissance d'horlogerie, which
vent into six editions between 1759 and 1836, without counting Henri Robert's edition of 1841 and the
numerous translations into different languages, to his Supplement au traité des horloges rnarines...published in
the year of his death, 1807, the written work of Ferdinand Berthoud covers more than 4000 pages,
illustrated by over 120 plates, engraved from drawings by the author.
He died on 20 June 1807, in his property at Groslay, near Montmorency, leaving no children. He married
twice, firstly Mademoiselle Chatri of Caen, and then Mademoiselle Dumoustier of Saint Quentin.
Ferdinand Berthoud was appointed, in succession, Clockmaker to the Navy, Member of the Institute of
France, Fellow of the Royal Society of London, and Chevalier of the Légion d'Honneur. The State paid
him an annual pension of 3000 livres until the day of his death. His name figures among those of great
men engraved on the façade of the Palace of Industry.
His chief pupils were Jacques and Vincent Martin, and particularly his nephew Pierre Louis Berthoud.