Five years after the launch of its Chronomètre FB 1, Chopard-owned Ferdinand Berthoud celebrates the 250th anniversary of its namesake receiving the prestigious title of “Watchmaker-Mechanic,” with the launch of a new timepiece inspired by Marine Clocks at the upcoming and much-anticipated Geneva Watch Days event later this month in Switzerland.
Ferdinand Berthoud, a Swiss watchmaker and clockmaker, was born in 1727 in Val-de-Travers in the Canton of Neuchâtel. He emigrated to Paris in 1745, where he began to practice his craft and further develop his love for clocks. Along with being a master horologist and movement maker, Berthoud worked in many fields — he was a scientist and an author whose articles have appeared in the Encyclopédie — but none of these professions measured up to his true love: development of marine chronometer clocks.
On April 1, 1770, Ferdinand Berthoud received the title of “Watchmaker-Mechanic” from French King Louis XVI and the French Navy, after which he assumed responsibility for overseeing the construction of sea clocks with an annual budget of 3,000 pounds (roughly $3,908). Berthoud received a Royal Commission for 20 instruments, which were taken onboard ships to accompany several exploration and mapmaking expeditions before the closing decades of the 18th century.
Years before Berthoud would receive the coveted title from Louis XVI, he dedicated his life to the development of marine chronometer clocks to ensure that “on board” and “departure times” were accurate. This led the watchmaker to send out his plans for the marine clock, on May 7, 1766, to the French Navy Minister and Choiseul, the Duke of Pralines. A month later, on July 24, 1766, King Louis XV agreed to finance this undertaking.
Two years later, on November 3, 1768, Marine Clocks No. 6 and No. 8 were given to the Knight of Fleurier and a team of trusted explorers, who was accompanied by the naval astronomer and geographer Canon Pingré. They set out to test the timepieces on a two-year expedition between Rochefort and Santo Domingo. During this expedition, the Marine Clocks (pictured below) proved their efficacy as timekeepers, allowing the actual position of the vessel and the longitude to be calculated within a degree using astronomical observations.
Two hundred fifty years later, in 2020, the Marine Clocks and the man who inspired this quest for accuracy, Ferdinand Berthoud, is still the heart and soul of the Chronométrie. The new tribute timepiece, the Chronomètre FB 2RE, features a new movement inside a newly designed case, and will be presented at a world premiere at the Geneva Watch Days event, from August 26 to August 29, by individual appointment only, at the Hotel Beau Rivage.