Ferdinand Berthoud was born in 1727 in Val-de-Travers, a region of Switzerland he left while still a young man to complete his training in Paris. His skill as a clockmaker quickly became apparent, and in 1753 he was awarded the title of Master Horologist by special decree of the Council of King Louis XV.

Henceforth, Ferdinand Berthoud devoted himself to perfecting his art and to the development of precision clocks, at a time when European courts were in competition to master the calculation of longitude. Instructed by Louis XV, he travelled to London to study Harrison's H1 then H4 marine chronometers, and received the rare distinction of being elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. In 1768, two marine chronometers of his making, N°6 and N°8, were taken onboard a vessel of the Royal Navy for trials. Throughout their twelve months at sea, they demonstrated such extraordinary precision for the period that Ferdinand Berthoud was appointed "Clockmaker-Mechanic to the King and the Navy." With his reputation and future now assured, Ferdinand Berthoud could hand over his Paris workshop to his nephews Charles Augustes, then Pierre-Louis Berthoud, who would supply the courts of Europe while he concentrated on perfecting mechanisms and writing numerous scientific reference works through which he shared his knowledge of the making of clocks and marine chronometers. An inspired inventor and horologist, considered to be the father of marine chronometry in France, Ferdinand Berthoud was made a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur by Napoleon I in 1804, and died three years later, age 80. In 2006, Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, president of Chopard, acquired the Ferdinand Berthoud name and founded Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud, of which he is also president, with the firm intention of paying tribute to this exceptional clockmaker, his impressive body of work, and the values of perfection, precision and innovation that are associated with this prestigious name.

Key dates

Birth, on March 18th, of Ferdinand Berthoud in Plancemont-sur-Couvet, a town in Val-de-Travers, part of the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel, into a distinguished family of clockmakers.

Aged 18, Ferdinand Berthoud moves to Paris, to perfect his skills as a clockmaker.

By special decree of the Council of King Louis XV, at just 26 years of age Ferdinand Berthoud is officially granted the title of Master Horologist.

Ferdinand Berthoud publishes his first specialist reference work, "L'Art de conduire et de régler les pendules et les montres […]".

Publication in two volumes of "Essai sur l’horlogerie".

Ferdinand Berthoud is elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in London, in recognition of the significance of his works and publications in the field of clockmaking.

Marine chronometers N°6 and N°8 successfully undertake sea trials onboard L’Isis during the corvette's twelve month round trip from Rochefort to Santo Domingo. Marine chronometer N°8 is used to plot the boat's position on a map and, combined with astronomical observations, to calculate longitude to the nearest half a degree. © Musée des Arts et Métiers, CNAM.

Following the successful sea trials of marine chronometers N°6 and N°8, Ferdinand Berthoud is awarded the warrant of Clockmaker-Mechanic to the King and the Navy, and a royal commission to supply twenty marine clocks to the French admiralty for the many cartographic and hydrographic surveys carried out in the late eighteenth century.

Ferdinand Berthoud publishes one of his most important works, "Histoire de la mesure du temps par les horloges", in which he demonstrates his extraordinary knowledge of horological mechanics.

On July 17th, Ferdinand Berthoud is granted the title of Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur by Napoleon I.

Ferdinand Berthoud publishes his last work, "Supplément au traité des montres à longitudes […]".

On June 20th, death of Ferdinand Berthoud, at the age of 80, in Groslay (France).

His nephews Pierre-Louis Berthoud (1754-1813) and Charles-Auguste Berthoud (1798-1876) continued their uncle's work with success, and went on to become renowned chronometer-makers.

Karl-Friedrich Scheufele establishes Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud.

Chronomètre FB 1 wins the Aiguille d’Or at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève.