History of Ferdinand Berthoud

written by YWH team 1 January 2016
History of Ferdinand Berthoud

History of Ferdinand Berthoud
Founded: 1753
Founding place: Paris, France
Founded by: Ferdinand Berthoud
Current headquarters: Fleurier, Switzerland
Owned by: Chopard Group
Official name: La Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud

The history of Ferdinand Berthoud starts in the 18th century when when the French clock maker Ferdinand Berthoud officially earned the title of Master Clock Maker in 1753. With that title he opens a workshop, in Paris.

Ferdinand Berthoud is born in 1727 in Switzerland. At the age of 14 his brother, Jean-Henry, takes him on as a clock maker’s apprentice in Couvet, where he also receives a sound scientific education. When he is 18 he starts studying clock making and horology in Paris. After a few years of training and scholarship, he is recognized as a truly talented watchmaker.

The first clock bij Berthoud

In 1752, he presents a long case equation clock to the Paris’ Academy. A piece considered highly ingenious. This becomes the starting point of his career as a researcher as well. At the age of 26, in 1753, the French king orders that he should be named a maître (master), which allows him to open his own workshop.

He occupies the position of Horologist-Mechanic by appointment to the French king and the navy in 1770 and succeeds the pioneering work in marine chronometers of Henry Sully (1680-1729). Not alone, but together with his great rival, Pierre Le Roy (1717-1785). Berthoud contributes to the development of the chronometer, was made a member of the Institute of France and elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1764. Among other works he wrote Essai sur l’horlogerie in 1763. He is regarded as one of the inventors of the marine chronometer that serves to determine longitude at sea necessary to navigation.

Ferdinand hands over the daily business of his workshop

In 1775 Ferdinand hands over the daily business of his workshop to his nephew Henry Berthoud, who was already responsible for producing high-quality decorative clocks and watches for the public. An important moment in the history of the brand as from this moment Ferdinand is less involved in watch making. It gives him even more time to work on his books, essays and research, and Henry continues the ‘watch division’. When Henry dies in 1783, Ferdinand hands the reins to his other nephew, Pierre-Louis Berthoud (known as Louis Berthoud).  He had assisted him in the construction of marine clocks since 1769. In 1784 Louis Berthoud was awarded the title of “Apprentice Watchmaker-Mechanic to the Navy” following delivery of the first longitude pocket watch to the Prince of Asturias, the future King Charles IV of Spain.

Ferdinand Berthoud marries twice. First to Mademoiselle Chati of Cean, later to Mademoiselle Dumoustier of Saint Quentin. He has no children. So when he dies in 1807 his business is passed to his nephew Louis. Louis Berthoud (1759–1813) dies only six years later. His sons Jean-Louis and Charles-Auguste take over the company and after that their timepieces bore the signature “Berthoud Frères”. Charles-Auguste is the technical one of the brothers and after his death in 1876 the brand goes into a coma.

Chopard revives the brand

Several new owners of the brand name would follow, until 2006 when the history of Ferdinand Berthoud continues. Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, the Co-President of Chopard, hears about plans that someone was about to re-launch the brand.

Scheufele is a member of the Scheufele family who runs Chopard since 1963 and he probably was looking for new business opportunities. The result: Chopard buys the brand name and creates a new company. Chopards L.U.C division develops new movements especially for Ferdinand Berthoud. In 2015 Chopard officially relaunches the brand.

The history of Ferdinand Berthoud:

1727 – (18th of March) Birth of Ferdinand Berthoud in Plancemont-sur-Couvet, Switerland
1741 – Starts as a clock maker’s apprentice in Couvet
1745 – Moves to Paris to study clock making and horology
1752 – Presents a long case equation clock to the Paris’ Academy
1753 – Earns the title of Master Clock Maker by the French king
1763 – Writes one of his most important essays
1775 – Henry Berthoud starts running the Paris workshop
1783 – Henry dies and Louis Berthoud starts running the workshop
1807 – (20the of June) Ferdinand Berthoud dies in Grosley, France
1807 – Louis Berthoud takes over the business
1813 – Louis Berthoud dies and his sons Jean-Louis and Charles-Auguste take over the business
1876 – Charles-Auguste Berthoud dies, the brand goes into coma
2006 – Chopard’s boss Karl-Friedrich Scheufele notices the brand
? – The Chopard Group buys the brand name
2015 – Chopard re-launches the brand
2016 – Brand wins the “Aiguille d’Or” Grand Prix prize at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève

The full list of oldest watch brands in the world might interest you…

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