Historically, Ferdinand Berthoud and Louis Moinet are highly regarded watchmakers. On the surface, there are many things in common between the two. They are both watchmaking geniuses who once lived in the same era and achieved major innovations. But if we dig deeper, the similarities disappear and the differences appear.
Ferdinand Berthoud (left) and Louis Moinet (right)
Berthoud and Moinet have many similarities, and exhaustive listing takes too long. The two have very similar careers, which at first glance can be confusing. Their lives are highly overlapping, with the former 1727–1807 and the latter 1768–1853. Berthoud was born in Neuchâtel, which is now home to Ateliers Louis Moinet. Both have traveled to various countries, Moinet’s footsteps in Italy, Switzerland and Paris, where he died. Berthoud also began his legendary career in Paris in 1745. They have reached the end of their lives. Berthoud is 80 years old and Moinet is 85 years old.
With detailed contributions, Berthoud and Moinet both wrote innovative works that will have a significant impact on the future of watchmaking-Berthoud’s ‘Essai sur l’ horlogerie’ and Moinet’s ‘Traité d’horlogerie’. Beyond that, they all have wonderful connections with great men of their time. Berthoud knew Louis XV and Napoleon, and Moinet’s clients included Napoleon, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe.
By Louis Moinet
However, unlike Breguet and Arnold, Berthoud and Moinet have never worked directly together, and there is no evidence that they have ever met. Berthoud is 40 years older than Moinet and seems to be a forerunner in many ways, such as raising the accuracy of marine astronomical clocks to unprecedented levels of excellence.
Moinet may have taken inspiration from Berthoud’s work, and extensive references can be seen in his work (before the full withdrawal). The rivalry between Moinet and Berthoud is implicit and has never been publicly claimed. Moinet wrote in his book: ‘Progress in horology means that Berthoud’s work is gradually outdated, and many of its parts are outdated, and our work will replace the books of Berthoud and previous authors.’
Longitude Clock, Ferdinand Berthoud, No. XXVIII, Paris, 1782-1783
Respected artist and watchmaker
Other differences between the two are obvious. Moinet is a real artist. During his stay in Italy, he studied painting, sculpture and sculpture under the greatest masters of Rome. After returning to Paris, he taught at the prestigious Academy of Fine Arts. In addition, Moinet is equally well versed in astronomy, physics, and chemistry.
In contrast, Berthoud is more like an expert, an outstanding figure in the field of horology, with a particular focus on marine astronomical clocks. Now when we mention Berthoud, the first thing that comes to mind is the marine astronomical clock. Berthoud’s dedicated focus has won many awards and titles: Fellow of the Royal Society (1764), Royal Watchmaker of the King (1770) and Member of the French Academy (1795).
Berthoud worked hard to make his work better known. He authored several articles for the Diderot Encyclopedia, as well as a book entitled ‘The Art of Manipulating and Adjusting Clocks by Little Known Watches’, which was published in 1759. Berthoud is also one of the most prolific watch writers in history, and he has published more than 4,000 pages of papers.
Counter of Thirds
Occupation, or lifestyle
At the same time, Berthoud was meticulous, registered inventions through official channels, and kept them at the Academy of Science, the predecessor of today’s patents. As a result, his hard work and innovative inventions were recognized by later generations, and more practically, the royal funds allowed him to continue working.
On the other hand, Moinet is more focused on arts and crafts and has strong doubts about mass production of clocks. He condemned ‘several leaks of work by several large manufacturers and factories’ and considered ‘this is the death of art and artists’. Moinet’s eyes do not allow a grain of sand, against clock fashion, relying on machinery and not doing research: ‘At first glance, it may be confusing, but not always able to withstand the test of time.’ Moinet lives for art without any official Recognition of a seal, patent protection or other laws, it is still difficult to define his achievements effectively.
Ferdinand Berthoud FB 1 Chronometer watch and ‘Montre Astronomique, No. 3.’ pocket watch, which was commissioned by Ferdinand Berthoud to Jean Martin (1806)
Berthoud is well-planned and able to live on the royal timekeeping business income. Moinet was so destitute and desperate that he devoted all his personal wealth (and energy) to publishing ‘Traité d’ horlogerie’. Moinet’s reputation was not apparent when he died. It was not until 150 years later that when the Counter of Thirds was rediscovered and formally identified as the first chronograph in history (1816), his name came out of the shadow again. Fortunately, today, watchmaking companies have inherited the spiritual heritage of Berthoud and Moinet, and by introducing outstanding timepieces with both heritage and innovation, we have regained the glory of two watchmaking masters after more than 200 years.