He received the title of Master Watchmaker in 1754, and dedicated the rest of his life to studying and developing accurate marine chronometers. In 1764, he received the title of Horologer de la Marine; a post particularly esteemed at a period when the race to construct a timepiece capable of finding longitude at sea was of critical importance.
King Louis XV appointed him to visit London to observe John Harrison’s famous H4. Harrison, suspicious that Berthoud would use his knowledge for the benefit of the French Navy, only showed him H1, H2, and H3. Regardless of this set-back, Berthoud established several key relationships on this trip, and on his second visit in 1765, met with Thomas Mudge, who described the working principles of H4 without showing it to him.
Berthoud returned to France with an understanding of the new British technology, and designed two marine clocks which were successfully used on a number of voyages by the French Navy. From then on, he produced all marine clocks and watches used on the King's ships, dedicating nearly 50 years to the study of accurate marine chronometers. He experimented with multiple design variants, beginning early on with weight driven chronometers, and then moving to spring-powered chronometers. He later built compensating mechanisms into the balance itself. In all, Berthoud produced between 70 and 80 marine chronometers, of which several important examples reside in the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers, in Paris. For detailed information on Berthoud's life and work see Hans Von Bertele, Marine and Pocket Chronometers, pp. 42-43, and Rupert T. Gould, The Marine Chronometer, pp.126-166.
Jean Martin worked as Berthoud’s student for many years, before establishing himself as a naval watchmaker in Brest in 1785. In 1793, two years before the creation of the present lot, he returned to Berthoud’s workshop, and continued to work under him, notably creating several longitude clocks and watches, such as the present piece.
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