Ferdinand Berthoud, Paris, 1727-1807

Discussion in 'European & Other Pocket Watches' started by JuliW, May 16, 2017.

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  1. JuliW

    JuliW Registered User

    Feb 26, 2017
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    I am seeking any information on Ferdinand Berthoud, clock - and watch maker, Paris, mid-1700's to 1807. His work was continued by his nephew, Louis Berthoud. Ferdinand was known for his work in the field of marine chronometers.
    I have a very old chatelaine watch signed by this maker. As best as I can describe it, heavy gold, diamonds, several enamels with enameling on the back of the watch. It's beautiful (if a bit gaudy) and quite heavy. If I am understanding correctly, this was worn by a man on his waistband.
    This watch was supposedly awarded to my ancestor by . . "the king of France". In the time period, I suspect this would have been Louis XVI. I've narrowed the time to: 1780-1791. Louis XVI lost his head (sorry) in 1792. I suspect royal or official records may have been lost due to the French Revolution.
    Thanking you in advance,
    JuliW

    I've attempted to attach a photo, hope it works.
    [​IMG]
     
  2. RON in PA

    RON in PA Registered User
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    Welcome to the Message Board.

    Any chance that you might post a sharp close-up of the movement?

    The NAWCC Library has a book by Berthold published in 1757 and translated into English that is oriented to folks who have purchased clocks or watches and is full of advice on how to use and care for them. Essentially an eighteenth century timepiece owners manual.

    Also try the Search function, there may be older posts about Berthould.
     
  3. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User

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    There's a fair amount of information on Ferdinand Berthoud on the internet, some of which in French. He's discussed at some length in the usual "classic" books on horology: Chamberlain, Britten, Clutton & Daniels, etc.
    His name has become well known in part because of the books he wrote on the subject of Horology. One of which was translated into English and is posted here:
    http://www.watkinsr.id.au/berthoud.html
    And of course there is a wikipedia page which I'm sure you must have consulted already:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferdinand_Berthoud

    From the reading I have done, his nephew Louis was a more accomplished watch (and clock) maker than his uncle Ferdinand. The latter is more known for his various forays into marine chronometers, and for the books he wrote as I indicated.

    Like many of the famous clock and watch-makers of that era, there are commonly found timepieces with fake signatures on them (Le Roy, Berthoud, Breguet, etc.). I'm not suggesting yours is not genuine, I'm just giving you a bit of context on the marketplace.

    The timepiece you possess looks quite imposing, and if a genuine Berthoud, may be worth a handsome price on the open market. Especially if the provenance you alluded too can be authenticated.

    Hope this helps a bit, and good luck in finding out more about your family heirloom watch.
    --Robert
     
  4. Lychnobius

    Lychnobius Registered User

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    Certainly an eighteenth-century French watch, beautifully fitted. As has been said, we need to see what is inside (with the bezel opened it should be possible to swing the movement out of the case by pressing inward on a small spring at the six o'clock position), but at least there is nothing visible so far to suggest that it is not exactly what it professes to be. We eagerly look forward to some more information!

    Oliver Mundy.
     
  5. JuliW

    JuliW Registered User

    Feb 26, 2017
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    Thank you so much for all the replies and information. And, the welcome, too. I have done many searches on F. Berthoud over the years. There is. . and there isn't a lot of pertinent information.
    I have not worked up the courage to open the watch case. Due to the age of the watch, I am fearful of 'parts' springing forth in every direction. Other than take some really good photos and post them, what should I be looking for?
    Yes, I do believe this watch was made by Ferdinand Berthoud as his name is clearly on the face and would be of the time period, according to family legend. In addition, I can trace the watch to the ancestor to whom it was (supposedly) given. I have clear evidence that it has been in family hands every day since. One item I forgot to mention is I have its original shargreen case. The silk lining is very faded with time. It has a somewhat hourglass shape.
    Again, thank you for the pointers. I keep the watch in a bank box, so will retrieve it and try to open it.
     
  6. Omexa

    Omexa Registered User

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    #6 Omexa, May 17, 2017
    Last edited by a moderator: May 18, 2017
    Hi JuliW, I am not sure where people get the idea that there are parts propelled by some Demons that will pop out everywhere.
    If you need more information about this Pocket Watch you need to put photos of the movement in the post. There are a lot of people who are expert in this type of Pocket Watch. Regards Ray
     
  7. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User

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    The other option JuliW is for you to take the watch to a jeweller or watch repair person (if there is such a trustworthy person close to you) and get that person to open it up for you to take pictures of.

    Yes, the provenance appears quite strong on your watch, pretty remarkable that your ancestor got this from the King of France. The motifs painted on the chatelaine are all country-peasant themes, not sure if that means something.

    Anyway, you have a wonderful family heirloom, it's too bad that such nice objects have to be kept in a safety box at the bank, but I would imagine that a timepiece like yours would be worth several thousand $'s.

    I just received and am starting to read possibly the definitive book on french watches, Chapiro's "La Montre française" so may be able to offer you some other insights once you are able to provide us with some further photos. Berthoud figures prominently in this book.

    All the best,
    --Robert
     
  8. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User

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    http://www.lacotedesmontres.com/Enchere-No_38252.htm

    One of probably several examples of similar watches signed Ferdinand Berthoud on the internet. Auctions sites give you an idea of possible value. And the photo gives you an idea of what you should see when you reveal the back of the movement, as suggested earlier.

    I'm still learning about these ancient watches, but I usually look at the hole in the dial for the winding arbour, and expect to see them in the same place for the same maker. Not always the case, as you can see from the above watch, compared to yours.

    Also, I am wondering what is the purpose of the screw visible on the dial of yours, on the "11".
     
  9. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Robert,

    This was a common way of securing the dial, and continued in use for a long time; even Breguet used it.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  10. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User

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    Thanks Graham, one more piece of knowledge to add to my little pile.
    All the best,
    --Robert
     
  11. JuliW

    JuliW Registered User

    Feb 26, 2017
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    View attachment 344538 View attachment 344539 View attachment 344540 View attachment 344541 View attachment 344541 View attachment 344542 View attachment 344543 View attachment 344544

    Greetings, all,
    I think I've attached photos from the inside of the watch. I hope so!
    I used a natural quill (used for sewing) as I was afraid to use anything sharp. Gradually worked the watch open and it was just beautiful inside. On the "works" itself was a number 311 which would be the production number. Right? Ferdinand Berthoud's signature is at about 6 o'clock. At 3 o'clock is engraved: A Paris. (There were also a number and two maker's marks on the inside of the gold cover.)
    Now, I was very concerned about . . "things flying about". That didn't happen but there were tiny, loose parts - a couple of wheels on stems/posts and a very tiny, fine post with a ratchet top. I'm sorry, I just don't know the names of watch parts. I carefully photo'd the watch (inside), got the clearest shots I could take, then just as I closed up the watch again, I dropped the loose parts back inside. I'm absolutely positive they will be important in the future.
    Also, since last posting, I talked with a man who is quite an expert on hallmarks. He told me that of the four hallmarks on the belt/waist clip, one is a city hallmark (Chalonz), one is an assay mark (like an appraisal mark, probably for an estate, one is undoubtedly a maker's mark (goldsmith), and the other he wasn't sure. I may talk with him again.
    I hope the photos are clear enough.
    Thank you,
    Juli
     
  12. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Juli,

    You're very lucky that nothing worse has happened, because some of the pins which hold the movement together were missing, (nothing to do with you opening the case, this must have happened some time before!), and the movement has come apart somewhat. Please don't whatever you do try to close the plates back together again, because you might easily break some of the fine pivots. I suggest that you put the whole thing in a zip-lock bag to keep everything together, because it needs urgent attention from someone who understands these old watches.

    Incidentally, this is a repeater, which rings the last hour, and probably the quarter as well, on a bell inside the case.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  13. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Juli,

    Looking again at the link in post #8, your watch also appears to be a "dumb repeater" and my suggestion about a bell inside the case was wrong; the hammers just tap the inside of the case so that the blows are felt rather than heard. Your watch is definitely comparable to the one in that link, which gives an idea of its monetary value, although of course yours has the additional factor of family provenance.

    You have an important watch which must be carefully handled and sympathetically restored by an expert. One very skilled specialist in the US on these complicated watches who's a member here is Doug Shuman, (user ID "dshumans"). He's well worth contacting about this via the Private Message system.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  14. SKennedy

    SKennedy Registered User

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    This is a fantastic watch on its own but with the chateliane and original protective case - incredible! It looks like one of the repeater train wheels which has dropped out is missing teeth but hopefully there is not too much other damage. It would be wonderful to see it put back in working order but as Graham says, it must be restored by someone familiar with this sort of work.
     
  15. dshumans

    dshumans Registered User
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    A really nice watch and of some importance. I have repaired a number of similar watches, and could probably get yours running and repeating again if all the parts are there. Here is a pictorial record of some of my work. I have worked on many chain drive fusee repeaters and I can frequently repair damaged parts, but if some critical parts are missing that could be a problem. If you want to contact me, e-mail dshumans@gmail.com as I do not frequently read messages here. Important - Do not open and close the movement part of the case much because very small parts can be bent or broken when caught between other parts or the plate and case. I would leave it as is until it can be repaired.
    Regards,
    Doug
     
  16. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User

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    Well done Juli now you have better certainty about the genuineness of your watch, and a recommendation for a knowledgeable person to re-assemble and-or repair it. Hope all goes well for you to restore this watch to a proper functioning condition. The serial number on yours (311) predates the one on the link I provided in #8 (933) which was dated by hallmarks at 1777. So I would think that yours would be considerably earlier than that, maybe a decade or even two. Thank you for sharing your discoveries with us.
    --Robert
     
  17. JuliW

    JuliW Registered User

    Feb 26, 2017
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    Thanks to all! I am learning a lot on this journey!! It is clear that I am the novice. I've been a member of NAWCC for more than 30 years but it has always been for the purpose of researching family clocks and watches. The most important lesson I've learned is that I don't have (or ever will have) the knowledge or skills so abundant among the other members. Allowing me to ask questions and gain insight is beyond measure.
    I have an appointment with an expert on hallmarks and hope to have a better idea of "where and when". I'll post whatever I learn.
    Again, thank you.
    Juli
     
  18. Tom McIntyre

    Tom McIntyre Technical Admin
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    While researching, just remember, if you found a child in this condition, you would call an ambulance. You really should handle it carefully until a skilled watch maker can examine it. At that point, the case and other external parts could be examined further without endangering the mechanism since they would be separated.

    What a wonderful thing to find. :)
     
  19. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Juli,

    I think you should take Tom's wise advice very seriously. Even opening and closing the case at this stage risks damaging the movement or misplacing critical parts.

    In the nature of French hallmarking, the amount of information you'll be able to glean is limited, especially as regards dating.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  20. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User

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    Juli,
    In case you might not know this, when Berthoud came to Paris from Switzerland where he was born, he was most probably apprenticed or at least worked in the shop of Julien Le Roy. Le Roy was one of the most accomplished and influential French watch makers of all time, and is up there in the pantheon of great watch-makers of history anywhere. So Berthoud was very well trained by a master in the trade, and this no doubt was reflected in the quality of his own timepieces when he set up shop on his own.
    --Robert
     
  21. JuliW

    JuliW Registered User

    Feb 26, 2017
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    I will take this opportunity to share what I've learned from the hallmarks. This is quite a journey of discovery and I, once again, thank all of you for sharing your knowledge with me.
    I have spoken with a man who is very knowledgeable about hallmarks. He further researched these hallmarks and I've gone further yet. There are four hallmarks on the belt clip of the chatelaine. The first Maison Commune or Date Mark puts in a date range of July 1758 - July, 1759.
    The second mark is the Paris Charge Mark and was used by Assay Master Eloy Brichard 1756- 1762.
    The third mark is the Maker's Mark: Jean Formey, whose mark was registered in Paris in the year 1754.
    The fourth mark is the Discharge Mark, again Eloy Brichard, guaranteed the fineness of the metals used.
    The serial number of the watch is 311 and one of the posters here indicated that date would put it, perhaps, in the 1750's. It appears to be so.
    So, I need to go back to the drawing board. According to my genealogy, documentation, and family lore I may be off as much as an entire generation.
    I have written to a museum in Switzerland re: Ferdinand Berthoud, as well as a clock/watch museum in France. I am trying to locate records of manufacture for F. Berthoud. I realize it's a long shot but have been very surprised to find other records even older, in France. Considering he was well known for his work with the chronometer, I am hoping the records have been preserved.
    Again, thank you to each of you for your advise and wisdom.
     
  22. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User

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    Sounds like you've had some very insightful hallmark information that further clarifies possible year(s) of manufacture of your watch. I find it amusing that I wasn't too far off with my rough estimate based on the serial numbers.
    Maybe you will be lucky in your museum inquiries, to get some more information on production numbers etc.
    As you probably know there is a current company manufacturing watches with Berthoud's name on them, but the link between them and Ferdinand are probably extremely tenuous at best. A number of high-end watch manufacturers seem to acquire the rights to use the name of a known historical watchmaker.
    It's good that you're documenting all this for this important family heirloom.
     
  23. JuliW

    JuliW Registered User

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    Greetings, all. While absent from this thread I've been researching elsewhere. First, thank you Google Translate! This allowed me to type a request note in English and produce a version in French. I used that to write to le CNAM - Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers in Paris. This is the museum in Paris of arts and crafts. I thought them the best bet for possibly having information on Ferdinand Berthoud since his workshop was in Paris. I received a reply within a few days with lots of information. A woman in their documents dept sent many links and a note saying that it appears that the shop records start in 1779, not before watch #500, maybe. I estimate 80% of the information pertains to Berthoud's work on the marine chronometer, including very detailed information. So, it appears I will need to date the watch from hallmarks.
    I have also written to MIH - in Switzerland but have not heard from them. Perhaps I'll write again and hope for an answer.
    To gmorse - yes, I'd read about Berthoud working with Julien Le Roy. And, I thank you for reminding me to further research this possibility. Perhaps there are earlier shop records to find.
    I have been in touch with Doug Shuman through a recommendation from this group. He is very knowledgeable and obviously a very skilled craftsman, so I appreciate his comments.
    I will continue my research for the next month or so and will be posting anything I learn.
    Thank you to each of you for your time, knowledge, and expertise!
     
  24. JuliW

    JuliW Registered User

    Feb 26, 2017
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    I see my last post was dated 6/20/17. I am sending this update so no one thinks I've dropped the ball. My husband and I were boarding a ship in Seattle for Alaska when he fell backward, airborne, down an UP escalator. He landed head first, falling about 12 feet. LOTS of injuries, no cruise, a long time before we could drive home 800 miles. Not the trip we planned.
    I have never heard from MIH in Switzerland, so will try again. I'll write to CNAM about the possibility of F. Berthoud's work records being mixed in with those of Julien Le Roy. And, I'm trying to locate any sort of records that might show who commissioned the watch. Seems so convoluted but it IS the story of the watch.
    Again, thank you all for sharing your knowledge and patience with me.
     
  25. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User

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    Hi Julie,
    I applaud your diligence and perseverance to find out as much as you can about your family heirloom Berthoud watch. There will no doubt be some experts in Europe who will be able to find out more about it. You may want to try to get a hold of Adolphe Chapiro, who wrote the wonderful book I referred to earlier "La montre française du XVieme siècle jusqu'à 1900". He would know a lot about Berthoud etc.
    Sorry to hear about your husband's unfortunate accident, hopefully he will recover without serious ill effects. Alaska will still be there when you are ready to make the trip again.
    All the best.
    --Robert
     
  26. JuliW

    JuliW Registered User

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    Thank you, Robert. I'll follow up on your suggestion about Adolphe Chapiro.
    Best regards,
    Juli
     
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