Louis BERTHOUD 'Grande Montre Marine' Paris. No 103/103 BIS


One of the finest surviving box chronometers by this important maker, circa 1808.

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Beautiful small two-piece box with sliding lid of the finest mahogany with brass furniture. Fullplate fusee movement with steel pillars, the stoned plates retaining much of their original finish, suspended within the gimbals in a detachable brass drum 'en forme de tabatière' (in the form of a tobacco box). Pivoted-detent escapement and three-arm compensation balance of typical Louis Berthoud form, paired with a helical balance-spring without terminal curves. Beautiful signed enamel dial in prefect original condition, the back of the dial signed by its maker 'Vincent,' original blued-steel hands. Box 14 x 14cm and only 12 cm tall.

Louis Berthoud, nephew of Ferdinand Berthoud and inheritor of the business, designated maker to the French navy and creator of the very finest Paris made chronometers with detent escapements, a tradition carried on by his pupil Henri Motel, and others. Much more can be read about the maker and his chronometers, but see also J-C Sabrier's book La Longitude en mer à l'heure de Louis Berthoud et Henri Motel.

This chronometer is numbered 103 on the dial and movement, and 103 BIS on the box. Berthoud's use of BIS, meaning 'twice' in this context, is not fully understood. It is often thought to signify a second series of chronometers but this seems to be unlikely given surviving evidence. It most probably can mean different things, including both a second, completely new chronometer as well as one that has been bought back and then re-sold, as is likely in this instance. As such, this machine, of Berthoud's best construction and numbered 103 was supplied to Monsieur Duperrey, Capitaine de Vaisseau, in October 1808, and was later acquired for use by, and engraved, DEPÔT Gral DE LA MARINE. This is not the term used by the French navy at the time, which would be DEPÔT DE LA MARINE ROYALE, and would instead suggest that the chronometer was acquired by Jean-Baptiste Prevost de Sansac, Marquis de Traversay who served as Ministère de la Marine for the Imperial Russian Navy.

If it re-entered Berthoud's books at the time, which we know from his correspondence was overly chaotic, it may well have been when it acquired the BIS suffix. Even if this is not the case, this chronometer, once in the Mark Dineley collection, is arguably the finest surviving example of Berthoud's third series of chronometers.

NB: When previously sold the five minute and five second marks had been overpainted in order to make them more bold, possibly done at the request of the Depôt General de la Marine. Partially worn, I have removed these and the dial can now be appreciated in all original finesse, being amongst the most beautiful dials of this or any period, and one of the very few Louis Berthoud 'Vincent' dials to have survived without a flaw.

In totally original condition, at least since its use by the Russian Navy, apart from a later key. So much so, I have not touched or done any cleaning in order that it can be properly appreciated. A full service of the chronometer is included, at no extra cost, should this be desired by its new owner.