Frédéric Houriet
TheFather of Swiss Chronometry
  • By Jean-Claude Sabrier
  • Introduction by Jean-Pierre Jelmini
  • With a preface by B.Soguel
  • Style of drawing by Marlyse Schmid
  • Pictures of Bernard Muller
  • ISBN 13 : 978-2-940239-12-2
  • Price of CHF 175.- (+ packing and shipping costs)
  • 2006
  • Commander

-A complete monography on Jacques-Frédéric Houriet (1743-1830), written by a horological historian, was long overdue. Indeed, Houriet is the last of the great horological geniuses from Neuchâtel to encounter the fame he so amply merits. This may be due to the fact that in 1768 he chose to settle in Le Locle (in the Neuchâtel Jura neuchâtelois, where he came from) rather than pursuing a lucrative career in Paris, where fame and glory seemed promised to him when he was living there in the mid-18th century. In any case, the present book will now assure him the renown and recognition he deserves.

 Like Abraham-Louis Breguet (1747-1823), Ferdinand Berthoud (1727-1807), Louis Berthoud (1754-1813) and the Jaquet-Droz, father (Pierre 1721-1790) and son (Henri-Louis 1752-1791), Jacques-Frédéric Houriet was born in 1743 in the Principality of Neuchâtel. A nephew of the famous naturalist Abraham Gagnebin, Houriet was fascinated by horology, and travelled to Paris at the age of sixteen. There he was trained by the best watchmakers, and it seemed certain that he would continue to develop his talents alongside the other natives of Neuchâtel who had met with success in the city of light. But at twenty-five, he made a surprising decision. He returned to his native Le Locle, settling there for good, for over sixty years of research, discoveries, and success.

 It was to this life, led with an apparent lack of regard for the aspirations of the time, that Jacques-Frédéric Houriet owed both the richness and variety of his research and the lack of interest historians have shown in him until the present day. Indeed, no shop in the place Vendôme or Picadilly bears his name; no famous clients wear numbered watches. He had, in fact, no admirers except for a few rare connoisseurs who recognised the importance of his discoveries and awarded him titles, honours, and patents. In today’s jargon, Houriet was not appreciated by the media.

 Fortunately, Jean-Claude Sabrier has placed his talent and knowledge at the service of this exceptional watchmaker, and the Editions de la Chatière, along with the Editions Simonin, are pleased to help him pass on the message. Thanks to them, one of the true fathers of chronometry will at long last take his rightful place in the libraries of those who seek out exceptional beings, no matter what era they lived in. Those who are interested in the history of technology will be fascinated to discover the exceptional scientific contributions made by Jacques-Frédéric Houriet throughout his long life, in a period that was itself exceptionally rich in scientific activity. In short, a journey from the Celsius thermometer to Stephenson’s locomotive!


Jean-Pierre Jelmini