Louis Moinet


The Louis Moinet brand today

Louis Moinet was one of the greatest watchmakers ever – his inventiveness, passion and willingness to pass on his wisdom mean his contribution to horology is immeasurable.

His spirit lives on thanks to Jean-Marie Schaller who, as founder and creative director of the Louis Moinet brand, revived the prestigious name of the inspirational master watchmaker.

Jean-Marie Schaller, Louis Moinet CEO and Creative Director

  • Louis Moinet is today an independent watch brand located in Saint-Blaise, Switzerland, specialising in the creation of high-end timepieces, often featuring exotic materials and innovative technology, underpinned by the philosophy of limited edition mechanical art.

    All of Louis Moinet’s timepieces are either exclusive limited editions or unique pieces.

    The Louis Moinet atelier in Saint-Blaise

    Uniqueness, creative horology, art and design, and exclusivity are at the heart of Louis Moinet creations.

    The Louis Moinet motif. Left to right the symbols represent uniqueness, creative horology, exclusivity, and art and design


Louis Moinet: A brand apart

Louis Moinet timepieces are distinguished by a strong identity, with “Côtes du Jura” guilloche dials, “Gouttes de rosée” hands, and distinctive cases with screwed bezels.

Geograph Rainforest, with a “Côtes du Jura” dial, “Gouttes de rosée” hands, the distinctive Louis Moinet case and chronograph dials made from fossilised palm wood

Another signature feature of Louis Moinet is the use of extremely rare materials, such as tropical fossilised palm wood and dinosaur bone, or wondrous meteorites hailing from the Moon or Mars.

  • A piece of the Sahara 955 meteorite, a fragment of which can be found in the dial of Astralis, among other Louis Moinet creations

    The most extraordinary of the meteorites used in Louis Moinet timepieces – the Sahara 955, a fragment of which can be found in the dial of Astralis, for example – has been estimated as 4.6 billion years old, making it the oldest known rock in our Solar System.

    Louis Moinet timepieces are the subject of numerous patent applications to protect technical innovations which have won several international accolades.

    Louis Moinet has won two Red Dot Awards for design

    Tempograph and Jules Verne Instrument have each won a prestigious Red Dot Award for design while the Jules Verne Instrument also claimed the prize for ‘Most Innovative Design Watch’ at the Journey Through Time awards organised by Malaysia’s renowned Starhill Gallery.

    Jules Verne Instrument No.1, here with a black dial, which has won two prestigious awards

    Continuing and preserving Louis Moinet’s historical heritage, Louis Moinet is proud to count a number of today’s celebrities among their prestigious clientele, such as the King of Malaysia, among others.

    For CEO and Creative Director Jean-Marie Schaller, the responsibility of reviving the Louis Moinet name and of heading the brand today is a natural vocation.

    Mr Schaller says: “Watchmaking has always been in my blood. Coming from the Jura Mountains, the world surrounding me revolved around one thing: Horology.

    “I grew up knowing that a watch is no ordinary object: It is a cultural testimony, a legacy inherited from a generation of craftsmen.

    “In a watch, you see the brain of the engineer, the heart of the designer, the eye of the artist and the hand of the watchmaker.

    Tempograph by Louis Moinet, where the brain of the engineer, the heart of the designer, the eye of the artist and the hand of the watchmaker are on show

    “Indeed, the watch is an objet d’art in harmony with the real values we harbour inside ourselves as human beings.

    “The master watchmaker Louis Moinet was both an artist and a brilliant horologist. He was one of the most influential watchmakers of all time.

    “I am proud to revive his heritage of ‘mechanical art’, blending it with the exciting possibilities offered by today’s technology.”

Louis Moinet: A Biography

1768 – 1800

The birth of a legend

Louis Moinet (1768–1853) by Raymond Perrenoud

Born in central France in 1768, the young Louis Moinet was drawn to horology and art, training regularly with a master watchmaker while also receiving drawing lessons from an Italian painter.

At the age of 20, he relocated to Rome to study architecture, sculpting and painting, then to Florence for further artistic study before moving to Paris, where he was appointed Professor of Fine Arts at the Louvre.

Moinet simultaneously continued his study and practice of horology, and after renewing contact with his watchmaking teacher and stints in Switzerland, the student became the master.

  • 1768 Born in Bourges

    Louis Moinet was born in Bourges in 1768 into a well-to-do family of farmers. During his studies, he quickly distinguished himself for his mastery of classical subjects, and he regularly took first place in academic competitions.

    Birth certificate of Louis Moinet

    While still a student, he was introduced to the world of watchmaking, and he spent almost all of his free time by the side of a master watchmaker.

    Louis Moinet’s birthplace, Bourges, in the 18th century

  • 1788 Master of Art

    By the time he was 20, Louis Moinet had become irresistibly drawn to Italy, the quintessential land of fine arts. He left France for Rome, where he lived for five years, studying architecture, sculpture and painting. He became acquainted with members of the Académie de France, which encompassed some of the finest artists of the time.

    Académie de France, Villa Medici, Rome

    He then moved to Florence, where he learned the art of fine stone engraving in an atelier placed at his disposal by Count Manfredini, Minister of the Grand Duke of Tuscany. He also completed several paintings there, and even as a painter, his legacy includes a number of fine works.

  • 1795 Professor of fine arts

    The Musée du Louvre, Paris

    Upon his return to Paris, he was appointed Professor of the Académie des Beaux-Arts, in the Louvre.

    He became a member of several scholarly and artistic societies, and cooperated with eminent artists such as the astronomer Jérôme Lalande, the bronzier Pierre-Philippe Thomire and Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, the skilled automaton-maker considered the father of the modern-day conjuring.

  • 1800 A genius in the making

    While teaching, Moinet pursued his theoretical and practical study of horology, the art for which he already nurtured a passion. He renewed contact with his former teacher, and the student quickly became the master.

    Watchmaking occupied Moinet’s entire time from the beginning of the 19th century onwards.

    He spent long periods in Switzerland, from the Jura mountains to the Vallée de Joux. He met many famous watchmakers there, including Swiss clock and chronometer maker Jacques-Frédéric Houriet, and acquired his horological tools and instruments.

    Moinet himself was described by his peers as a “gifted artist”, an “eminent scholar” and “a specialist in transcendent horology”.

1800 – 1853

A watchmaker’s watchmaker

As he cemented his reputation as a supreme horologist, Louis Moinet also endeared himself to his watchmaking fraternity.

Abraham-Louis Breguet

He worked closely with the great Abraham-Louis Breguet over a period of many years, acting in the capacity of close friend, confidant and advisor.

So respected was Moinet in horological circles that he was also appointed president of the Chronometry Society of Paris.

  • Moinet met Abraham-Louis Breguet when the latter was already fairly famous.

    Both men shared the same passion for the art of horology and Breguet recognised Moinet’s worth at once.

    From 1811 onwards, Moinet became Breguet's personal advisor, with the two men working closely together until Breguet’s death in 1823.

    Moinet was also appointed President of the Chronometry Society of Paris, whose membership included some of the greatest talents of the era, and whose avowed purpose was “the development and encouragement of watchmaking, one of the finest sciences of the human mind”.

    Joseph Winnerl

    Within this setting, he cultivated ties with his fellow members including Louis Berthoud, Antide Janvier, chronograph pioneers Louis-Frédéric Perrelet and Joseph Winnerl, as well as Benjamin Vulliamy, who served as the King’s Watchmaker in London.

1800 – 1853

Extraordinary customers

Over the course of his long and distinguished career, master watchmaker Louis Moinet created some extraordinary timepieces for extremely eminent figures of the time.

King George IV next to his Louis Moinet clock (courtesy of Sotheby’s)

Owners of Louis Moinet creations have included Napoleon; Tsar Alexander I; King George IV of England; Marshal Murat, King of Naples; and American presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe.

Those who possess a timepiece bearing the Louis Moinet name therefore find themselves in esteemed company.

  • 1806 Napoleon

    Louis Moinet made Napoleon’s Clock for French military and political leader Napoleon Bonaparte and it boasts an eight-day movement and displays hours, minutes and date.

    Napoleon Bonaparte and Napoleon’s Clock by Louis Moinet (courtesy of the National Museum from Carillon to Street organ).

    Watch the video of the restoration of Napoleon’s Clock here

    The amphora-shaped clock’s great originality lies in an outstanding mechanism displaying the moon phases inside the day hand, by means of a tiny ivory ball.

    Meanwhile, Napoleon and Josephine are crowned emperor and empress as soon as the music box is activated via an ingenious mechanism that physically places the imperial crown on their heads.

    A mechanism places a crown on the emperor and empress’ heads (courtesy of the National Museum from Carillon to Street organ)

    This historic clock epitomises the origins of Louis Moinet as one of the best horologists ever and in recognition of this, the year of this timepiece’s creation – 1806 – forms part of the modern-day Louis Moinet logo.

    Today, Napoleon’s Clock can be admired at the National Museum Speelklok in Utrecht, the Netherlands.

    Napoleon’s adversary Tsar Alexander I also owned a Louis Moinet clock.

    Tsar Alexander next to his Louis Moinet timepiece

  • ca. 1810 Marshall Murat, King of Naples

    This exceptional clock of astonishing intricacy was manufactured for Joachim Murat, brother-in-law of Napoleon, Marshal of France and King of Naples and the two Sicilies. It now forms part of the Louis Moinet brand’s collection.

    Marshal Murat, King of Naples and his Louis Moinet clock (les Ateliers Louis Moinet collection)

    The four different dials combine a full calendar indicating the hours, minutes, seconds, day, date, month and moon-phase. The movement is entirely visible from the back and the key-winding mechanism is ingeniously concealed.

  • ca. 1810 Thomas Jefferson, President of the United States

    Thomas Jefferson – signatory of the Declaration of Independence and also United States Ambassador in Paris – became acquainted with Louis Moinet, and spelled out for him his three criteria for creating artwork: Beauty, durability and utility.

    Thomas Jefferson and a Louis Moinet clock almost identical to the one he owned (private collection)

    Those three qualities are embodied in the clock that Moinet made for Jefferson and which accompanied him during his two White House terms of office and until his last breath. It can now be admired at Monticello Museum, Virginia.

  • ca. 1810 Ernest Augustus, Prince of Hanover

    Ernest Augustus, Prince of Hanover and later king, and his Louis Moinet clock (courtesy of David Roche Foundation, Australia)

    This bronze clock created for Ernest Augustus, at the time Prince of Hanover, and later king – boasts impressive technology based on ‘rotating circles’, with the hours and minutes read through two different cylinders located inside the urn.

  • 1817 James Monroe, President of the United States

    James Monroe’s clock is an original piece that still decorates the White House to this day.

    A lot of the original White House furniture has been lost over the years, and only a handful of historical vestiges remain.

    James Monroe and a Louis Moinet clock representing “Emperor Nero” and of the same period and style as the famous ‘minerva’ clock, which can be admired at the White House (les Ateliers Louis Moinet collection)

    One of these is the famous ‘minerva’ clock by Louis Moinet and the acclaimed bronzier Pierre-Philippe Thomire, who collaborated with the esteemed horologist on many of his clocks.

    Minerva was the Roman goddess of poetry, medicine, wisdom, commerce, weaving, crafts and magic.

    This clock was purchased in Paris in 1817 to adorn the White House after it had been burned down by the English three years earlier and then rebuilt by architect James Hoban.

1800 – 1853

Extraordinary inventions

As a maker of precision instruments, Louis Moinet was involved in maritime, astronomical and civilian horology.

Napoleon’s Clock and its moon phase mechanism (courtesy of the National Museum from Carillon to Street organ)

He was an ingenious craftsman who perfected various techniques in these fields and developed several important inventions that changed and enriched the horological landscape.

  • Master of mechanics

    The work of Louis Moinet encompasses alarm watches, regulators and astronomical watches.

    As the inventor of unprecedented concepts, he devised some truly astonishing mechanisms.

    For example, several of his pocket-watch calibres boasted unusual arrangements of the components, such as with the whole set of gears built around the same pinion.

    A Louis Moinet pocket watch.

    Moreover, he invented a mainspring that improved the rating of the watch, a spring he poetically described as being a “half-ripe cherry red” colour when fired in the kiln.

    He also developed a new balance-cock that facilitated winding. After tireless efforts, he created a construction serving to remove the stud of the balance-spring stud so as to poise the escapement correctly without needing to dismantle anything.

    He also slotted, rounded and hand-finished the gear trains of his marine chronometers in order to ensure their precision.

  • Pioneer of chronometry

    To enhance his astronomical observations, Louis Moinet invented a sensational instrument: A counter in the shape of a watch displaying 60ths of a second, and which he called a “compte-tierce” or 60th of a second counter.

    Louis Moinet’s compte-tierce

    The obvious advantage was a degree of accuracy superior to any other time measurement at the time.

    One of its particularly original features was a jewelled escapement that oscillated at 216,000 vibrations per hour without any trace of wear nor increased friction during prolonged use.

  • Spectacular clockwork

    The bronze clock created for Ernest Augustus, Prince of Hanover at the time and later king – boasts impressive technology based on ‘rotating circles’, with the hours and minutes read through two different cylinders located inside the urn.

    Prince of Hanover clock and its ‘rotating circles’ (courtesy of David Roche Foundation, Australia)

    Meanwhile, the amphora-shaped Napoleon’s Clock exudes great originality thanks to an outstanding mechanism displaying the moon phases inside the day hand, by means of a tiny ivory ball.

    The moon phase mechanism of Napoleon’s Clock

    And loyal to his usual practice, Louis Moinet presented a chronometer providing several original indications, including an annual calendar and days of the week, at the Great Exhibition world fair at the Crystal Palace in London’s Hyde Park in 1851.

    The Great Exhibition in 1851 (Dickinson's Comprehensive Pictures of the Great Exhibition of 1851)


“Traité d’horlogerie”

Louis Moinet wanted to share his extensive knowledge of watchmaking and in 1848 he published the Traité d'Horlogerie, a two-volume treatise on watchmaking that took him two decades to complete.

It was reprinted in 1856 and 1875 and became one of the key watchmaking references of the 19th century. It remains a phenomenal reference work to this day.

  • Louis Moinet devoted 20 years of his life to writing the Traité d'Horlogerie which comprises detailed descriptions and diagrams of the finest watchmaking techniques.

    Louis Moinet’s Traité d’Horlogerie

    It contains in particular a practical and universal method for gears that follow scientific principles duly modified by their application.

    Some of Louis Moinet’s sketches from Traité d'Horlogerie

    “The Traité d'Horlogerie by Louis Moinet is the most comprehensive, best written and most indispensable of all the watchmaking books ever written,” said Monsieur Delmas, vice-president of the Société Chronométrique de Paris in 1853.

    One of Louis Moinet’s diagrams from Traité d’Horlogerie

    The treatise was appreciated by the great watchmakers of Moinet’s era such as Charles Frodsham, Abraham-Louis Perrelet, Claudius Saunier and Joseph Winnerl, as well as by several other scholars and connoisseurs such as Alexander, Prince of Orange.

    Louis Moinet’s Traité d’Horlogerie

    They all are part of a list of the numerous subscribers to a book that was reprinted three times and circulated as far afield as Russia and Cuba.

    One of Louis Moinet’s illustrations from Traité d’Horlogerie

    “Horology is a science and a liberal art: You need to be a meticulous and scrupulous mechanic, and to have sufficient knowledge of physics and geometry,” wrote Moinet in the treatise.

    One of Louis Moinet’s diagrams from Traité d’Horlogerie

    Moinet added: “One should invent solely for the needs of the Art… a true artist cannot remain behind his times… it would be a mistake to think there is nothing left that deserves deeper study.”


Louis Moinet: A life of giving

Louis Moinet spent his life dedicated to furthering the art of horology, freely sharing his ingenious ideas with his fellow watchmakers, and ignoring commercial incentive.

Louis Moinet (1768–1853)

Acknowledged by his peers as a good-hearted man of outstanding intellect, he died in Paris on 21st May, 1853, at the age of 85.

Moinet’s hallmark was his twin passions, those of art and horology, which he channelled into true works of horological art. The Louis Moinet brand today carries on this magnificent tradition.

  • Alexandre Dumas, author of the The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, called Moinet “a king, viceroy and prince of modern decorative arts” while the horological journal La Tribune Chronométrique referred to Moinet as “a giant among Parisian watchmakers”.

    Alexandre Dumas (photograph by Nadar)

    Monsieur Delmas, watchmaker and vice-president of the Chronometry Society of Paris at the time, gave a glowing eulogy of Moinet after his passing.

    “He sacrificed everything to art: His time, his fortune and his health,” said Delmas.

    “He spent most of his life creating, imbuing materials with a life of their own.

    “We had the great fortune to live near to him during the last 12 years of his life, and no one can appreciate the many qualities of heart and spirit of this excellent man more so than we can.”

    Delmas continued: “He was always, in all of his interactions, the man we knew as president of the Chronometry Society: Precise, lucid, indulgent, illuminating the weak with support and encouragement, sharing his own light and knowledge without restriction or the slightest hesitation.

    “We hold him in our memory as one of the most capable watch makers that ever lived. He is undoubtedly one of the most capable watchmakers who lived in any time and in any nation.”

    A diagram from Louis Moinet’s Traité d’Horlogerie

    Even after his death, Louis Moinet’s creations were celebrated with Napoleon’s Clock exhibited at the Exposition Universelle world fair in Paris in 1900.

    The Exposition Universelle 1900 (workshop of Neurdein)

    Louis Moinet’s masterpieces have been preserved in major European museums such as the Louvre and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, the Château de Versailles, National Museum from Carillon to Street Organ, in the Netherlands, the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, Scone Palace in Scotland and the Palacio del Tiempo in Spain.

    The White House, home to a Louis Moinet timepiece

    In the United States, Louis Moinet creations are present the White House and Jefferson’s Monticello Museum, Virginia.