Phinée Perret

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Phinée Perret (May 1, 1777-July 8, 1851) was an inventor and toolmaker in the watchmaking field, specializing on the finishing of wheels and cutting of teeth.

Phinée Perret was born in La Brévine on May 1, 1777, to Isaac Perret-Jeanneret. His father, a farmer, wanted his son to enter a professional trade and apprenticed him at the age of 14 to his uncle, clock maker Jean-Jacques Perret-Jeanneret.

Jean-Jacques' father, despite humble origins as a village shoemaker, accumulated a modest fortune of 2,000 crowns through thrifty savings despite earning just 3 batz per day while raising ten children. But Jean-Jacques had wanted more for himself, motivated by the fact that his neighbors were earning six times more making clock components. Despite his father's refusal, he struck an agreement with a neighboring clock maker, receiving a modest wage for his apprenticeship. After three months, Jean-Jacques transitioned to master status, establishing a workshop with minimal resources.

After an apprenticeship with Jean-Jacques Perret-Jeanneret, Phinée Perret went to work and study under David-Louis Versin, a skilled watchmaker-mechanic in La Brévine. Phinée acquired a taste for high-quality watchmaking during this period. Witnessing imperfections in manually rounded clock wheel teeth, he encountered an early plane rounding machine in the shop of the elderly Abram Matthey-Doret in La Brévine. Because he no longer worked, Matthey-Doret sold the machine and its files to Phinée Perret, who soon discovered that it was of limited usefulness. But seeing how it worked, he developed a superior replacement within a year, financed by selling the original.

Consulting the writing of Ferdinand Berthoud's, Perret developed a mechanism that could cut perfect geometrically curved teeth. Armed with his invented tool, he crafted rounding files, cutters, and pinions, producing intricate timepieces. His creations included equation regulators, astronomical pendulums, and marine gears. The pinnacle of his achievements was a regulator sent to the Saint Petersburg court, rivaling the renowned works of Breguet in Paris. Perret also contributed to timekeeping in Tramelan, Cortaillod, Boudry, Saint-Blaise, and notably, the regulator of the Pisa observatory.

Phinée Perret's precision in tooth and pinion craftsmanship earned him acclaim among watchmakers, attracting lucrative offers. He initially worked in Le Locle, collaborating with clockmakers Colomb and Pierre-Henri Montandon, before settling in the emerging watchmaking city of La Chaux-de-Fonds. There, he specialized in the production of rounding files and gable end mills. His inventive spirit further led to the creation of a tool for cutting and rounding perfect gears, notable for its delicate cutting edges producing polished teeth.

Despite his practical, industrious nature, Phinée Perret, like many inventors, met an unfortunate end. Exploitation by a mechanic in Val-de-Travers, who hid his discoveries and sold them as his own, led to stiff competition and financial hardships. Worn down by persistent work, Phinée Perret spent his final years in the Le Locle hospice, passing away at the age of 74 on July 8, 1851. His legacy endures through his contributions to horology, marred by the challenges faced in the latter part of his career.