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  1. #1
    Registered User Ethan Lipsig's Avatar
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    Default William or James Reid Chronometer

    This week I bought a Reid chronometer at a German auction I could not personally attend. I haven't received the watch. You can see photos of it and a description in the auction house catalog: https://www.cortrie.de/watches/detai...on-1809?start=.

    The movement, dial and hands appear substantially identical to those of a Reid chronometer in the British Museum. http://www.britishmuseum.org/researc...56706&partId=1.

    Here is where the mysteries begin. The auction house, no doubt acting in good faith, described the watch as by "William" Reid. The British Museum describes its Reid having been made by "James" Reid. Britten's lists a "J. Reid" in Ball Alley, but says no more about him. Both my watch and the British Museum watch have a Ball Alley address inscribed on them.

    Britten's lists "Reid, Wm." as having been located at 32 Rosoman St. and says of him " 1790-1820. Fine pocket chronometer, Arnold escapement, h.m. 1795."

    I cannot tell from the photos I have seen of my watch whether it says "James" or "William" in front of the "Reid" inscription, or whether it says nothing before it, like the British Museum watch.

    Now for my questions:

    1. Was William Reid a more highly regarded watchmaker than James Reid?
    2. According to the auction house, William Reid was famous. Was he?
    3. I haven't been able to find much information on either one, other than a bankruptcy filing by William. If you can, please provide information about either Reid.
    4. If you can you tell from the photos, does my watch have an Arnold or Earnshaw detent escapement?
    Last edited by Steven Thornberry; 04-01-2017 at 10:01 AM. Reason: correct Reid's first name

  2. #2
    Registered User gmorse's Avatar
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    Default Re: William or James Reid Chronometer

    Hi Ethan,

    A very fine piece, congratulations!

    The name on the top plate is definitely "Wm" for William. The balance wheel is the Earnshaw type, and although the detent is mostly, and the escape wheel is totally hidden by the plate, I'd bet that it too is an Earnshaw type, with the spring in compression. When you receive it, you can see if the escape wheel teeth are in the plane of the wheel, (Earnshaw), or stand up above the plane of the wheel, (Arnold).

    [Edit] Looking again, it's obvious that since the fourth wheel must rotate anticlockwise, (as viewed from the top plate), the escape wheel must rotate clockwise, which means that the detent will be in compression when locked, therefore an Earnshaw . . .

    Regards,

    Graham
    Last edited by Steven Thornberry; 04-01-2017 at 10:02 AM. Reason: correct Reid's first name

    "Ut tensio, sic vis" - Robert Hooke

  3. #3
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    Default Re: William or James Reid Chronometer

    There is a bit about them in Tony Mercer's book Chronometer Makers of the World. According to Mercer they BOTH worked at Ball Alley. JM was listed as there from 1800-1816, William M from 179 to 1820. Generally, if the upper plate has a slot in it the timepiece has an Arnold detent, unless it has been converted. Mercer also states that they used the Arnold detent.

    The auction house photo shows the detent in the slot so it very likely is an Arnold detent. The Arnold detent is pulled by the escape wheel when locked. The conversions I have seen place the replacement earnshaw detent on the opposite side of the escape wheel since Earnshaw detents are pushed by the locked tooth. Otherwise the gear train has to be changed. I see since Graham and I were typing at the same time that we disagree so examination will have to see who is right.

    Graham is correct that it has an Earnshaw balance, but it also has an Arnold helical balance spring.

    I remember which is which using the idea with some truth that Earnshaw was considered "pushy". On the basis of the plate having a slot with the detent visible, no reference to conversion and the likelihood that a conversion would place the detent away from the slot, I am fairly sure it is an Arnold. If not, it probably has an undisclosed conversion.

    All the Earnshaw detents I have seen are screwed to the underside of the upper plate while the Arnold detents are placed either on top as this one is or in a slot in the plate.

    It is very intriguing that the auction house did not state the detent type.

    Mercer's book has lot about another Reid firm started by Christian Ker Reid in Newcastle on Tyne in 1778 and is listed as still in business. There was a William Ker Reid in this firm contemporaneously with the other, London Reid firm, and I suspect this is the more famous one. This firm had Royal warrants from Queen Victoria and the later Prince of Wales. This was likely the famous Reid firm but the probably did a lot less on their chronometers than did the London Reids.

    Congratulations, Arnold Detent pocket chronometers are rare especially if not converted. If not an Arnold it is a very odd Earnshaw, or perhaps something else.
    Last edited by Steven Thornberry; 04-01-2017 at 10:02 AM. Reason: correct Reid's first name

  4. #4

    Default Re: William or James Reid Chronometer

    I think I'm going to confuse the issue ....

    The following from Tony Mercer's Chronometer Makers of the World (after the name ans address, he shows examples of watches identified):

    J Reid, Ball Alley, Lombard St 1800-1816. 2-day, 8-day, pocket.Segment weights. Steel hairspring. Pooles auxiliary. Up and down through dial.

    William Reid 32 Rosoman Street, 1790-1820; Ball Alley, Lombard Street. Spring detent with helical spring (Arnolds). No up and down one-day marine chronometer #1712. Two pocket chronometers dated 1795 and 1808.

    So it appears that J Reid and William Reid may both have been working at Ball Alley from 1810-1816. They must obviously have been related, but Merecer gives no clues.

    For what it's worth, I don't think he justifies the adjective "famous". I guess that the "famous" Reids were the Newcastle family of that name.
    Last edited by Steven Thornberry; 04-01-2017 at 10:03 AM. Reason: correct Reid's first name
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  5. #5
    Registered User gmorse's Avatar
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    Default Re: William or James Reid Chronometer

    Hi Dr. Jon,

    According to Clutton & Daniels, Earnshaw used both helical and flat hairsprings in his watches, apparently neither being particularly favoured.

    I think the layout of the train points to the detent locking in compression rather than tension, which suggests to me that the detent is now an Earnshaw type, whatever it may have originally been. We are after all talking about types of escapement here, not necessarily their original makers.

    [Edit] I do agree about the slotted plate and its association with Arnold; we shall have to wait for Ethan's watch to arrive for an answer.

    Regards,

    Graham
    Last edited by Steven Thornberry; 04-01-2017 at 10:04 AM. Reason: correct Reid's first name

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  6. #6
    Technical Admin Tom McIntyre's Avatar
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    Default Re: William or James Reid Chronometer

    I had to look at a picture of an Arnold to form an opinion. The key point on this watch is that the detent lies between the escape and 4th wheel. So, as Graham says, since I cannot imagine that the 4th wheel runs backward, I would have to agree that the detent is in compression. In this picture of the Arnold back plate you can see the escape and 4th wheel are both on the same side of the detent.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by Steven Thornberry; 04-01-2017 at 10:04 AM. Reason: correct Reid's first name
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    Default Re: William or James Reid Chronometer (By: Tom McIntyre)

    Time will tell, but:

    Looking at Tom's example, the escape wheel turns the opposite direction from the seconds wheel since they are linked via a pinion. From the dial side the seconds wheel goes clockwise and therefore teh escape wheel goes counterclockwise. Here is where it gets tricky, we are looking at teh back side. From this point of view the seconds wheel goes counter clockwise and this the escape wheel goes clockwise.. On Tom's watch as on the Reid example that puts the detent in tension.

    To see whether I have this right, take any pocket watch and look at the seconds wheel from the back. On the all the ones i have seen the seconds wheel goes counterclockwise when seen from the back.
    Last edited by Steven Thornberry; 04-01-2017 at 10:05 AM. Reason: correct Reid's first name

  8. #8
    Technical Admin Tom McIntyre's Avatar
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    Default Re: William or James Reid Chronometer (By: Dr. Jon)

    Clearly my ability to visualize is impaired, but it is clear that the detent lies between the 4th and the escape wheel on the Reid watch. On the Arnold the two wheels are side by side. If the 4th wheel is turning counter clockwise and the escape wheel is turning clockwise (on both watches) the escape wheel will approach a detent on its right side with the opposite contact of the one on its left side. i.e. one will be in compression and the other in tension.

    I don't think the second hand turns backward on the Arnold, but I can check it tomorrow.
    Last edited by Steven Thornberry; 04-01-2017 at 10:06 AM. Reason: correct Reid's first name
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  9. #9
    Registered User Ethan Lipsig's Avatar
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    Default Re: William or James Reid Chronometer (By: Tom McIntyre)

    Thanks all for the very erudite responses. I have asked the auction house to let me know what kind of detent the watch has. If it doesn't, we may have to wait until the watch arrives to make a final determination. Are Arnold detents superior to Earnshaw detents or more collectible?
    Last edited by Steven Thornberry; 04-01-2017 at 10:06 AM. Reason: correct Reid's first name

  10. #10
    Registered User gmorse's Avatar
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    Default Re: William or James Reid Chronometer

    Hi Ethan,

    ...Are Arnold detents superior to Earnshaw detents or more collectible?...
    The Earnshaw pattern became the de facto standard and examples are much more commonly met with, which suggests that they were found to perform better in service. Since the Arnold pattern is rarer, I guess you could conclude that they are more collectible.

    Regards,

    Graham
    Last edited by Steven Thornberry; 04-01-2017 at 10:07 AM. Reason: correct Reid's first name

    "Ut tensio, sic vis" - Robert Hooke

  11. #11
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    Default Re: William or James Reid Chronometer

    I slept on it and Graham and Tom are correct on the basis of the British Museum example. I don't know how I got it wrong and I checked several times but I did. The issue is the side of the detent where the escape wheel is set.
    Last edited by Steven Thornberry; 04-01-2017 at 10:08 AM. Reason: correct Reid's first name

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