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  1. #1
    Barry G
    Guest

    Default Questions about a Waltham "Marine Chronometer"

    Once again I turn to the experts after making an expensive purchase, in the hopes that you can tell me that I didn't make a big mistake....

    At the Brimfield Antique Show yesterday I picked up a double-boxed marine chronometer. At first glance, I thought it was going to be a Hamilton or perhaps a European chronometer, but it turned out to be a Waltham instead. Pictures can be found here:

    http://barrygoldberg.net/chronometer2.htm

    And now for the questions...

    1. Were these 8-day watches actually meant to be used specifically as deck watches and/or chronometers? More particularly, would this watch have been boxed at the factory for use as a marine chronometer, or is it possible that it was sold as a regular watch and later coverted for use?

    2. Neither the inner nor outer box is marked "Waltham" -- does this mean the boxes are replacements?

    3. If these watches WERE meant to be used as marine chronometers, would they have been used by the Navy, civilian vessels, or both?

    4. The watch is marked "adjusted". Presumably, it is adjusted to heat, temperature and isochronism, but was it also adjusted to positions? And if so, how many?

    5. Were these watches considered accurate enough for trans-oceanic use, or just for local navigation?

    6. I once saw a similar Waltham watch that had a "real" wind indicator dial instead of just a red dot to indicate when it is time to wind it. Was that a special Naval modification, or what?

    In general, I guess I want to know if this watch was actually designed to be used as a marine chronometer, or whether osmebody just stuck it in a leftover gimballed tub and set of boxes.

    Oh -- and just in case anybody saw this for sale yesterday, I know we're not supposed to discuss value here, but let me just say that I ended up paying $450 less than the marked price....

    Barry

    ------------------
    My Online Pocket Watch Collection

  2. #2
    Barry G
    Guest

    Default Questions about a Waltham "Marine Chronometer" (RE: Barry G)

    Once again I turn to the experts after making an expensive purchase, in the hopes that you can tell me that I didn't make a big mistake....

    At the Brimfield Antique Show yesterday I picked up a double-boxed marine chronometer. At first glance, I thought it was going to be a Hamilton or perhaps a European chronometer, but it turned out to be a Waltham instead. Pictures can be found here:

    http://barrygoldberg.net/chronometer2.htm

    And now for the questions...

    1. Were these 8-day watches actually meant to be used specifically as deck watches and/or chronometers? More particularly, would this watch have been boxed at the factory for use as a marine chronometer, or is it possible that it was sold as a regular watch and later coverted for use?

    2. Neither the inner nor outer box is marked "Waltham" -- does this mean the boxes are replacements?

    3. If these watches WERE meant to be used as marine chronometers, would they have been used by the Navy, civilian vessels, or both?

    4. The watch is marked "adjusted". Presumably, it is adjusted to heat, temperature and isochronism, but was it also adjusted to positions? And if so, how many?

    5. Were these watches considered accurate enough for trans-oceanic use, or just for local navigation?

    6. I once saw a similar Waltham watch that had a "real" wind indicator dial instead of just a red dot to indicate when it is time to wind it. Was that a special Naval modification, or what?

    In general, I guess I want to know if this watch was actually designed to be used as a marine chronometer, or whether osmebody just stuck it in a leftover gimballed tub and set of boxes.

    Oh -- and just in case anybody saw this for sale yesterday, I know we're not supposed to discuss value here, but let me just say that I ended up paying $450 less than the marked price....

    Barry

    ------------------
    My Online Pocket Watch Collection

  3. #3
    Steve Maddox
    Guest

    Default Questions about a Waltham "Marine Chronometer" (RE: Barry G)

    Barry,

    As you know, I am not an expert, but I have seen this same movement and dial used in car clocks of the 1920s-40s, and by no means is it a "chronometer" grade movement! I have a movement and dial just like this that's in a "tub-like" case, which I bought a few years ago from an old guy who told me it came out of the dash of an old WW-2 era a truck.

    Perhaps interestingly enough, the micrometer regulator screw and spring on the balance cock in your movement are from a Hamilton 992B or 4992B model. Apparently, these were added, and are not original to the movement; movements of this type didn't originally come with a micrometer regulator.

    ------------------
    Steve Maddox
    VP, NAWCC Chapter #62
    North Little Rock, Arkansas

  4. #4
    Registered User doug sinclair's Avatar
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    Default Questions about a Waltham "Marine Chronometer" (RE: Barry G)

    Barry,

    In Marvin Whitney's book on the Ship's Chronometer, he says this about the Waltham "navigating watch" on page 198:

    "The Waltham box chronometer was basically their 7-jewel, 8-day automobile and desk clock up-jewelled to 15 jewels and fitted with a larger bi-metallic balance, a winding indicator, and decorative top bridges."

    As I recall, I think these smaller chronometers were largely used as timers on mine sweepers, torpedo boats, coastal patrol vessels, and other like ships. Some smaller chronometers (ie, the Hamilton model 22) were used also by the merchant marine, hospital ships, tankers and ships of this sort that were escorted by warships such as destroyers, battleships, cruisers, submarines, and aircraft carriers. These ships used the detent chronometer such as the Hamilton model 21. Whitney gives no details re: the usage of these Walthams, nor does he show a picture. So it's anyone's guess as to whether the cases and gimbals are original.

    The Hamilton series 22 (for example) is marked "adjusted to temperature and 6 positions". Larger chronometers such as the Hamilton series 21 (for example) are NOT marked as being timed to position. Some of the smaller ones were used as comparing watches which meant they were carried around in un-gimballed cases so had to be adjusted to position. For this reason, ALL the series 22s were timed to position. The larger series 21 was not subject to positional error as it was always used only in its gimballed case.

    Your Waltham is simply marked "adjusted which I think implies temperature and maybe 3 positions. Many of the Longines box chronometer are marked "timed to temperature and 3 positions".

    That is how I understand it, anyway.

    Regards,
    Doug S.

    ------------------

  5. #5
    Barry G
    Guest

    Default Questions about a Waltham "Marine Chronometer" (RE: Barry G)

    Thanks for the info, guys!

    Doug: Any indication when all that was done? I suspect that even though my watch was made in 1920, according to the serial number, it may not have been upgraded and converted until sometime in the 40's.

    Also, from what you said it sounds like that, although the original watch was not meant to be used as a chronometer, it would have been upgraded specifically for that purpose. Which is to say that they wouldn't have put the wind indicator on, up-jewelled it, etc., just for use as a car clock.

    I'll admit I wish I had one that had a "real" wind indicator instead of just the "red dot" thingie, but I'm thrilled to have found one with both an inner and outer box in such nice condition.

    Thanks again.

    Barry

    ------------------
    My Online Pocket Watch Collection

  6. #6
    Registered User doug sinclair's Avatar
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    Default Questions about a Waltham "Marine Chronometer" (RE: Barry G)

    Barry,

    The Waltham book shows that your Waltham was from a block of 6,000 serial numbers which were made in 7 to 15 jewel units. The book DOES NOT specify that yours was made as a WI model! Strange! Yet there are blocks of serial numbers both sides of yours that WERE made with the WI feature. Your serial number is NOT marked as a chronometer, yet serial numbers both sides of it ARE marked as chronometers! Also strange!

    The Waltham book seems to indicate that there were a lot of these 8-day clocks with WI being produced during this era. Some blocks of serial numbers seem to indicate that the entire block was finished as a 15-jewel model, others 7 or 15, and many in 7 jewel only. This being the case, I don't think the factory would have had reason to hold back a bunch of finished 7-jewel models for later conversion to 15 jewels and decoration of the plates with damascene finish. Furtheremore, I seriously doubt they would have had some from this block sitting around in grey finish waitng to be completed.

    According to the Waltham S# list, by 1942, pretty well all of these were being produced for the military. I doubt they would have had occasion to have 20-year old inventory sitting around waiting to be re-fitted. I think yours was made during the '20s just as the serial number suggests.

    I guess one would have to consider the possibility of someone having made yours up from parts! This could be possible as, after a certain period of time after introduction as a WI model, all of the pillar plates would have been machined to accept the WI parts. All one would need would be a donor movement.

    Regards,
    Doug S.

    ------------------

  7. #7
    Barry G
    Guest

    Default Questions about a Waltham "Marine Chronometer" (RE: Barry G)

    Doug: I posted my question over at the Chapter 174 message board and got some interesting information from Kent Singer. Apparently, during WWII there was a company called Roth Bros. which was actively converting older watches for use by the Navy as marine chronometers. Kent posted a 1942 advertisement which stated, in part:

    Chronometers and Chronometer Watches WANTED!

    Authorized by the Navy Department to procure them, we will pay you a fair price for your chronometer ... Railroad watches and Waltham auto clocks, too, if they have winding indicators.

    Our expert mechanics are specially trained for the intricate repair work required. After being completely overhauled, chronometers, etc., are then turned over to the government at the Navy's appraised valuation.

    So, assuming the serial number list is in error and my watch did, in fact, originally have a wind indicator, I guess it is possible that it was converted to a marine chronometer years after it was made. That would explain the presence of a better quality regulator, as Steve pointed out, since presumably the watched needed to have its timekeeping ability upgraded as well.

    Now all I have to figure out is whether the boxes that came with my watch are original, at least insofar as to when it was converted into a marine chronometer. I'm guessing the earlier versions from the 1910's to the 20's that were actually SOLD as marine chronometers were in marked Waltham boxes, whereas the models that were converted in the 1940's were in plain boxes like mine.

    Oh -- and one other thing I just noticed... In the Waltham Serial Number and Grade list, this watch is shown as being unadjusted! My watch, of course, is clearly marked "15 jewels Adjusted". Is this another error in the Serial Number List? Or was that part of the "upgrade" procedure?


    Regards,

    Barry

    ------------------
    My Online Pocket Watch Collection



    [This message has been edited by Barry G (edited 05-13-2001).]

  8. #8
    Steve Maddox
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    Default Questions about a Waltham "Marine Chronometer" (RE: Barry G)

    Barry,

    The "pseudo" wind indicators used on these Waltham 8-day models are relatively simple mechanisms, but the true wind indicators used on 16 and 18 size railroad watches have a dozen or more intricate parts, which would not lend themselves to adaptation on movements of this type. I am fairly certain that none of these 8-day movements had true wind indicators, but Elgin made boxed chronometers from standard 18s RR grade wind indicator movements, which had oversized dials that made them appear larger from the front. I can't recall seeing a Waltham of this type, but it's entirely possible that some were made from Vanguard or Crescent Street models. The ones used in Elgins were often "free sprung" Father Time models.

    As for your particular movement, I would say that it has probably always been a 15 jewel wind indicator model, and that neither of these characteristics were added. The markings on your movement definitely appear to be factory struck, and in my opinion, it would have been very difficult (if not impossible) to remove earlier "Seven Jewel" markings, and add these. If the serial number list is wrong in this case, it won't be the first time.

    I still know the old guy I got my Waltham movement like yours above from, and I asked him more about it today. He told me it was in the dash of an Army transport truck that was used in the deserts of North Africa during WW-2. He was driving this truck when he ran over a land mine, and in the resulting explosion, the truck was severely damaged and he suffered shrapnel wounds in both of his feet and ankles. As he was recovering in an Army hospital, one of his friends sent him the clock, which he said he had removed from the remains of the truck.

    The old guy said he was just a driver, and didn't know if there was anything particularly special about the clock, but he said it was entirely possible that there was. He said that the deserts of North Africa extended for hundreds of miles, and that with no visible roads or landmarks, it was not unlike being in a ship on the ocean. He said that every time he crossed the desert, he was just following along in line, but that the guys in the lead truck must have had some sort of navigational system to determine where they were going. He said he really didn't remember if all the trucks they used had clocks in them, or whether they were like that particular one or not. My guess, and it is just a guess, is that there was something unusual about that particular clock which made the other GI interested enough in it to remove it and send it to his friend.

    Assuming that at least some of these "chronometers" were used in at least some Army transport trucks, this leads to the question, why not just carry a regular boxed chronometer in the truck instead of mounting them up in the dash? Maybe by having them mounted, the Army felt they would be easier to keep up with. After all, items sitting in a temporarily unattended vehicle would be easy targets for theft, while the same would not be true of items on a ship in the ocean.

    In any event, in light of the additional information that has been presented, particularly that by Kent about Roth Bros., it sounds like you have an interesting specimen. I'm glad you brought this to light, as it makes me think more highly of mine! By the way, all of the military boxed chronometers I can recall seeing have had military markings on their boxes, but it could well be that not all did. Of course, if I had seen a chronometer like yours and it WAS military, I wouldn't have recognized it as such.

    SM

  9. #9
    Larry Jones 98326
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    Default Questions about a Waltham "Marine Chronometer" (RE: Barry G)

    Gents,

    I'm sorry I don't have time to supply details, but I'm pretty sure that Whitney states that the Naval Observatory took some of these Waltham car clock movements, up-jeweled them to 15, and adjusted them, in the early days of WWII before the Hamilton deck watches were in plentiful supply.

    This info should be in either the Marine Chronometer book or the Military Timepieces book. Again, sorry I don't have time right not to add more details,

    Larry

  10. #10
    Larry Jones 98326
    Guest

    Default Questions about a Waltham "Marine Chronometer" (RE: Barry G)

    Okay, for those who are interested, a fairly lengthy discussion of these Waltham chronometer watches is given in Whitney's "Military Timepieces" starting on page 388. Some of the 15j adjusted 37 size were made at the factory, and others were upgraded by the Naval Observatory at about the beginning of WWII (this is a little unclear in Whitney's book - and the advertisement above re: Roth sure seems to imply that Roth upgraded the movements). According to Whitney, the dial type wind indicator was required by the Navy, but the spot type indicators were also made and used, primarily by the Maritime Commission.

    Many of these Walthams (and other Waltham models and other brand movements) were cased by Roth. At the moment, I have a Waltham Model 1892, 21j Crescent St. in what I believe is a Roth box and gimbals. In my experience, most of these Roth gimballed chronometer watches from this time period are in relatively plain boxes, with much less ornamentation than earlier boxes, and the production Hamilton M22 boxes. Although I've seen quite a few, few seem to have any markings.


    [This message has been edited by Larry Jones 98326 (edited 05-15-2001).]

  11. #11
    Barry G
    Guest

    Default Questions about a Waltham "Marine Chronometer" (RE: Barry G)

    Thanks for the info, Larry! It makes sense that mine was used by the Maritime Commission rather than the Navy, given the complete lack of markings. Does your box and gimbals look the same as mine?

    Barry

    ------------------
    My Online Pocket Watch Collection

  12. #12
    Larry Jones 98326
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    Default Questions about a Waltham "Marine Chronometer" (RE: Barry G)

    Barry,

    I don't have the outer box (you're lucky to have gotten that), but my inner box appears identical - and I've had others that also were just like these. I haven't seen any of these plain boxes that were marked in any way, but some may have been.

    I think the tubs and possibly the gimbals vary depending on the movement - I'm pretty sure the tub that holds my 18s is smaller than yours holding the 37s......

    Larry

  13. #13
    Barry G
    Guest

    Default Questions about a Waltham "Marine Chronometer" (RE: Barry G)

    Thanks again, Larry. The presence of the outer box was actually one of the main reasons I decided to fork over the dough on this watch.

    Barry

    ------------------
    My Online Pocket Watch Collection

  14. #14

    Default Questions about a Waltham "Marine Chronometer" (RE: Barry G)

    Hi Barry;

    I purchased a Waltham Deck Watch in gimballed case at the Florida Regional; it runs great and keeps good time. All the brass had a nice brown patina. I opened the tub and checked the movement serial number (15 jewel 37 size car clock) made in 1911, so I believe it was probably WW I vintage. Unfortunately I do not have the outer case.

    I think these were used in smaller ships - destroyers, torpedo boats, cutters, etc.

    Why don't you call Pat Caruso and ask him what he knows about the cases and gimballing? He was at Waltham in 1927 long before WWII.

    Andy

  15. #15
    Steve Maddox
    Guest

    Default Questions about a Waltham "Marine Chronometer" (RE: Barry G)

    For anyone interested in seeing it, here are some not-too-great pictures of my Waltham 8-day, which I was told came out of a WW-2 Army transport truck.
    http://members.aol.com/nevarietur/Waltham8-Day.JPG

    It's interesting to note that this movement does not have the added micrometer regulator, like Barry's does. Also, it appears to have a larger dial than Barry's. The dial alone measures 4 inches across, not including the bezel.

    The "L" shaped notches in the sides of this case presumably matched up with some mounting studs to hold the mechanism into the dash of the truck. I haven't seen one in person, but my guess would be that these are different from the mounting holes that fit the gimbals in the "chronometer" tubs.

    Instead of a conventional "crown," or winding button, this movement has a heavy blued steel "loop," which is affixed to the stem in such a way that it can freely swivel to a 90 degree angle. My only guess for the purpose of this is that perhaps it may have been designed to be folded down to fit through the mounting hole in the dash, and that the entire clock had to be removed from the dash each time to wind and/or set it.

    The serial number of this movement, which is not readily apparent in the pictures above, is 17,792,822.

    ------------------
    Steve Maddox
    VP, NAWCC Chapter #62
    North Little Rock, Arkansas

    [This message has been edited by Steve Maddox (edited 05-22-2001).]

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