Marine: 19th-century marine chronometer (sort of)

Discussion in 'Chronometers' started by Lychnobius, Jul 8, 2019.

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  1. Lychnobius

    Lychnobius Registered User

    Aug 5, 2015
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    To be more precise, what I have just bought is part of a chronometer: the dial and brass edge, the bezel with its glass, and the brass shell or bowl (I do not know the correct name for this and shall be glad if somebody can tell me) which held the movement but now (alas) holds nothing but air. Given that the minimum price for a complete instrument seems to be about three thousand pounds, I do not think I have done so much amiss in paying about 3% of this for what I have.

    The dial, measuring 120.5mm across the brass edge, is signed by T. J. Williams of Cardiff, a firm which was founded in the 1860s and still exists today. Loomes records Thomas John Williams as a maker between 1875 and 1887, but I doubt if his business had anything to do with the making of this instrument; he was a general supplier of nautical instruments and his name usually appears on sextants and barometers. Can anyone suggest who the actual maker would have been? I appreciate that most of the evidence on this point is missing, but possibly small matters such as the random scrolls on the back of the dial may afford a clue.

    My main question, however, is this: – Would it be wholly unrealistic for me to nurse a hope of one day finding a movement compatible with these components? Do such movements exist, and is there any standardisation in their dimensions? I have never yet heard of a bare movement from a box chronometer (as opposed to the watch-sized pocket variety) offered for sale, and of course the usual reason for separating movement and case (namely that the latter, being gold or silver, has been turned into money, leaving the movement naked) does not apply to these wood-cased instruments; but then I am new to this area. I do know that empty mahogany boxes can be found, sometimes complete with the pins for the gimbals.

    If all else fails, I can at least contemplate a finely-engraved dial, a relic of an instrument which may have travelled the oceans of the world and saved many a mariner's life; this may be a fantasy, but who can disprove it?

    Oliver Mundy.

    chronometer_01.jpg chronometer_02.jpg chronometer_03.jpg chronometer_04.jpg chronometer_05.jpg
     
  2. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Oliver,

    'Bowl' is perfectly acceptable for this part.

    I agree, bare movements do seem to be a rarity, most probably for the reason you propose, and the original movement may have been badly damaged in some way. The lack of any official markings on the dial suggests that it wasn't in Admiralty service, and a closer look at the back of the dial may show some 'hammering up' of earlier markings, because the 'Resprung' on the dial hints at some sort of overhaul and/or refurbishment which involved either a new or re-finished dial.

    The maker of the movement will remain a mystery I believe, it could have been any one of a number of firms, and all that can be gathered from the dial is that it was an 8-day instrument, supplied by T.J. Williams.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  3. Lychnobius

    Lychnobius Registered User

    Aug 5, 2015
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    Thank you, Graham. I presume I can exclude Mercer, since that company's numbers, as I have learned today, did not reach 20000 until the 1950s.

    I do suspect that the dial was replaced or at least wholly re-engraved by or for Williams, since the words RESPRUNG & ADJUSTED, BY do not look like afterthoughts and are filled with exactly the same dark-red pigment as the name just below. The lettering seems thoroughly nineteenth-century in style.

    The dial has been quite heavily abraded near the centre hole; this area shows as a yellow patch in my third image. There is something written within the seconds area in what looks rather like a German style of script, but all I can determine so far is that it ends '–03’. There may be something more hidden by the brass edge.

    Two of the pillars on the back of the brass edge are pierced for pins while the other two have never been pierced and are tapped for screws; is this usual?

    Oliver Mundy.
     
  4. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Oliver,

    Whilst browsing for a completely unrelated subject, I came across this post from Paul Regan regarding his break circuit sidereal chronometer. It shows the inside of the bowl with a counterweight to balance the extra components for the electrical contacts, and this does look very similar to the extra weight in your bowl. I don't know if your instrument was fitted with a similar mechanism, or if the weight is to compensate for another unbalancing feature, such as a sub-assembly for the balance and escapement. If it was related to electrical connections I'd expect to see some holes in the bowl near the gimbal mounts.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  5. Snapper

    Snapper Registered User

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    T J Williams are recorded in Mercer's book as active at the address on the dial from 1870-1916 and using Mercer movements from 1872-1930. However, your serial number does not follow William's sequence so possibly the number has been changed after re-springing or the instrument was sold by another retailer, and subsequently resprung by Williams who added the fact to the existing dial? The font for William's name is entirely at odds with the other dial inscriptions which may or may not add weight to that theory.

    Perhaps removing the dial from the dial plate may yield further clues.
     
  6. Tom McIntyre

    Tom McIntyre Technical Admin
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    The weight in the bowl is clearly meant for balance, but since the chronometer is supposed to be an 8 day, I suspect most of the weight in intended to balance the extra material of the large barrel and fusee. Both of my full size 8 days have a similar weight.
     
  7. Dr. Jon

    Dr. Jon Registered User
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    IN answer to your original question these chronometers were very much standardized and I suspect most Mercer movement will fir your parts with little fiddling.

    The question then becomes do you really want to do this?

    Unless you find a work able chronometer with a rusted dial and hands you will be ruining a second one to make a "monkey".

    There is lot of Elgin box chronometer material available and you might be able to cobbles together a complete working movement which would probably be a close fit and it would not be destroying an otherwise instrument.
     

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