Marine: A question about English chronometers

Discussion in 'Chronometers' started by novicetimekeeper, Apr 11, 2017.

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  1. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

    Jul 26, 2015
    I thought I posted this earlier but let's try again.

    I have a question about the business model of making English chronometers..
    I'm familiar with the clock trade here in the 18th and 19th centuries, particularly the 18th. Clocks were made by small manufacturers, increasing from bought in parts and then progressively complete clocks were bought in as manufacturing became centralised.

    Pocket watches here were generally made in a small number of geographical centres by many small workshops, the retailer would buy in a comple watch wiyth their suignature or finish a mainly complete watch supplied from one of these centres.

    My question is what was the business model for Chronometers, were they bought in part finshed like watches or were parts bought in and complete movements made like clocks in the earlier days .

    Is the signature on the dial the person who made it or sold it?
  2. Dr. Jon

    Dr. Jon Registered User

    Dec 14, 2001
    My theory is that the model shifted. In thearly days 1780-1800 they were after prize money, awards, prestige and patriotism.

    It was part of a larger movement which created teh instrument making business and similar advances were occurring in angle division and optical instrument making. The chronometer was useless without sextants which developed at the same time. Many businesses sold both.

    It evolved in a prestige niche for a top English watch dealers. Ship chronometer making after about 1850 was a bad business. The products lasted indefinitely and the market was largely uncertain. In fcat hte prevailing view was that a chronometer needed about 100 years to finally settle on a really stable rate. tehadmiraty was teh major customer and they bough by competition at Greenwich. Most chronometer makers barely eked out a living, especially if that is all they did.

    Mercer and Kullberg consolidated the trade by some time after the mid 19th century they supplied most of teh English box chronometers. The small independents who made them from frames were gone by then.

    As trade for an independent is was a very noble form of extreme poverty.
  3. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

    Jul 26, 2015
    So before the business went belly up the independents would buy in a frame and finish it? Where were the frames and associated parts sourced, was that an extension of the Presot manufacturing base or was it elswhere? You see watchmakers like Hornby supplying Chronometers so they would have known all the Prescot people.
  4. Tom McIntyre

    Tom McIntyre Technical Admin
    Staff Member

    Aug 24, 2000
  5. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User

    Jan 7, 2011
    Hi Nick,

    The chronometer frame makers were mostly in Prescot, and included Isaac Glover, Joseph Preston, James Hewitt, and the ubiquitous John Wycherley.


  6. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

    Jul 26, 2015

    That's what I suspected but did not know. To me they seemed like large watches rather than small clocks so I wondered if those specialists that made the watches would be involved.
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