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Branding of English Chronometers

Incroyable

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What was the genesis and history of these dials with very generic wording like "Chronometer"?

Were these originally sold at local jewelers thus no need for branding or were they for some sort of institutional use?
 

Bernhard J.

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Hi, "branding" on English pocket watches was of relevance to customers only, if the brand was more or less well known and respected (e.g. Dent, Frodsham, etc.). Often watches, even of the highest levels, were either "branded" with names of retailers, or not at all.

Marking the watch as "Chronometer" meant that it has a chronometer escapement (other than plenty Swiss makes claiming to be a "Chronometer", whereas the movement often was just an average lever escapement). So this marking was more relevant to the customer than that of e.g. a retailer, because one instantly knew that the watch is above average.
 

gmorse

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Hi Bernhard,
[QUOTEBernhard=" J., post: 1550654, member: 104655"]
Often watches, even of the highest levels, were either "branded" with names of retailers, or not at all.
[/QUOTE]

It's been suggested that those able to afford watches of this quality were often quite reluctant to broadcast the fact, (unlike today!), regarding even the single word on this dial as rather vulgar.

It's similar to 'If you have to ask the price, you can't afford it' . . .

Regards,

Graham
 
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Incroyable

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Hi, "branding" on English pocket watches was of relevance to customers only, if the brand was more or less well known and respected (e.g. Dent, Frodsham, etc.). Often watches, even of the highest levels, were either "branded" with names of retailers, or not at all.

Marking the watch as "Chronometer" meant that it has a chronometer escapement (other than plenty Swiss makes claiming to be a "Chronometer", whereas the movement often was just an average lever escapement). So this marking was more relevant to the customer than that of e.g. a retailer, because one instantly knew that the watch is above average.
What about watches that have the names of the makers on them like Kullberg?
 

Bernhard J.

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Today they are by some regarded a little bit more valuable than the same watch with identical movement, but without a brand or just the name of a retailer. Because of the somewhat better known name. But the knowledgable rather look at the movement in order to establish a value, independent of a brand on the dial, if at all.
 

John Matthews

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What was the genesis and history of these dials with very generic wording like "Chronometer"?

Were these originally sold at local jewelers thus no need for branding or were they for some sort of institutional use?
Like many things in life there is no single answer to either of these questions. There are many reasons why the word chronometer, or chronomètre, may appear on a watch, be it on the dial or elsewhere. It should be used to imply the accuracy of the timekeeping, but its use is not always justified. In the case of Swiss watches, chronometer should be used to describe a watch whose precision has been tested and verified by an official Swiss watch testing bureau, A certificate will be issued which should be with the watch. In the UK, when used without a caveat, most horologists would say that it refers to the presence of a (spring) detent escapement. However, there are many watches that were made (are being made) both in England and on the continent, marked chronometer, for which there is either no justification, other than being used to deceive, or where the term has a meaning which is understood because of the way that it is used, e.g. Morton's chronometers.

As to the way a watch is signed when initially retailed, it can be by anyone who has a connection to the manufacture, sponsorship, retailing or ownership of a watch. Commonly it is the signature of the watch finisher, the retailer or owner, but which, is basically down to 'who called the shots' and their personal preference. You see dials, back plates, caps, domes and cases that can be signed by a member of any one of these categories. Some watches show no visible signature or trade mark. There will always be individuals who want to see their name in lights and those who wish to remain anonymous. To be honest, I don't believe that this has changed significantly over time. although with the advent of social media it may seem that there are more in the former category, but I suspect that may be because excessive use social media is favoured by that same category.

John
 
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gmorse

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Hi Incroyable,
What about watches that have the names of the makers on them like Kullberg?
I think that of all the watches made or finished by Victor Kullberg, Nicole Nielsen, Usher & Cole and the like, only a small proportion were signed with those names.

Regards,

Graham
 
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Dr. Jon

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The English regulated the of "Chronometer" in marking watches. Until 1920 watch could not be legally marked "Chronometer" unless it had a detent escapement. I have seen numerous English and Swiss watches marked "Chronometer" with a detent escapement. IF Swiss it almost always has a pivoted detent and a regulator. If English or English style it has a spring detent and is free sprung

In general a watch without the maker's name on the dial was likely made to order, bespoke. Not always, but many who ordered these watches regarded a name on the dial as vulgar. Dials with the sellers name were more likely made for stock.
 
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John Matthews

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The English regulated the of "Chronometer" in marking watches. Until 1920 watch could not be legally marked "Chronometer" unless it had a detent escapement. I have seen numerous English and Swiss watches marked "Chronometer" with a detent escapement. IF Swiss it almost always has a pivoted detent and a regulator. If English or English style it has a spring detent and is free sprung

In general a watch without the maker's name on the dial was likely made to order, bespoke. Not always, but many who ordered these watches regarded a name on the dial as vulgar. Dials with the sellers name were more likely made for stock.
Jon - some of your comments need the caveat - high quality watches. They do not apply to the majority of watches that were produced
  • Can you provide a link to the Act enforcing the use of Chronometer to apply only to detent escapements and the 1920 Act that rescinded it?
  • Second sentence did you mean to write 'without detent escapement'?
  • True, the vast majority of English pocket chronometers are free-sprung, but some signed by Thomas Russell have regulators.
  • The majority of English pocket watches pre 1850 do not have a name on the dial, many after that date do not. Those without names were generally not bespoke. I think your comments might be appropriate for high end watches only.
  • Dials with sellers names (I assume you mean retailers) were usually made by special order to the manufacturer. This is exemplified by machine made watches by Ehrhardt and similar, where those dials with the retailer's name on the dial are in cases that are hallmarked a year later than those in the same production batch without a name.
John
 

miguel angel cladera

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Where would John Hutton's or George Morton's "patent lever crhonometers" fall? Some of these watches have all the features of the chronometer except the retaining escapement. By the time they appeared I think they did not want to emulate the Swiss "demi-chonometre" which was that watch that had not passed or simply had not been adjusted as finely to obtain a first class certificate. Is it possible that these watches came out to alleviate the intrinsic problems of the detent escapement chronometers (such as their apparent fragility or difficulty of manufacture)?
 

Dr. Jon

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First a short digression on English Half or lever chronometers. I believe I found the reference ot forbidding use of the term chronometer on anything but a detent watch in my research in half chronometers. This was long ago and do not recall where it was. That search also turned up a definition of chronometer in English parlance as a timepiece freesprung and having a detent escapement. This was a rade view and did not have the force of law.

This brings me to John Hutton, a very intriguing maker. He was the first and only maker, to my knowldge, to actually put the words "Lever Chronometer' on the dial of a watch in England in about 1851. It was not well received. No one did it again for a very long time. Hutton had a an issue with one of his US distributors, William Bond, who sold one of to the US Army to survey the Gadsten purchase, a bit of land the US bought from Mexico after taking Texas and California in the Mexican War. Their records referred to the watch as Hutton's best lever but they did not refer to it as a chronometer.

I have not looked in into Union Chronometers and how they were marked.

When I wrote about English watches marked chronometer I referred to watches with detent escapements. As to English detent watches I refer to them as pocket chronometers only if they are free sprung. That's my use of language. Early detent timepieces by Earnshaw and Brockbanks also have regulators.

I believe, the law which, I can't find now, was aimed at Swiss Bulletin Chronometers, which were mostly levers with regulators. There was some merit to this in that the Swiss marking of Chronometers was, if not deceptive, difficult. They had three classes and two levels in each and ll were marked "Chronometer" The Swiss also marked some as Demi Chronometers which were never defined. That's for another thread.

I believe the law also is the reason a lot of Swiss pivoted detent timepieces were made, apparently for the UK market and most had regulators. By this time tests at Neuchatel had shown that pivoted detent watches did not do as well as levers, all being high grade items. They were more expensive to make than levers and at the top end did not performa as well but were legal to call chronometers in the UK.

As to names on dials, John's correction are spot on and I should have been more specific.
 

gmorse

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Hi Miguel,

Many of the Morton's patent watches have a duplex type locking arrangement, so they are frictional rest escapements and not detached at all.

John Hutton patented his fully jewelled version, now very rare, of the Savage two-pin lever (part of patent number 11,247), in October 1846.

Regards,

Graham
 

Ethan Lipsig

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I once briefly owned this Arnold & Lewis free-sprung, helical-hairspring patent union chronometer. For long-forgotten reasons, I returned it to the seller. I don't think it had a spring-detent escapement, but I never really understood its escapement.

IMG_9282_edited.JPG IMG_9286_edited.JPG IMG_9287_edited.JPG IMG_9293_edited.JPG IMG_9291.JPG IMG_9294.JPG IMG_9295_edited.JPG IMG_9296_edited.JPG
 

gmorse

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Hi Ethan,
I don't think it had a spring-detent escapement, but I never really understood its escapement.
You're right, it didn't. It's one of the family of George Morton's patent escapements, whose only similarity to detent chronometers is the way the impulse is given to the balance and hence in one direction only. The impulse stone is set radially in the roller and is impulsed directly by the escape wheel teeth. Some use a conventional lever mechanism to unlock, which are detached escapements, and some use a duplex system to unlock, which certainly aren't detached, but the whole family were named by the inventor as 'chronometers'. His 1856 patent also included a variant with a cylinder type escapement, which isn't known from a real example. These pictures are of the balance and pallets from a 'Patent Union Chronometer' with the duplex type escapement.

DSC02068.JPG DSC02080.JPG

Regards,

Graham
 
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miguel angel cladera

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First a short digression on English Half or lever chronometers. I believe I found the reference ot forbidding use of the term chronometer on anything but a detent watch in my research in half chronometers. This was long ago and do not recall where it was. That search also turned up a definition of chronometer in English parlance as a timepiece freesprung and having a detent escapement. This was a rade view and did not have the force of law.

This brings me to John Hutton, a very intriguing maker. He was the first and only maker, to my knowldge, to actually put the words "Lever Chronometer' on the dial of a watch in England in about 1851. It was not well received. No one did it again for a very long time. Hutton had a an issue with one of his US distributors, William Bond, who sold one of to the US Army to survey the Gadsten purchase, a bit of land the US bought from Mexico after taking Texas and California in the Mexican War. Their records referred to the watch as Hutton's best lever but they did not refer to it as a chronometer.

I have not looked in into Union Chronometers and how they were marked.

When I wrote about English watches marked chronometer I referred to watches with detent escapements. As to English detent watches I refer to them as pocket chronometers only if they are free sprung. That's my use of language. Early detent timepieces by Earnshaw and Brockbanks also have regulators.

I believe, the law which, I can't find now, was aimed at Swiss Bulletin Chronometers, which were mostly levers with regulators. There was some merit to this in that the Swiss marking of Chronometers was, if not deceptive, difficult. They had three classes and two levels in each and ll were marked "Chronometer" The Swiss also marked some as Demi Chronometers which were never defined. That's for another thread.

I believe the law also is the reason a lot of Swiss pivoted detent timepieces were made, apparently for the UK market and most had regulators. By this time tests at Neuchatel had shown that pivoted detent watches did not do as well as levers, all being high grade items. They were more expensive to make than levers and at the top end did not performa as well but were legal to call chronometers in the UK.

As to names on dials, John's correction are spot on and I should have been more specific.
Look Mr. Jon an example marked Chronometer and lever escapement.
WhatsApp Image 2021-02-09 at 11.34.00.jpeg
WhatsApp Image 2021-02-07 at 11.43.11.jpeg

And helical freespung
3b1d67a9-1653-4d6b-9edf-9112a62f3922 222.jpg


I ask, were these watches made to make watches with a detent escapement better for everyday use? Given the disadvantages and improvements of one exhaust system compared to the other, I don't think it's a crazy idea...

20210301_110107.jpg
 
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miguel angel cladera

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First a short digression on English Half or lever chronometers. I believe I found the reference ot forbidding use of the term chronometer on anything but a detent watch in my research in half chronometers. This was long ago and do not recall where it was. That search also turned up a definition of chronometer in English parlance as a timepiece freesprung and having a detent escapement. This was a rade view and did not have the force of law.

This brings me to John Hutton, a very intriguing maker. He was the first and only maker, to my knowldge, to actually put the words "Lever Chronometer' on the dial of a watch in England in about 1851. It was not well received. No one did it again for a very long time. Hutton had a an issue with one of his US distributors, William Bond, who sold one of to the US Army to survey the Gadsten purchase, a bit of land the US bought from Mexico after taking Texas and California in the Mexican War. Their records referred to the watch as Hutton's best lever but they did not refer to it as a chronometer.

I have not looked in into Union Chronometers and how they were marked.

When I wrote about English watches marked chronometer I referred to watches with detent escapements. As to English detent watches I refer to them as pocket chronometers only if they are free sprung. That's my use of language. Early detent timepieces by Earnshaw and Brockbanks also have regulators.

I believe, the law which, I can't find now, was aimed at Swiss Bulletin Chronometers, which were mostly levers with regulators. There was some merit to this in that the Swiss marking of Chronometers was, if not deceptive, difficult. They had three classes and two levels in each and ll were marked "Chronometer" The Swiss also marked some as Demi Chronometers which were never defined. That's for another thread.

I believe the law also is the reason a lot of Swiss pivoted detent timepieces were made, apparently for the UK market and most had regulators. By this time tests at Neuchatel had shown that pivoted detent watches did not do as well as levers, all being high grade items. They were more expensive to make than levers and at the top end did not performa as well but were legal to call chronometers in the UK.

As to names on dials, John's correction are spot on and I should have been more specific.
 

Dr. Jon

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As I wrote, Hutton was the only English maker who ever did that, at least to my knowledge.

here is another

dial-2.png


It had a Hutton version of the Savage two pin which has since been replaced with a table roller lever, a Swiss clubfoot escape wheel with raised tooth tip steel escape wheel, and American adjustable banking pins. It has a helical balance spring and is freesprung. It has a long history. (I like watches that get modified by original owners if done with skill and care and as part of keeping them going)

Hutton is the only English maker I know of who put "Chronometer" on the dial of of a lever watch.

I do not fully understand the Patent Chronometer but I have looked at the Robin, which David Penney's booklet states the lever version is similar to. The current incarnations are the Coaxial and a Grand Seiko two impulse escapement. These being made today and the comparative benefits would make a nice discussion in the Contemporary Watchmaking forum.
Morton probably believed it to be an improvement but I think its main appeal may have been a way to brand a watch a Chronometer without generating too much criticism.
 
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Incroyable

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I once briefly owned this Arnold & Lewis free-sprung, helical-hairspring patent union chronometer. For long-forgotten reasons, I returned it to the seller. I don't think it had a spring-detent escapement, but I never really understood its escapement.

View attachment 717168 View attachment 717169 View attachment 717170 View attachment 717172 View attachment 717171 View attachment 717173 View attachment 717174 View attachment 717167
The case looks typically English but the rear engraving reminds me of American pocket watches.
 

gmorse

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Hi Miguel,
...an example marked Chronometer and lever escapement.
Your watch is an ordinary English lever and not one of Morton's patent escapements. You don't show the roller but it's clear that the escape wheel is planted too far away from the balance to impulse it directly as in the patent.

Regards,

Graham
 

miguel angel cladera

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Hi Miguel,


Your watch is an ordinary English lever and not one of Morton's patent escapements. You don't show the roller but it's clear that the escape wheel is planted too far away from the balance to impulse it directly as in the patent.

Regards,

Graham
Exactly, Graham and that is what I was referring to. Yes to this type of watches (with simple lever escapement) but with elements that were genuine of the pocket chronometers, like the helical spiral, the compensated balance wheel, etc. were made to the extent that they could be as good timekeepers and also more robust for everyday use than pocket chronometers. Could they be called chronometers like the Swiss-Style?

Sorry for my english languaje.

WhatsApp Image 2021-02-06 at 11.50.21.jpeg
 
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Incroyable

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Exactly, Graham and that is what I was referring to. Yes to this type of watches (with simple lever escapement) but with elements that were genuine of the pocket chronometers, like the helical spiral, the compensated balance wheel, etc. were made to the extent that they could be as good timekeepers and also more robust for everyday use than pocket chronometers. Could they be called chronometers like the Swiss-Style?

Sorry for my english languaje.

View attachment 717217
Were pocket chronometers not robust enough for daily use?
 

Incroyable

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Since we're on the topic of chronometers what percentage of pocket watches tested and received Kew Observatory A grades?
 

John Matthews

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I started this prior to a break for breakfast and dog walking so there have been a couple of posts before I picked it up again, so I have included reference to Graham's comments.

I once briefly owned this Arnold & Lewis free-sprung, helical-hairspring patent union chronometer. For long-forgotten reasons, I returned it to the seller. I don't think it had a spring-detent escapement, but I never really understood its escapement.
Ethan - this is an example of the highest quality Morton Patent watches that was produced. David Penney has written a very short profile of this series of watches (Miguel's post shows a page as a backdrop in his post). This is a must for those who wish to understand more. Also excellent value at only £15. He illustrates a number of Patent Union Chronometers signed by Arnold and Lewis, and about one of similar quality, he comments, 'This must rate as one of the finest English made presentation watches of the Victorian period anyone could have wished for'. The profile includes escapement diagrams of the progression of variants.

As Graham has indicated Miguel has not shown a photograph of the roller and indicated this is not one of Morton's variants for the reason he explained. However, the format of the inscription of the dial is exactly that shown on his London Patent Chronometers, which is significant. This is confirmed by David Penney's description of the movement ...

George Morton, then working in Islington North London, probably the Keighley based watchmaker who took out a Patent for a Robin-type escapement in 1856 - see my recent Horological Profile on these watches.
NB: The reason I believe this is because of the change in name from Morton's Patent to London Patent that occurred in this series of watches around 1860. This ties in well with this small but separate series of free-sprung detached lever escapement watches bearing the Islington address, of which this is good and rare example. I have no proof, however, which is why I was keen in my booklet not to make unfounded statements of fact, and I made, and still make, no claim that there is just one watchmaker named George Morton.
The original patent to which David refers ...

1658218627292.png


The lower diagram shows a form which no surviving examples are known.

The introduction of the frictional rest duplex-type locking was incorporated in Kelvey & Holland's 1863 patent (#2184).

1658207607304.png


Note that the initial patent did not have a duplex style escape. This is not an essential part of the 'duplex locking' the locking is the interaction between the extended lever (g) and the ruby roller (c). In this early version, the principle impulse (described as 'direct' in the patent) is given by the escape teeth to the impulse pallet (f). Here is an example from my collection

1658217566525.png
1658217616527.png


Later versions have the duplex type escape, and I believe this is the form of the escapement in the watch shown by Ethan. So while the roller and lever essentially did not change, the escape did. The difference between the duplex and Morton's variant being that with a duplex it is the escape (locking) teeth that engage with the locking roller like so

1658217800620.png
1658217957033.png


while it is the extended tip of the lever that engages in the Patent Union Chronometer. This is as shown in the patent, but in the later version the radial impulse pallet engages with the impulse teeth of the duplex escape and the 'lever pallets' engage with the 'locking teeth'.

John
 

gmorse

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Hi Miguel,
Yes to this type of watches (with simple lever escapement) but with elements that were genuine of the pocket chronometers, like the helical spiral, the compensated balance wheel, etc. were made to the extent that they could be as good timekeepers and also more robust for everyday use than pocket chronometers. Could they be called chronometers like the Swiss-Style?
I think Morton's use of the term 'chronometer' should be interpreted in the same way as its use by the Swiss makers.

I notice that the serial number of your watch falls into the range for 1861-2 listed in David Penney's book for London Patent Chronometers, which leads me to wonder if this is in fact a conversion, as he comments on page 6 of his book.

In answer to Incroyable's question about the robustness of the detent chronometer escapement, I think its tendency to set (stop) if subject to violent movement made it unsuitable for wearing during riding to hounds or other energetic activities, but for people with a more sedate way of life, it was a very fine timekeeper. This stopping behaviour was invaluable in box chronometers used for navigation, (the navigator had to know immediately if his timekeeper had been affected by any shocks), but clearly less suitable for wear as a pocket watch if the owner was a 'sportsman'.

The feature of all the Morton and Kelvey & Holland variants is that impulse is given directly to the balance by the escape teeth, which has the advantages of a positive direct action and maximising the detached portion of the balance arc by only impulsing in one direction. However, this latter benefit is completely negated in the frictional rest (non-detached) duplex locking variants.

Regards,

Graham
 

gmorse

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Hi John,
This is as shown in the patent, but in the later version the radial impulse pallet engages with the impulse teeth of the duplex escape and the 'lever pallets' engage with the 'locking teeth'.
In some Patent Union movements, the escape wheel is identical to the Improved form, very similar to the standard ratchet tooth English lever escape wheel, without the two sets of teeth in the duplex type.

Regards,

Graham
 

John Matthews

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Graham with reference to your last two posts ...

Miguel's watch was sold by David and my quote was from his description of that movement, so David did not believe it had been converted.

This ties in well with this small but separate series of free-sprung detached lever escapement watches bearing the Islington address, of which this is good and rare example
Specifically related to your second post - that is exactly what I posted ...

Note that the initial patent did not have a duplex style escape. This is not an essential part of the 'duplex locking' the locking is the interaction between the extended lever (g) and the ruby roller (c). In this early version, the principle impulse (described as 'direct' in the patent) is given by the escape teeth to the impulse pallet (f). Here is an example from my collection
John
 
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John Matthews

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In answer to Incroyable's question about the robustness of the detent chronometer escapement, I think its tendency to set (stop) if subject to violent movement
This was clearly considered by Kelvey & Holland in the 1863 patent ...

1658223509507.png


John
 

Ethan Lipsig

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Most of the discussion in this thread is over my head. I glean from it is that the classic English pocket chronometer had a spring detent escapement and was free-sprung, that the English rarely used "chronometer" to refer to watches that did not have spring detent escapements, and that the Swiss showed no such restraint. It also is clear that the English made some watches that were at least as good as chronometers though they used lever escapements and that these watches often had some features normally found on chronometers, such as helical hairsprings. Whether English "patent" chronometers were up to real chronometer standards isn't clear to me from the discussion. I think that uncertainty is why I decided to return the one I showed in an earlier post to the seller. I wasn't sure whether I was getting something extra special or just an imposter. Were English "patent" chronometers genuine attempts at producing superior watches and were they superior watches, or were they principally a marketing ploy?
 

John Matthews

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Were English "patent" chronometers genuine attempts at producing superior watches and were they superior watches, or were they principally a marketing ploy?
Ethan - to some extent it is a case of 'horses for courses'. A Graham said, pocket chronometers with detent escapements were inherently capable of providing superior time-keeping performance, but they were susceptible to stopping when subjected to shock. So their overall performance could be limited in some environments. The design of patent variants had the intent to overcome this problem - the extent to which they were successful, I am not sure. I believe that some examples were finished to a very high standard and were capable of exceedingly good time-keeping. The use of the term chronometer was no doubt in part marketing, however it did draw attention to the design feature as described in the patent.

John
 

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Most of the discussion in this thread is over my head. I glean from it is that the classic English pocket chronometer had a spring detent escapement and was free-sprung, that the English rarely used "chronometer" to refer to watches that did not have spring detent escapements, and that the Swiss showed no such restraint. It also is clear that the English made some watches that were at least as good as chronometers though they used lever escapements and that these watches often had some features normally found on chronometers, such as helical hairsprings. Whether English "patent" chronometers were up to real chronometer standards isn't clear to me from the discussion. I think that uncertainty is why I decided to return the one I showed in an earlier post to the seller. I wasn't sure whether I was getting something extra special or just an imposter. Were English "patent" chronometers genuine attempts at producing superior watches and were they superior watches, or were they principally a marketing ploy?
Perhaps I am not the best person to give an opinion as I am a novice in the world of watchmaking, but I do believe that they were genuine attempts to build watches of very good quality (at the level of "traditional" pocket chronometers) but solving the drawbacks for everyday use. And I think this path was possibly started by Hutton, who won the first class gold medal at the 1851 exhibition. Marketing there was, of course, but things evolve as categories evolve. Today, look at what the definition of "chronometer watch" responds to.


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Incroyable

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If adjusted correctly how accurate are the top end English chronometers from that period compared to say a modern Rolex?
 

Dr. Jon

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There are well over 100 million certified chronometer Rolex watches. Up until the 1970's, Rolex ran ads staitg how many had pass COSC at top level without a failure. The last ad reported they have 70 million passes without a failure. COSC is about 10 seconds of varation per day under position which according a random walk model which is a decent but not perfect predictor that translates to about 20 seconds variation per month.

With that many some are going to do very well.

One of the English catalogs I have includes a letter stating his pocket watch ran to about 15 seconds in a year.

I had a free sprung lever that I ran for about a month before I could tell whether it was fast or slow.

Rolex made their reputation by getting Kew A certifcates for wrist watches at about the turn of the century, if I have the dating right.

The English had the Greenwich Naval standards which were primarily for stbility and temperature compensation and Kew/Teddington for stability of rate, position and temperature error. This was open and the top 50 were published. Until World War I most of the top 50 were English but after that Swiss pocket watches dominated.

All in all I belvie modern high end COSC wrist watches are very comparable to top end English watches and by about 1880 levers were doing as well as detents.
 
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Bernhard J.

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One of the English catalogs I have includes a letter stating his pocket watch ran to about 15 seconds in a year.

I had a free sprung lever that I ran for about a month before I could tell whether it was fast or slow.
Just yesterday I read a contemporary report about an English 19th century chronometer pocket watch stating that the steady rate of the watch was observed to be three seconds in nine months. However, that report did not provide details about how the watch was handled in this period.

I would believe that no modern wristwatch of whatever kind will be able to compare with this. At least not if worn.
 

gmorse

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Hi Bernhard,
However, that report did not provide details about how the watch was handled in this period.
Yes, and was that an average over the nine months? Its rate could have been all over the place in that period, and just happened to average out to within three seconds; consistency of rate is most important, and doesn't seem to be widely quoted.

Regards,

Graham
 

Bernhard J.

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Well, in the reprint of this report the word "steady" in context with the rate has been emphasized. Would that not mean that the rate was found to be constant as indicated?

Of course the rate as such is nothing, the daily change of rate is what is of interest. This is all too often not really understood.
 

miguel angel cladera

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Well, in the reprint of this report the word "steady" in context with the rate has been emphasized. Would that not mean that the rate was found to be constant as indicated?

Of course the rate as such is nothing, the daily change of rate is what is of interest. This is all too often not really understood.
Right, precision versus accuracy
 
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Dr. Jon

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Accuracy is a many headed monster thing, to steal from Shakespeare.

I have several temperature compensated quartz watches, the worst of which is out by about 12 seconds per year. Even my best varies by a few seconds per day from a straight time track, that is its departure from standard time is not a straight line.

1658496204997.png


The blue trace is time differences from a 1980's Longines VHP. The red is a the next generation with perpetual calendar. The data points are weekly checks. Both watches have easily operated rate adjustment and I set them after a few months running to get the rates.

The point is that even with this technology rates do vary but if you look long term they look very good. The 2000 vintage went out about 50 seconds in about 3 years but for the last 30 months or so has stayed within +/- 5 seconds


When wearers reported results of a few seconds per year it was usually after taking out the known rate and sampled at wide time intervals.

Despite the hype, very very few people or places test isochrony. A lot of the art of adjusting watches for competion was in matching the gaining and losing parts of a daily run.

Until I got a contemporary watch with a tapered balance spring I never saw a watch run with less than 5 to 10 seconds per day differently in each condition, usually a position between full wind and 24 hours down. My new one has a tapered silicon spring and its rate is within a second per day whether full wound or 50 hours down. To my knowledge Earnshaw invented this.

Modern automatic watches will usually do better in wear because they run at full power for most of the day. They too are set up and tested as hand wound and their rate vary over the course of a day.

I have seen comparable performance on the English free sprung levers I have run. If decently maintained, an old English chronometer or half chronometer should do fairly well, probably better than when new. Over decades balance springs become more stable.

I do not have comparable data on them.

Insurance underwriters figured out that good levers ran as well or better than pocket chronometers and began to award them to young ship captains who prevented losses and they navigated with them. This started in about 1850. Whether in the UK the US or Australia these were almsot always English "Half chronometer" lever watches.

We do not have much if any good data on short term stability. This used to require an observatory and they only check the timepieces once per day, usually at the same time.
 

Allan C. Purcell

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Reading this thread is great fun, though I ask myself how many of you have read "Harrison Decoded". Technically I had a few problems but at the end of the book, I came away with the thought that we had missed a great chance. Timekeeping could have been far better off if the fools of yesterday had followed John Harrison. The editors of the book were Rory McEvoy and Jonathan Betts.
 

John Matthews

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There is no answer to the question as asked.

I believe it was possible, with a high degree of skill expended over an extended period, to produce an individual chronometer in the C19th that would perform as well as a modern Rolex. That is if prepared to be tested for the same measures of performance under the same conditions.

I prefer 'measures of performance' rather than accuracy. If it's accuracy you seek, then consider, for example, the array of atomic clocks used by the U.S. Naval Observatory, the 'Master Clock' This deviates by 100 picoseconds (0.000 000 000 1 seconds) per day. So to put the comparison we are being asked to make in context, compare the accuracy of an C19th chronometer and a current Rolex, with the most accurate contemporary methods of measuring the passage of time known when the chronometer and Rolex were made.

John
 
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Incroyable

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Fascinating answers.

Has anyone ever timed a period tourbillon or even a Bonniksen Karrusel for accuracy or "measure of performance"?
 

Dr. Jon

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Many Bonnikson Karrusels went to Kew/Teddington and took top places.

Here is what the top 50 Watches did at Kew in 1904

They were allowed 5 seconds variation in position so a score of 35 of 50 indicates about 1.5 seconds variation. A simple watches took the top two places due to Bonniksen's entry having about 1.5 seconds difference between horizontal and vertical positions.

Summing the "errors" as random and unrelated in use these top watches would have had about a quarter second (rule of thumb is that the regular deviation is about 1/6 of the full range). They could be reasonably expected to stay within 10 seconds per year.

The Kew trial was something like 8 weeks.

There are a lot tourbilon wrist watches being made today. The actual rate performance data a remarkably absent.

ENglish watches with levers, even with top Kew scores, were not called Chronometers but rather Kew A certificate watches.
 

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Incroyable

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Many Bonnikson Karrusels went to Kew/Teddington and took top places.

Here is what the top 50 Watches did at Kew in 1904

They were allowed 5 seconds variation in position so a score of 35 of 50 indicates about 1.5 seconds variation. A simple watches took the top two places due to Bonniksen's entry having about 1.5 seconds difference between horizontal and vertical positions.

Summing the "errors" as random and unrelated in use these top watches would have had about a quarter second (rule of thumb is that the regular deviation is about 1/6 of the full range). They could be reasonably expected to stay within 10 seconds per year.

The Kew trial was something like 8 weeks.

There are a lot tourbilon wrist watches being made today. The actual rate performance data a remarkably absent.

ENglish watches with levers, even with top Kew scores, were not called Chronometers but rather Kew A certificate watches.
It looks like even in those days Patek Philippe was at the top of the heap.
 

Dr. Jon

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By this time the Swiss industry has a group of "regluers". They were independent watch adjusters and all the Swiss entries went through one of them.

I do not believe the UK industry had this type of talent.
 

Incroyable

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By this time the Swiss industry has a group of "regluers". They were independent watch adjusters and all the Swiss entries went through one of them.

I do not believe the UK industry had this type of talent.
So at this point the UK industry was really in the doldrums.
 

thesnark17

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Not yet, no. Uncompetitive and dying, sure. But in such cases, the best makers last the longest.

English watches have 6 of the first 10 places in the list, with 5 of them Karrusels. We have to assume that the vast majority, and probably all, of the 16 Karrusels on the list originated with Bonnikson (9 of them entered by him). No industry could be doing bad work if it is producing these results.

The English had people who were as skilled as the Swiss - they merely employed them differently. There were a lot more watches made and more timekeeping trials in Switzerland - enough to keep a small group of workers employed in high-level specialty adjustment (regleurs). In England, there wasn't enough demand for an entire specialty occupation, so we have no special word for it. But the results speak for themselves. No way were all these English makers sending their watches to Switzerland for adjustment!

Even after the complete demise of the English industry, there were still adjusters in England capable of beating the Swiss in Kew-Teddington trials. I recall reading of one freelancer in the 1920s who advertised based on trial results. Unfortunately I can't remember his name, nor the score (94? 96?).
 
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gmorse

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Hi Snark,
I recall reading of one freelancer in the 1920s who advertised based on trial results. Unfortunately I can't remember his name, nor the score (94? 96?).
Probably Sidney Better, but he wasn't English.

Regards,

Graham
 
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