Deck Watch: Confused by the term "deck watch"

Discussion in 'Chronometers' started by Luis Casillas, Nov 30, 2015.

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  1. Luis Casillas

    Luis Casillas Registered User

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    Hi everybody! I thought I'd share something to see if others here can help me improve my understanding of how the term "deck watch" is commonly used.

    My confusion is the following. I feel like I have a decent grasp of the difference between the mechanism of different types of precision timepiece:
    • Lever vs. detent escapement
    • Free-sprung vs regulator
    • Going barrel vs. fusee
    • Helical vs. overcoil spiral hairsrpings
    • Mounted on gimbals or not
    • etc.

    I also think I have a decent grasp of the main functions that various timepieces were put to:
    • Master clock on a ship
    • Auxiliary watch for use away from the master clock

    So the term "deck watch" (and others like "assistant watch," "comparing watch," compteur, etc.) seems to refer to the last bullet point. But if I understand things correctly, many of watches that are conventionally referred to as "deck watches" were often used as master clocks on smaller ships or shorter voyages, right?

    For example, reading between the lines in Whitney's books (I don't find it 100% clear), I understand that the unmounted Hamilton model 22, which I've seen often named a "deck watch," was used both as master clock on some ships and as an auxiliary "deck" watch on others. Whereas the Hamilton 2974 comparing watch was used exclusively in the "deck" role. Is this accurate? :confused:

    Thanks!
     
  2. Jim Haney

    Jim Haney Registered User
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    #2 Jim Haney, Dec 1, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2015
    I am so glad to have you as a Moderator on the MB. Your work on early Elgin's is impressive and your care with research is very commendable.


    The Hamilton Model 22 was sold in a large Base Metal case and could be placed in a padded box for small ships timekeeping requirements.


    It was also sold in gimbaled boxes for use as the main timekeeper on ships. I don't know the various countries ships requirements for timekeeping but the Model 21 was a dual purpose watch.

    The Hamilton 2974 B Naval Comparing watch was a simplified pocket watch for comparing time between the ships main chronometers. It also had a extra back snap cover under the screw back rear cover for extra protection.

    If I was to add a prefix to the Model 22 when listing it in the forum I would used the Metal cased one as a deck watch and the gimbaled mounted one as a ships chronometer.

    Drop Tom McIntyre a note to add "deck watch" to the bullet points or drop down menu selections.

    I noticed it is not a selection on this thread but is on other threads, (Deck watch)
     
  3. Luis Casillas

    Luis Casillas Registered User

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    Well, I've seen that the Hamlton-siupplied labels/plaques on the boxes, Hamilton advertising material and Whitney apply these names consistently:

    1. Model 21: "Ships' chronometer"
    2. Model 22, gimbaled: "Mounted chronometer watch"
    3. Model 22, non-gimbaled: "Unmounted chronometer watch"

    But that's the labels that Hamilton applied to these particular watches. What I'm trying to understand better is the broader conventions about how modern-day collectors label them.

    If I recall correctly, I did successfully tag this thread with "Deck Watch" (an available prefix) when I created it. I see the topic has the prefix right now as well.
     
  4. Tom McIntyre

    Tom McIntyre Technical Admin
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    The market usage of the terms Deck Watch and Chronometer may or may not match well with their common service. That depends on the whims of the marketing department.

    Any watch that can keep time for the duration of a voyage suffciently accurately to allow a calculation of the local noon to be compared with the point of departur is effectively a chronometer. Under emergency pocket watches with duplex escapements successfully served as chronometers in the 19th century. One duplex watch by Cooper in London became quite famous after an article in the Shipping News.

    The real distinction is probably the intent of the maker and the purchaser for the use of the piece. Box chronometers are always used on ship as chronometers and not as deck watches. High grade watches such as the Hamilton Model 22 when mounted in gimbals were primarily intended for chronometer service although they may have been supplemental to model 21 in ervice on the same ship.

    Detent escapement chronometers are not suitable for rough service. It is one of their features that they do not automatically restart after stopping. In their intended use that is an advantage since the pieces is either showing the time accurately of is not running. No chance for random errors. However in rough service, this would mean they were mostly stopped and would not be useful. The deck watch was enlisted as a small ship navigation timepiece to serve this need. In this use they were called Torpedo Boar Watches or Chronometer de Bord. Some were mounted in gimbals but, in my opinion, that was just an affectation. Hamilton insisted that the non-gimbaled versions be mounted face up in their containing box.

    I have been interested in these for some time and have been fascinated by the wide range of quality in watches used for the comparing deck watch service. I bought one a week ago that was made by Cyma and is an inexpensive 15 jewel movement.

    Here are pictures of a few in my collection.

    boxunlocked.jpg ElectD.jpg View attachment 282000 Inbox.jpg boxopen.jpg face.jpg inneropen.jpg CautionLabel.jpg View attachment 282006
     
  5. Luis Casillas

    Luis Casillas Registered User

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    Thanks for the response, Tom. Yes, this bit more or less sums up what I was suspecting:

    So effectively, most times that we see the term "deck watch" (or "chronometer" for that matter) we can't take it for granted that it was actually used to make observations on deck. We have to understand exactly what the watch's features are and what range of uses those features made it suitable or desirable for. (If I understand things right.)
     
  6. MartyR

    MartyR Moderator
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    Just as an observer, I have regularly seen quite standard pocket watches described in auction catalogues as "deck watches" seemingly based solely on their size - anything over 57mm case diameter gets that description from some auctioneers, probably because it sounds cooler than "goliath" :coolsign:
     
  7. Barry Armstrong

    Barry Armstrong Registered User
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    Just a more pointed question to ask. What marine watches were produced by Hamilton during www2? I know of the Model 21, Model 22 gimballed, Model 22 pocket watch, Model 23? (not sure if was considered for marine use as also the 4992B), and the 3992B. What other models are there? Is there documentation online somewhere that can help me out?

    Thanks
     
  8. Luis Casillas

    Luis Casillas Registered User

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    It's not online documentation, but it would take quite a bit of research to beat Whitney's book on military timepieces. He goes over the official specifications, producers and users of a large variety of watches and clocks that were used by the US military.

    Whitney, Marvin E. 1992. Military Timepieces. American Watchmakers Institute Press. ISBN 10: 0918845149; ISBN 13: 9780918845146.
     
  9. Dr. Jon

    Dr. Jon Registered User
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    My view is that "deck watch" is a confusing term and not useful.

    It is confusing since it can refer to either a comparing watch, used to transfer time from the the ships chronometer(s) to the deck where sextant observations are made of the sun moon or stars.

    There is no such ambiguity in French. A navigation watch is called a "chronometre du bord", and in English sometimes as a torpedo boat watch. In British usage a navigation watch is either an HS1 or and HS 2 and comparing watch an HS 3. HS stands for hydrographic service. The classed the Hamilton detent model 21 as an HS 1, the Model 22 in any mount as an HS2 and the 4992B as an HS3.

    To my knowledge the requirements for chronometre du bord were fairly high in construction but they did not specify escapement or whether they should have a regulator or be freesprung. They were allowed a bit more leeway in rate stability than box chronometers but they were often tested in positions so gimbal mounting was not a necessity to be in this class.

    I prefer not to use the term "deck watch".
     
  10. tick talk

    tick talk Registered User

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    Nicely said!
     
  11. Tom McIntyre

    Tom McIntyre Technical Admin
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    I have a little more relaxed view of the issue.

    the term deck watch came into use in English when there were ship's chronometers and watches to carry the time to the sighting location on the deck. The actualy function was to carry the time of the event back to the navigator for his calculations. There was no confusion about the purpose and the British used these pieces in this way for quite a while.

    When motorized fast boats appeared, the French initially decided that they needed a new class of timepiece to manage time in the rough environment that was unsuited for detent chronometers. They introduced the first torpedo boat watches and were soon followed by other navies since the logic was inescapable. In many cases, it was decided that the best of the former "deck watches" were also suitable for the new application.

    Here is an example of a marine chronometer and a deck watch by the same maker (or at least the same signature on the dial :))

    Dial.jpg dial.jpg
    AngleView.jpg movement.jpg
    Box.jpg back.jpg boxunlocked.jpg
     
  12. Dr. Jon

    Dr. Jon Registered User
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    I did not get any idea of what Tom advocates. His example of a deck watch is interesting because it confuses the distinction between comparing and navigation timepieces in that it has an admiralty mark but no HS designation although I am sure it is an HS 2 nav grade watch because it is free sprung.

    The torpedo boat watch is how the various Navies brought their rating agencies into the latter part of the 19th century. By 1855, insurance underwriters were awarding English free sprung lever watches (called half chronometers) to young captains for saving cargoes and it seems most mariners knew that a good lever watch was a viable alternative to a detent chronometer for navigation, and for steam ships, it was the better option. The voyages were shorter and rougher. The little I found in English maritime law was that any ship on a voyage to a foreign destination had to carry at least a chronometer and good watch. Now the meaning is not clear, but may have been very specific at the time.

    During the US civil war the US Navy used Waltham P.S. Bartlett grade watches for comparing.

    Perhaps Tom can elaborate in how he believes the term "deck watch" should be used.
     
  13. Luis Casillas

    Luis Casillas Registered User

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    Well, the conclusion I'm taking away from this is the following. There are (at least) two dimensions along which we can classify these timepieces:

    1. Form: What kind of escapement, regulator or free sprung, fusee vs. going barrel, mounted vs. unmounted, etc.
    2. Use: Ship's master clock vs. auxiliary calibrated to it

    The difficulties that I'm seeing then are that:
    • Many terms are used ambiguously with reference to one dimension or the other. For example, "chronometer" has long been used as a classification of form (e.g., in the term "chronometer escapement") as well as one of use (a ship's master clock). "Deck watch" is used for function (auxiliary timepiece) but also often for form (non-gimbaled, boxed lever watch).
    • The form of a timepiece is clearly related to its use, but does not uniquely determine it. As has been noted in the thread already, non-gimbaled lever timepieces (routinely labeled today as "deck watches") were put to both uses.
    • Sometimes people present two terms as opposite when it's not clear whether they belong to the same dimension.

    I think the lesson I'm drawing from this is to endeavor to be explicit about when I'm talking about the form of a watch vs. its uses.
     
  14. Tom McIntyre

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    The point that I did not succeed in making clear was that originally, there were only comparing watches and they were routinely called "deck watches." As in the case of my Johannsen, they were kept in a small locked box where the time could be observed, but only the navigator or master had the key.

    I believe the term "comparing watch" arrived at the same time as the other terms for small navigation watches such as Chronometer du Bord or Torpedo Boat Watch.

    I am pretty sure (as sure as I can be without documentation in hand) that my Johannsen was called a "deck watch" when it was sold in 1909. The reason was that tradition was more important than precision of terminology.

    As to current terminology, I do not see any point in changing history. We can use all the names as they are appropriate for the period or usage. There will also be a lot of overlap as we move from culture to culture as well.
     
  15. Paul Regan

    Paul Regan Registered User

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    Here is actual documentation of what my Johannsen was called (Chronometer Watch) in 1916. The watch was procured in Oct 1916 and sold back to Johannsen in September 1935.
    Paul
     

    Attached Files:

  16. Douglas Romero

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  17. Tom McIntyre

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    Paul, I love the watch and the direct drive center seconds is nice to compare with my indirect drive.

    When I read the document, the form seems to be intended to apply to watches or chronometers and one was expected to strike out the non-applicable term. In this example, the word "or" seems to have been struck out. That appears to make it say chronometer watch, but it is not clear that was the intent of the designer of the form.

    I do not think it occurred to me to ask Greenwhich for the records from my Johannsen watch when I was inquiring about my chronometers and a few other watches. I will send them the info and see what they have. Perhaps the record for mine (if they have it) is the same as yours. That would support the idea that the person filling out the form could strike out any of the three words to describe one of 3 possibilities. i.e. Chronometer, Watch or Chronometer Watch.
     
  18. Paul Regan

    Paul Regan Registered User

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    Thanks Tom, I look forward to the response you get.

    Doug, your link to the pictures does not work. I would really like to see the images.
    thanks, Paul
     
  19. Douglas Romero

    Douglas Romero Registered User
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    Paul, Hmmm thought pix of Nardin's should have come through. Here there are:
     

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  20. Paul Regan

    Paul Regan Registered User

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    Thank you Doug.
     
  21. Tom McIntyre

    Tom McIntyre Technical Admin
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    Doug's pictures who an interesting specification change that I have heard was intended to prevent these watches from "wandering away" from service. The lack of a bow and the extended setting button discouraged its use as a pocket watch.

    It was likely a little less expensive to case as well.
     

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