Early pocket chronometer movement (Pennington?)

Discussion in 'European & Other Pocket Watches' started by Lychnobius, Oct 18, 2019.

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  1. Lychnobius

    Lychnobius Registered User

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    Here is my latest treasure from David Penney: a watch movement with a true chronometer escapement, signed by (or rather for) James Hatton who practised alone between 1805 and 1816. The balance is of the form developed by Robert Pennington, and I understand that the detent of the escapement is also of a type specific to him; for these reasons, and perhaps others which I do not know enough to appreciate, Mr. Penney thinks that this movement may actually be from Pennington's workshop. At any rate, he says that neither of the two serial numbers (798 on the back plate, 2021 on the dial) corresponds to either of the two sequences used on Hatton's other products. (I have to add that I have looked at images of a number of signed Pennington movements including Nos. 763 and 765, and none of them matches the shape of the cock or the layout of the set-up shown on my example.) However this may be, it is enough for me to have a working example of Earnshaw's escapement – I have never actually seen, much less owned, one of these before – and to know that it is more than two hundred years old.

    Note the pillar screws. The balance-spring is of the helical type, with six turns, and is made of gold. The overall diameter is 48mm.

    I am sorry my images are no better; my hands are not steady enough nowadays, and there is no space in my insanely overcrowded environment to set up a tripod. However, the side view does give a glimpse of the escape-wheel and, to the right of it, the outer end of the detent. The spring of this is a little battered, as I understand is often the case; nonetheless it functions and the movement runs strongly, albeit with a gain of several minutes a day – a fault which I cannot hope to correct, since I am not qualified to meddle with the balance screws.

    I realise I should perhaps have posted in the Chronometer section; my excuse for not doing so is that I feel a small movement like this, obviously intended for an ordinary (if rather deep) watch-case, could not have been used at sea and is therefore not a true marine chronometer. Besides, to be honest, I was afraid not many people would see it there.

    Oliver Mundy.

    hatton_chronometer_back_01.jpg hatton_chronometer_back_02.jpg hatton_chronometer_back_03.jpg hatton_chronometer_side_01.jpg hatton_chronometer_dial_01.jpg
     
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  2. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Oliver,

    These are lovely things aren't they? The detent certainly looks like Pennington's work; the foot of the detent isn't screwed directly to the top plate but has a dovetail shape which is attached to the side of the banking block and allows some scope for easier 'fore and aft' adjustment. The point at which the locking stone halts the escape wheel is important, and tiny changes here, in conjunction with the length of the passing spring, will make a difference.

    The quarter screws are all fairly well out, so someone has tried to bring it to time, but it may be that some other adjustments have been made which have negated this. The buckled detent spring probably isn't helping, but they're so delicate that any intervention carries risks. The gold helical spring is rather special, and I like the understated air of the whole piece. The screwed pillars were common in box chronometers for some time before they appeared on pocket watch movements.

    It would be interesting to see what's under the dial, because it has a Liverpool look to it. It may be thought that cut compensated balances of this type didn't appear in pocket watches until later in the 19th century, but this is a good example of their earlier use, around 1815.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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  3. Lychnobius

    Lychnobius Registered User

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    David's catalogue description included an image of the dial-plate; this bears a 'Lancashire' size notation, 20 10, along with a scratched signature which seems to read Anton Leitz / 1921. Does anybody recognise this name? I have searched for it online but without any result that could possibly be relevant.

    Oliver Mundy.
     
  4. Ethan Lipsig

    Ethan Lipsig Registered User
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  5. Allan C. Purcell

    Allan C. Purcell Registered User
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    Hello Oliver, Quite right, on more than one point, you did very well to get the chronometer movement, and it is easy to see how pleased you are with it, I would be too. All I can say about the watch, that has not been said, is the engraving of the word London, and the only other like that seen by me is on the work of Brockbanks. I think Hatton used the same engraver, they were both around at that period. Really nice piece Oliver.

    Good luck with it, and thanks for sharing.

    Allan
     
  6. SKennedy

    SKennedy Registered User

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    Interesting that two of the pillars are screwed but the two that are in the barrel bridge and the foot of the balance cock are presumably pinned! If the two with screws were a later modification I'd expect to see signs of earlier pinning on the plate but there is none so presumably it has always been this way. A very nice movement, similar in some respects to my Barwise of the same era which is also a Pennington detent and with the rectangular balance spring attachment though mine made do without the screwed balance.
     
  7. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Seth,

    I've seen a Parkinson & Frodsham with exactly the same mixture of screws and pins in its pillars, from almost the same year, (1816). (This was the famous/infamous number 999, a two-pin single table roller). I wonder if both watches were a sort of transitional stage between pinned and screwed pillars; it would certainly have been easier to fit screws to the two pillars which weren't surrounded by other metal.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  8. John Matthews

    John Matthews Registered User
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    Graham - on the infamous 999, didn't you see evidence that the pillars that were carrying the screws, had been damaged and therefore inferred they were so modified at the time of, or later than, the early conversion?

    John
     
  9. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    #9 gmorse, Oct 20, 2019
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2019
    Hi John,

    Well, yes, there were signs that at least one of the two screwed pillars on 999 had been cross-drilled for a pin before being trimmed down and threaded, but seeing another movement with exactly the same configuration makes me wonder whether it might not have been a conscious decision on the part of the maker, rather than a repair for some damage. Thinking about it, there was no sign whatsoever of the usual marks on the plate associated with inserting and removing taper pins from those two pillars.

    DSCF3322.JPG DSCF3323.JPG DSCF3345 - Copy1.JPG DSCF3345 - Copy2.JPG

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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  10. John Matthews

    John Matthews Registered User
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    Hi Graham,

    While trying to be careful not to switch the the thread over to the 999, I think your re-think prompted by Oliver's purchase and Seth's observations, is significant.

    As can be seen from the first photograph you posted, as you say, that pillar had been cross-drilled. Taken with the lack of pin damage on the plate, would imply minimal insertion/removal of pins prior to the tapping of the pillars. Therefore, as you thought when you examined the watch, if Parkinson & Frodsham obtained a (Coventry?) unfinished duplex or cylinder movement to finish it may have been received with pinned plates. So as I think you are implying, this adds weight to the two pillars being drilled at the time of the 'finishing / early conversion'.

    Can you remember whether the covered plate adjacent to the two other pillars had any pin 'marks'?

    John
     
  11. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi John,

    I think this is quite likely.

    Not sure what you mean here; picture 3 is of the pillar under the balance cock foot and picture 4 is the one under the barrel bar, all 4 pictures are of the same watch.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  12. John Matthews

    John Matthews Registered User
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    Hi Graham

    Quite clearly the answer to my question is in these two photographs. Per chance did you add them when you did the edit? I only remember seeing the first two photographs when I opened your post and then I left the thread open while I re-read your report and checked the photographs, I had on file. (I don't have photographs 3 & 4). I then composed my post and had dinner ...

    John
     
  13. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi John,

    My apologies, I did add them in a subsequent edit. Unfortunately those two pictures weren't in my original report on 999; they would have reinforced my conclusions I believe!

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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  14. Lychnobius

    Lychnobius Registered User

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    Seth and Graham have made an interesting point about the apparent combination of pinned and screwed pillars; I should have noticed this. Tonight, if I feel brave enough, I may venture to release the two screws (cautiously, and obviously only one at a time) to see what the pillars look like underneath them.

    Curious that this movement has never had a dust-cap; perhaps these were not made with sufficient clearance for the extra-high cock imposed by the helical balance-spring.

    Thanks also to Allan for his observation about the lettering. I did think I had seen other examples of the rather unusual treatment of LONDON – sequences of gothic capitals are rare, probably because they are so hard to read –, but I could not locate them.

    Oliver Mundy.
     
  15. Lychnobius

    Lychnobius Registered User

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    I have now checked the two screwed pillars (without, I am glad to say, allowing any components to fall out in the process) and find that, in contrast to Parkinson No. 999, they show no sign of having been pierced for pins.

    It is certain that all four pillars are of precisely the same pattern; each has the distinctive feature of a very thin bead around it, not half-way up but just below this as seen with the back-plate uppermost. I presume that they would have all been in the same state when the frame left its maker, and therefore that Pennington, or whoever actually completed my movement, would have been responsible for cutting down and tapping the two which are screwed. (I realise of course that an operation like this might itself have been done by either an employee in the workshop or an outside worker.) I see that in a partly-finished movement posted by John Matthews elsewhere (Frame makers, movement makers and finishers in C19th England) the pillars are pierced but no pins have been fitted; can we conclude from this that such a movement might leave the frame-maker without the piercing?

    Oliver Mundy.
     
  16. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Oliver,

    I think that's a very reasonable assumption, since the cross drillings would have to match the finished thickness of the top plate very closely, and that would not be known until the plate was fully finished and returned from the gilder. As will be seen from John's 'raw' movements, the finish on those plates is often from the file, necessitating further flatting and smoothing. The Scarisbrick shows two of the visible pillar tops have grooves but one has not. There are some other examples which show a slight groove where the pin would go, but it isn't clear whether they were actually drilled as well. I suspect that practices varied somewhat between the makers.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  17. John Matthews

    John Matthews Registered User
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    #17 John Matthews, Oct 23, 2019
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2019
    I think we need to be clear as to what we mean by frame maker. If it is possible to distinguish as two separate steps, 'frame making' and 'movement making' - which I believe we can, if only on the basis that some individuals describe themselves as 'frame makers' - then I would agree that after the frame making stage (by which I mean the formation of the two plates and pillars) then, in most cases, the pillars may not be drilled. However, as soon as the work commences on the movement there is a greater probability that the pillars will be drilled. I have seen a number of unfinished movements where the two diametrically opposed pillars have been drilled and the other two have not. So I think it would be dangerous to assume a 'general rule' as to when drilled pillars were drilled. I suspect whether the finisher receives an unfinished movement, with no pillars drilled, two or all four drilled, depends upon the methodology of the movement maker and how much work has been performed on the movement. I would say the earlier in the production cycle the 'finishing shop' receives the movement, the more likely it is that the pillars will not be drilled.

    Graham - this is not the case. The two pillars that are diametrically opposed are drilled and the other two are not. I apologise that although I stated the fact, I didn't support it with the necessary photograph - the two that are drilled correspond to the holes in the plate with the associated grooves, the other two pillars are not drilled ...

    20191022 018.jpg

    This is the same 'pattern' I have seen on a number of movements.

    John
     
  18. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi John,

    That's why I said 'visible' pillars, because your original picture of the Scarisbrick showed it with the balance cock in place.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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  19. John Matthews

    John Matthews Registered User
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    Graham - corrected :oops:

    John
     
  20. Clint Geller

    Clint Geller Registered User
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    #20 Clint Geller, Oct 26, 2019
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2019
    Congratulations on your lovely new acquisition, Mr, Mundy. Your post has motivated me to share pictures of another pocket chronometer with some similar characteristics, so I hope you don't mind. I too acquired a pocket chronometer from David Penney this year, which also has Pennington's style of balance and dovetail detent. It was very likely a special-order watch, being a very large, 60.5 mm diameter eight day pocket chronometer, and while signed "French, Royal Exchange," David thinks it is the work of the younger Robert Pennington. The silver open face case with gold joints was made by James Dow of Clerkenwell and carries the London datemark for 1826. I don't know whether David attributes your example, which seems to be earlier than mine, to the father or the son. Attached are David's images, which I am using with his kind permission.

    This was my first pocket chronometer purchase and only the third English watch I ever owned.

    french-royal-exchange-london-no-5184 case interior w hallmarks.jpg french-royal-exchange-london-no-5184 Dial.jpg french-royal-exchange-london-no-5184 Mov angle view.jpg french-royal-exchange-london-no-5184 Movt alone.jpg french-royal-exchange-london-no-5184 Movt side view.jpg french-royal-exchange-london-no-5184 Movt View.jpg french-royal-exchange-london-no-5184 Watch angled view.jpg french-royal-exchange-london-no-5184 escapement drawing.jpg
     
  21. Lychnobius

    Lychnobius Registered User

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    Clint, thank you for sharing this fine piece. Did David comment at all on the small size of the balance in relation to the cut-out of the barrel-bridge?

    Oliver Mundy.
     
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  22. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Oliver,

    I think it's not so much that the balance is small, it's more that the rest of the movement is so large.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
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  23. Lychnobius

    Lychnobius Registered User

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    Here is a strange postscript. Escapements Available in the Market by Frederick Choi (2003) illustrates a Charles John Cope pocket chronometer which has some points in common with my Hatton movement, notably the same pattern of set-up spring and the same bright-steel rectangular plate anchoring the outer end of the balance-spring. (Unfortunately he does not show the case marks or state what date-letter, if any, they include.) What is most curious, however, is that the number 798 is faintly scratched on the barrel-bridge; as will be seen above, my movement has this same number engraved on the back-plate, apparently as its serial number. Mine is also numbered 2021 on the dial; compare the number 2037 stated as the serial of Mr. Choi's watch. The balance is of an older type than mine, with two wedge-shaped sliding weights, and the detent seems to be screwed directly to the plate instead of having the Pennington dovetail. The Cope also has screws in all four pillars.

    Could this possibly mean that it was Cope, rather than one of the Penningtons, who was behind my movement? Is Cope known to have supplied unsigned movements to retailers? His dates seem about right, but I know no more of him than this.

    Oliver Mundy.
     
  24. Clint Geller

    Clint Geller Registered User
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    #24 Clint Geller, Oct 28, 2019
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2019
    Hi Oliver,

    I suspected that the maker (Pennington?) may have used a lighter balance on this unusual, perhaps even “experimental,” eight day movement because he may have wanted to minimize the power demand on the mainspring. I ran this suggestion by David in a phone conversation and I got an emphatic “Yes!” Also, as Graham pointed out, the very large size of the movement, 60.5 mm (in the Lancashire Gauge, this would roughly be a 26 Size), adds to the impression that the balance is “small.”
     
  25. John Matthews

    John Matthews Registered User
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    I read Oliver's question to be the size of the balance in relation to the design of the barrel bridge, and for that matter the cock, rather than the overall size of the movement. Does this not tell us something about the frame upon which the movement was built? I may be mistaken, but it appears, to me that the dimensions of many of these pocket chronometer frames are such that they could accommodate the rather larger Earnshaw type balance.

    John
     
  26. Clint Geller

    Clint Geller Registered User
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    Then perhaps my first suggestion may be more on the mark, John? David thinks this is the smallest contemporaneous eight day chronometer movement in existence, perhaps the only one small enough to actually be used as a pocket watch. As such, it is very likely a one-off, an experiment. And as such, perhaps the maker, who presumably was the younger Pennington, wished to minimize the strength of the mainspring needed to keep the balance turning for eight days.
     
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  27. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Oliver,

    Cope was certainly known as a maker of watches and chronometers, but he, like almost all other London makers, would have bought in the rough movements from the likes of John Wycherley and Joseph Preston and finished them, most particularly their escapements. The division of labour was so extreme that Cope could well have put out this highly specialised work to more than one escapement maker in order to satisfy his deadlines if his own workmen were fully engaged, the Pennington family being only one example of this cream of London craftspeople. Earnshaw himself worked at this trade in his early days.

    Cope had been a partner of Robert Molyneux and had also been consulted by the Board of Longitude when it was considering Earnshaw's chronometers, so he was far more than just a retailer. He's mentioned in several sources as having been variously an assistant or apprentice to Thomas Earnshaw, but he doesn't appear in Jeremy Evans' list of CC apprentices and masters.

    The numbering conundrum is indeed odd, but it may simply reflect the multiplicity of hands through which these movements passed in the course of their manufacture.

    Regards,

    Graham
     

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