George Morton chronometer

gmorse

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Hi Miguel,

This may or may not have been made by the George Morton who invented and patented several varieties of 'chronometers', most using a version of the Robin escapement, called in sequence, 'Morton's Patent'; 'Morton's Patent improved'; 'Patent Chronometer'; 'London Patent Chronometer'; and 'Patent Union Chronometer'. However, your watch is not one of these, having a normal English lever single roller escapement. Whether there was one George or more than one, this is a well-made watch, although much in need of a good clean and overhaul.

Jon's suggestion of the Portobello Road area is a good one, because a period case should cost far less than having a new one made.

Regards,

Graham
 

gmorse

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Hi Miguel,

Yes, I know where it came from! The term 'chronometer' was rather loosely applied, (and indeed still is), not necessarily describing an instrument with a detent escapement and usually a free-sprung balance, although some pocket chronometers didn't use the helical balance spring.

Regards,

Graham
 

miguel angel cladera

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Hi Miguel,

Yes, I know where it came from! The term 'chronometer' was rather loosely applied, (and indeed still is), not necessarily describing an instrument with a detent escapement and usually a free-sprung balance, although some pocket chronometers didn't use the helical balance spring.

Regards,

Graham

it is a very interesting topic because the definition changed on the time... I understood at the age of this watch (1870) a chronometer always has a detent escapement but in 1900 a lot of american pocket watches was

designated chronometer and today only they need a COSC certificate... So... In 1870 they cheated the future buyers making more atractive the watch signing "Chronometer" on dial??
 

gmorse

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Hi Miguel,

So... In 1870 they cheated the future buyers making more atractive the watch signing "Chronometer" on dial??
I think there may have been an element of that, but there were other usages at the time, also applied to escapements that weren't detents, such as the 'half-chronometers' sold by Barraud & Lunds and other prominent retailers. These were lever watches with compensated balances properly adjusted for heat and cold, as true chronometer balances were, but since it isn't possible to tell if a balance has been properly adjusted simply by its appearance, some less scrupulous makers did use the name as a marketing ploy on their unadjusted watches.

Regards,

Graham
 

Dr. Jon

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This watch would have been called a "Half Chronometer". This was a usually a free sprung lever such as yours. I have not seen an example in which they wrote this on the dial or movement until I saw this one. English trade was very strongly against calling any timepiece a chronometer unless it had a detent escapement and opposed Swiss certified watches sold as chronometers until the 1920's.

If DAvid Penney has not idea of why it was marked this way I do not either.

About 10 years before John Hutton made some similar watches he marked "Hutton's Patent Chronometer" on the dial which had his form of lever escapement. These were exhibited at the Great London Exposition in 1851 and won a medal but no one followed his example, unless it was Morton.

I do not believe such marking was against English law but it was highly discouraged.
 

John Matthews

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Miguel - I have details of 30+ Morton Chronometers including your recent acquisition - here is the list from my photographic database (Lightroom)

upload_2020-7-18_23-6-17.png

All have 'chronometer' on the dial or on the movement. None have a detent escapement. None apart from your example has the name of G Morton or the address of 31 Hanover Street engraved on the movement. Some just have the name of the version of Morton's 'chronometer'. Many have the retailer/finisher for whom the movement was made. All of the examples were built on Lancashire frames. The earlier examples are often stamped T&JH for Thomas and John Hewitt of Prescot. The later examples stamped H.F most likely Henry Fletcher of Eccleston. To my knowledge your example is the only one constructed on a frame by John Wycherley of Prescot (JW).

As David makes clear in his description there exists a small number of these free sprung levers engraved as yours - this is the only one I know of.

A George Morton is recorded at the Hanover Street address in an 1863 directory. There is also a George Morton listed in the 1881 census living in Birkenhead. The later George Morton was born in Liverpool. It is often assumed that the latter was associated with William Holland. It is possible that these may have been the same person and indeed the same George Morton who was working in Keighley when he entered his patent dated October 17, 1856. More research is needed.

John
 

John Matthews

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In the previous post I omitted to add the the serial numbers in David Penney's publication which is a must for anyone interested in the Morton series of 'chronometers. I have now included them in my database. If anyone is aware of any movements that I have missed, I would appreciate details.

upload_2020-7-19_14-29-54.png

I believe my comments from the previous post remain accurate.

John
 

Halda Sweden

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Dear John,

I missed known numbers in David Penneys interesting small book. There is two of these interesting pocket watches in my collection.

1. No 1896 with a silver case year 1862

2. No 3204, keyless fusee,

“Arnold & Lewis Late Simmons
7 St Anns Square Manchester
Patent Union Chronometer”

This pocket watch has also another movement number. It´s marked with no , 3024 on the dialside. The reversed side of the dial is marked 24. There is a special symbol under the balance cock. Not sure of the case maker....Have to check archive...

Best regards
Peter B

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1606647896697.png 1606647975136.png 1606648032285.png 1606648075721.png
 
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gmorse

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Hi Peter,

This is the version with the duplex type locking, which means that it isn't a detached escapement and for the makers to call it a chronometer was stretching the definition!

Regards,

Graham
 

Halda Sweden

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Sorry I mixed the numbers on the Lewis pocket watch. I also checked the London Patent Chronometer No 1896.

My corrections...

1. No 1896 with a silver case year 1862 R.O, probably Richard Oliver,
Movement = "London Patent Chronometer"

2. No 3024 (3204), keyless fusee,

Arnold & Lewis Late Simmons
7 St Anns Square Manchester
Patent Union Chronometer”


This pocket watch has two different numbers. On the dial + case it´s= 3024. On the movement 3204. The reversed side of the dial is marked 24. There is a special symbol under the balance cock. Not sure of the case maker....Have to check archive...

Below some pictures on No 1896

Best regards
Peter B


1606647896697.png



1606648032285.png




1606647975136.png



1606648075721.png





1606647896697.png



1606648032285.png




1606647975136.png



1606648075721.png
 
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John Matthews

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Peter - thank-you for sharing these examples.

The mark on the underside of the cock (sometimes referred to as the 'Co' mark) is seen on a number of Patent Union Chronometers in the 1860s and early 1870s. I suspect it may be the mark of the escapement maker - I cannot remember if I have seen it on other escapements - none come to mind. I know it is found on examples that are also stamped H.F {Henry Fletcher, Prescot}, who was responsible for many of the PUC frames.

I suspect that the two numbers (3204 & 3024), might be an error made when the movement was engraved, given the number stamped on the frame, cock and dial. The other possibility is that it is the retailer's serial number, but I think this likely, given the same digits are involved.

John
 

Halda Sweden

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Dear Horological Frineds

I bought this movement recently; "I Simmons Manchester No 6090"

It has a high production number... Any thoughts?

Best regards
Peter B:)

397360103_806bd50a-8cb3-4387-9131-cdb8532eba91 - kopia.jpg 397360103_388332fa-c91d-4a97-b57c-1110700f4adb - kopia.jpg 397360103_e7aef52d-a764-40f4-a8da-b67b73341600 - kopia.jpg
 

Dr. Jon

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This looks to be a nice lever watch with a center seconds hand and not a chronometer in any usual sense of the term.
 

Halda Sweden

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This looks to be a nice lever watch with a center seconds hand and not a chronometer in any usual sense of the term.

Dear Dr Jon,
I haven't recieved this movement yet but the theeths form on escape wheel looks a bit strange and that's the reason why I suspect that it isn't an ordinary lever escapement in this movement. When I have it on the bench I will for sure dismantel it partly and come back with some detailphotos...

Perhaps you are right after all, time will tell!
Best regards
Peter B.
 
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gmorse

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Hi Peter,

The lever looks like a normal single roller English lever with a ratchet tooth escape wheel. The various forms of Morton's patent escapement mostly use a chronometer type of escape wheel and those which use lever unlocking have a Massey type of fork with no guard pin. They also use a chronometer type of impulse pallet on the balance.

Regards,

Graham
 

Altdorfer

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This watch would have been called a "Half Chronometer". This was a usually a free sprung lever such as yours. I have not seen an example in which they wrote this on the dial or movement until I saw this one. English trade was very strongly against calling any timepiece a chronometer unless it had a detent escapement and opposed Swiss certified watches sold as chronometers until the 1920's.

If DAvid Penney has not idea of why it was marked this way I do not either.

About 10 years before John Hutton made some similar watches he marked "Hutton's Patent Chronometer" on the dial which had his form of lever escapement. These were exhibited at the Great London Exposition in 1851 and won a medal but no one followed his example, unless it was Morton.

I do not believe such marking was against English law but it was highly discouraged.
Hello Dr Jon, just replying to this older thread as I was reading it with interest. According to "Chronometer Makers of the World, T.Mercer", the half chronometer was introduced by William Morton of Liverpool in about 1855. This is referenced from BHI Journal May 1898 - but checking this it only refers to Morton (no first initial). I'm interested to know if you think this adds up.
 

Incroyable

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These freesprung levers seem to have been made by many esteemed makers including Kullberg though none of them label them as "half-chronometers".
 

Dr. Jon

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Thanks for the reference.

The reference I found was an Obit for Lund of Barraud and Lund with about the same creation date. I have only seen one English watch with a lever marked "Chronometer" It is by John Hutton who called it a patent lever chronometer.

The term "Half Chronometer" in the catalogs of Barruad & Lund and Smith but never marked on the watch and I have never seen any adjustment standard or test set associated with the term.
 

VinSer

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I am not sure it is related, however on some Swiss watches can be found the note "Demi Chronomètre", half chronometer in French.

According to Antiquorum:

"The name "Demi-Chronomètre" is used by Vacheron Constantin to indicate that the movement was sent to the Observatory for chronometric control, but that for commercial reasons, it did not remain long enough to complete the entire course of testing. To our knowledge, only two Genevan firms employed the term "Demi-Chronomètre": Vacheron Constantin and Henry Capt."

Maybe British makers copied the usage?

Ciao
 

miguel angel cladera

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My opinion, and it may be very wrong, is that the term "half-Chronometer" was used to designate watches that had the characteristics of watches with a detent escapement, but with a lever escapement. Such as compensated balance wheels, free sprung lever and even, as in the case of my watch helical spring. Perhaps the latter were better suited for day-to-day use without the inconvenience of pocket chronometers and their working performance was up to the task.
 

Incroyable

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My opinion, and it may be very wrong, is that the term "half-Chronometer" was used to designate watches that had the characteristics of watches with a detent escapement, but with a lever escapement. Such as compensated balance wheels, free sprung lever and even, as in the case of my watch helical spring. Perhaps the latter were better suited for day-to-day use without the inconvenience of pocket chronometers and their working performance was up to the task.
I've heard that it's very easy to damage a spring detent even unknowingly.

These days a damaged spring detent is no small task. I think they cost thousands to replace likely equalling the value of the watches in many cases.
 
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gmorse

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Hi Jeffery,
I've heard that it's very easy to damage a spring detent even unknowingly.
The spring of a spring detent is typically 0.05 mm thick, (yes, that is the correct number of zeros, it's at the lower end for the thickness of a human hair), so the slightest heavy-handedness can have serious consequences. A commoner type of damage is probably a broken locking stone; if an attempt to remove the detent, (or even move it by accident), is made whilst there's any power on the train, the escape wheel can spin and if a tooth hits the locking stone even briefly, it can shatter it. As these slivers of ruby aren't easy to source, it's not unusual to find them replaced by hardened steel pins as a result of such a mishap. They aren't cylindrical, they're more like a prism in cross-section.

When the escapement is running, the escape teeth obviously do hit the locking stone, but they're only accelerating from rest over one tooth space, so they don't have time to reach a damaging speed.

Regards,

Graham
 

Bernhard J.

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Hi Graham,

I would think that cutting a stripe off from 0,05 mm sheet steel (readily available) would not be the greatest problem. The jewel would presumably have to be made also, as well as the foot for the jewel, this attached to the spring. Not to speak of making and locating the gold passing spring at the tip.

Cheers, Bernhard
 

John Matthews

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Is the thickness of the spring constant along its length?

John
 

gmorse

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Hi John,
Is the thickness of the spring constant along its length?
Over the spring's length, yes, but see below.

DSCF5461.JPG

The spring only occupies a short section of the whole detent, which is made from a single piece of steel, including the foot. That's why they're so expensive to have made now.

Regards,

Graham
 
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gmorse

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Hi Bernhard,
I would think that cutting a stripe off from 0,05 mm sheet steel (readily available) would not be the greatest problem.
If the detent was fabricated from separate parts, it would be much simpler, but as you can see from my post #37, they weren't made that way, at least when the one in the picture was made, in 1874.

Regards,

Graham
 

Dr. Jon

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On Half Chronometers

The English began using the term circa 1855 without any definition but it was usually a free sprung lever. It usually has diamond end stone. Catalogs described some watches as Half Chronometers but it was never written on the dial or movement.

Barrud and Lund called some in the their catalog "Half Chronometers' even without diamond end stones.

The rationale may have been that a pocket chronometer was a free sprung detent timepiece in English horology. Free spring was half way there.

In 1868,(1872 in Geneva) the Swiss began rating watches to one of three classes at two sites and calling all watches submitted "Chronometers" with those passing obtaining a bulletin of rate. The rating was performed by an either the Geneva or Neuchatel observatory. In all there were six kinds of ratings bulletins for watches that passed all tests. A failure in any test disqualified a "Chronometer:" from gettng a bulletin.

My speculation is that those that failed were either readjusted or sold as half chronometers.

Sometimes, the submitted watches were in cases already engraved "Chronometer". If they failed they were either re adjusted and submitted or the word "Half" or Demi for "Chronometre". The evidence for this that the font for the added word differs from Chronometer. If the engraving is all matched it was marked after the tests but still failed to get a bulletin.

Another Swiss Half Chronometer type is one rate at the by the maker and supplied with a rates in different positions and temperatures.

Unlike the English, the Swiss did mark this on their watches. The second and third class test periods were fairly short but the failure rates were about the same in all classes.

A Geneva made watch marked demi or semis of half chronometer is probably one submitted for testing and failed. It was probably a very good watch and much more accurate than usual. The decision was probably that it was likely to do any better on another test and not worth the considerable expense or having the regleur go over it again.

I believe the Antiquorum explanation is wrong.

This topic is not covered in the 1895 Geneva report but it provides the background for my opinions on this. It is free download in French.
 

Dr. Jon

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On the fragility of spring detents.

They typically break on assembly or disassembly with power.

As noted the escape wheel with full momentum will break off the locking jewel if it moves into the path of the teeth..

Makers were concerted about this.

In the early period many by Arnold and Brockbanks had amplitude limiters. The perceived problem was that an overswing would unlock the escapement a second time. Not only would this allow and extra tick per cycle but it could break the locking jewel. When regular unlock and impulse occurs, the balance is going at its highest speed and it releases the detent very soon, so it can get back before the next tooth passes. On the second pass the balance is going much slower They worried that it would hold the detent unlocked long enough for the escape wheel to get enough momentum to break the locking jewel.

They were especially worried that this would occur when starting the chronometer, which requires twisting motion to start it unless you open the case and use something like a brush to swing the balance to start it.

There were several devices but all involved using a coil of the balance spring to move a device that woudl block the balance from moving far enough to unlock a second time, while being out of action for regular impulsing.

By about 1800 they stopped using these, and amost all of them were removed on later service. They affect balance poise and spring action and are incompatible with precision time keeping.

My surmise is that detent chronometer performance was improving rapidly in the 1780's and by the 1790's chornometers with these devices were not performing well enough to compete for the navigation trade. Also, these buyers kept their chronometers going so they were not likley to get shaken much if at all.

In the late 1800's another protection scheme came into use. It is a device set up such that removing the balance cock releases a catch to lock the escape wheel. It is a king of spring with an end that blocks the escape wheel. The balance cock holds is down and away when it is in place.

An alternative to letting off the power, a real nuisance for a fusee, is to cork or use pith to lock the escape wheen when disasembling and reassembling the watch if you are going do this.
 

Incroyable

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Who were the intended customers of pocket chronometers?

Given their fragility they must have been sold to very sedentary individuals.
 

Dr. Jon

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In the early days circa 1790 pocket chronometers were sold and used for ship navigation.

In 1789 they had a trial/competition for a timepiece for Bligh's second expedition. An Earnshaw pocket chronometer was rated best and bought for the expedition. It won against several box chronometers.

As more box chronometers were made pocket chronometers were used less for navigation and were made less often.

They were then relegated to very wealthy or enthusiastic buyers.

My experience in carrying pocket chronometers is that they work fine in everyday wear.
 

Incroyable

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In the early days circa 1790 pocket chronometers were sold and used for ship navigation.

In 1789 they had a trial/competition for a timepiece for Bligh's second expedition. An Earnshaw pocket chronometer was rated best and bought for the expedition. It won against several box chronometers.

As more box chronometers were made pocket chronometers were used less for navigation and were made less often.

They were then relegated to very wealthy or enthusiastic buyers.

My experience in carrying pocket chronometers is that they work fine in everyday wear.
I suppose later on they occupied the same space as tourbillon wristwatches do now.

Do you see any meaningful difference in accuracy from a high end lever of the same era?
 
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John Matthews

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Jon - what are the earliest references to 'half chronometers' you have found?

The earliest I have found is in the obituary of J R Lund HJ April 1869 ...

1663999504585.png


I infer it was possibly first used by Lund while experimenting with the compensated balance and that the only essential characteristic, when it was used originally, was an adjusted lever with compensated balance.

You say 'circa 1855' - what is the earliest documented references you have found in English and Swiss literature?

John
 

eri231

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In the late 1800's another protection scheme came into use. It is a device set up such that removing the balance cock releases a catch to lock the escape wheel. It is a king of spring with an end that blocks the escape wheel. The balance cock holds is down and away when it is in place.
The lever locks the escape wheel as soon as the balace bridge screw is loosened. they were built by Jaquet & Girard the raw movements were by Charles Hahn Landeron.
Regards enrico

DSCN2748.JPG
 

miguel angel cladera

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Jon - what are the earliest references to 'half chronometers' you have found?

The earliest I have found is in the obituary of J R Lund HJ April 1869 ...

View attachment 728095

I infer it was possibly first used by Lund while experimenting with the compensated balance and that the only essential characteristic, when it was used originally, was an adjusted lever with compensated balance.

You say 'circa 1855' - what is the earliest documented references you have found in English and Swiss literature?

John
How interesting John. This is the oldest reference I see to "half-chronometer". In the exhibition catalogue and in the transcript of the exhibition catalogue about Hutton it is not cited.


And here's a Hutton watch that would fit the description

 

John Matthews

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Miguel - the references you give are of interest to me, as I own a movement which is described as 'a chronometer watch' by the BM and 'Hutton's patent lever chronometer', in Graces Guide extract.

The movement is actually John Hutton's improved Savage 2-pin.

'Rare Savage 2-pin detached lever escapement jewelled in all its actions, the impulse/safety slot cut into a solid disc of pale pink ruby jewel with a wide flat jewel acting with the fork, all supported on a thinner than usual steel roller. Compensation balance, spiral balance-spring with overcoil.' (David Penney)

John Hutton, Commercial Road East, London, Patent 11,247, October 1846, an extensive eight part document, the fourth part of which relates to his improvement of the Savage 2-pin escapement in which all the actions are jewelled. Examples are truly very rare, this (209) being one of around five known, one of which, signed for Hutton, was owned by Courtney Ilbert and is now at the British Museum - item: 1958,1201,1021. This example, signed for Murray, was once in the Vaudrey Mercer collection. - (David Penney)


This is another example of the use of the word 'chronometer' which is not consistent with the normally accepted English usage, that being a movement with a detent escapement.

20210715 001.jpg 20210715 002.jpg 06.jpg DSCF8731.JPG

Lever & escape by Graham Morse.

John
 

miguel angel cladera

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I increasingly like the idea that the term "Half-Chronometer" in England comes from this type of watch and not from the Swiss mode of a watch that did not pass the tests in an observatory.
 

John Matthews

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I did a search for 'half chronometer' in the HJ and found a number of relevant articles as to the usage of 'chronometer', as it relates to the accuracy of time measurement and dependency/ independency of escapement type.

This from December 1884 ...

1664022376518.png
1664022401839.png

and more recently from June 2012 some extracts from Meijden's paper 'To Be or Not To Be - a IWC Pocket Watch Chronometer (that is the question).

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John
 

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