Marine: Parkinson & Frodsham Chronometers

Discussion in 'Chronometers' started by Ddscott2004, Feb 28, 2015.

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  1. Ddscott2004

    Ddscott2004 Registered User

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    Greetings! This is my first post and probably in the wrong place. If so I apologize.

    I am curious to know if anyone out there knows what serial number Parkinson & Frodsham started with regarding production of their chronometers? The lowest I have found is 133 that was sold on an auction site. I would tend to think they might not start with 1. I have Mercers book but that does not provide much insight regarding my question. Any information will be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. Andy Dervan

    Andy Dervan Registered User
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    Hello,

    I doubt Parkinson & Frodsham would have actually made the chronometer; they would have purchased it from one of chronometer and had their name put on it.

    Smithsonian has a signed Parkinson & Frodsham chronometer sn # 2349 dated 1840.

    It also gave a short history of the company and listed four references:
    1. Gould, Rupert T. The Marine Chronometer. Essex: Holland Press, 1960. 2. Mercer, Tony. Chronometer Makers of the World. London: NAG Press, 1991. 3. Mercer, R. Vaudry. The Frodshams. The Story of a Family of Chronometer Makers. London: Antiquarian Horological Society monograph 21, 1981. 4. Whitney, Marvin,E. The Ship's Chronometer. Cincinnati: American Watchmakers Institute Press, 1985.
    Andy Dervan
     
  3. Audemars

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    You could ask Frodshams, they are still there in Bury Street in London.
    P
     
  4. MartyR

    MartyR Moderator
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    Frodsham in Bury Street is Charles Frodsham & Co. They had no connection to Parkinson & Frodsham except that the Frodsham in P&F (William James) was Charles' father. The two firms were always entirely separate, and in their day competitors!

    I can tell you that Charls Frodsham & Co have no records of P&F.
     
  5. MartyR

    MartyR Moderator
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    Do you have any particular reason for supposing this, Andy? Parkinson & Frodsham were each Freemen of the Clockmakers' Company, and the firm certainly employed apprentices and certainly made marine chronometers and (later) pocket watches. I would be astonished if they did not make chronometer #113; I would also be surprised if they bought in anything but the most specialised of components.
     
  6. Ddscott2004

    Ddscott2004 Registered User

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    Thanks to all for your input. I did query Frodsham's website and they mentioned they had no records of Parkinson & Frodsham. But, I shot them an email regardless.

    I will keep researching.:excited:
     
  7. Tom McIntyre

    Tom McIntyre Technical Admin
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    I agree that the almost certainly would have made an early piece themselves although by the mid century the would have been buying the equivalent of an ebauche and by the 1880's would have been buying from other makers.

    It is easy enough to check in Vaudrey Mercer's book on Frodsham that includes all the branches of the family.
     
  8. MartyR

    MartyR Moderator
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    Please let us know what you discover, DD :)

    Vaudrey Mercer's book "The Frodshams ..." tells us something about the firm and its co-founder William James Frodsham, but he says enough to make clear that they were a notable presence among several excellent English chronometer makers in their day. Mercer's book contains references to specific numbered chronometers which he happened to come across or which he found in records of the Admiralty and in Greenwich and Kew Observatories. The dating of manufacture of these chronometers is very unreliable, since I understand that P&F company records have been lost and hallmarks (where they exist) are unreliable because it is clear that many working chronometers were recased during their life. Both hallmarks and Admiralty records can give only the latest possible date of manufacture.

    The firm was founded in 1801 and from then until the 1840s it was hugely successful. W J Frodsham was elected Master of the Clockmakers Company in 1836 and again in 1837; before his death in 1850 he had passed the firm to two of his sons, George and William, who had worked for him. When George died in 1873 the firm passed to George's son George William, and the firm continued its 111 year line of Frodsham ownership until George William died in 1912 after which it continued to trade until 1947.

    Tony Mercer (grandson of the noted chronometer maker Thomas Mercer, but I have found no relationship between him and Vaudrey) wrote a book called "Chronometer Makers of the World" which has an extensive entry for Parkinson & Frodsham. This book does list many chronometers numbered between #259 dated 1819 and 7273 dated 1906, and Tony Merecer has adopted a more rigorous and technically oriented methodology for dating which I believe may be more reliable than Vaudrey's.

    Tony comments "Few makers started with No 1 as it was not impressive enough, and it was generally the very early makers such as Arnold and Thomas Earnshaw who used small numbers.

    Having said that, it is interesting to note that Tony identifies #259 as dating to 1819 and this chronometer is also identified by Vaudrey as having been placed on the Hecla for an exploratory expedition to find the North West Passage by Lt Parry in 1819. Further, Vaudrey identifies #228 as being on the Isabella for a prior expedition by Lt Parry in 1818.

    Given that the firm was founded in 1801, the dating of #228 and #259 suggests that if numbering had started at #1 then P&F would have been making an average of 15 marine chronometers a year in the first 18 years of their existence. From what Vaudrey tells us of the early years of the firm, their staffing consisted of William Parkinson and William James Frodsham (both watchmakers) plus six apprentices (four of whom were William's sons) although I doubt that all six apprentices would have been working for the whole period from 1801 to 1819. It would be interesting to hear from experts here whether or not such a staff group would be likely to produce 18 marine chronometers a year!
     
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  9. Ddscott2004

    Ddscott2004 Registered User

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    Hi Marty,

    Thanks for your informative reply. I received an email this morning from Frodshams. The gentleman, who was most kind, replied that they did not have any P&F records. However, he did mention that there is a record of a number 108 chronometer being purchased by the British Admiralty in 1843? That seems strange to me since by that time P&F chronometers were already numbered in the 2000s based on my research. He did refer me to a retired British Naval Commander who does volunteer work at the Greenwich Observatory and is quite a horologist in his own right. I have emailed him and hopefully he can enlighten me (us).

    Do you have the Vaudrey Mercer book? I'm thinking of buying it.

    Thanks
     
  10. Dr. Jon

    Dr. Jon Registered User
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    Tony Mercer's book shows #521 and then several in the 2000 range in 1841. This suggests that the 2000 and up were bought in and possible rated and touched up by the firm. Retailers often used several serial number sequences, some to identify them to their makers and some for internal coding.

    There is a small chance that the Parkinson and Frodsham records are at the Guildhall Library in London but chances are that if they were Vaudrey Mercer would have put that information in his book, unless they could not find it then but can now.
     
  11. Tom McIntyre

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    Vaudrey Mercer wrote three books covering Arnold, Frodsham and Dent. The Arnold and Dent books also have a supplement volume, They are all worthwhile but not an engrossing read. More than a compilation, but less than a novel. ;)

    I found several listed on AbeBooks but they are out of print and much more expensive than the original list price. Another author, Cedric Jagger wrote on the Barraud family in a similar fashion, but a bit better on the story side. That book was published as an original and supplement with the supplement being almost as many pages as the original.

    All 4 of these give a lots of insight into British Horology of the golden age.
     
  12. MartyR

    MartyR Moderator
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    #12 MartyR, Mar 2, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 31, 2017
    Your research is right. However there are many instances of the Admiralty buying a chronometer many years after it was manufactured. Chronometers were built to last then, and in the mid 1800s it would not surprise me if their supply fell well short of their demand. The British Navy was at its peak in the mid 1800s and expefitions were very popular. So it may be that #108 was an exceptionally good timepiece and the only one readily available in time for the sailing of a naval ship.

    That will be Jonathan Betts who is a hugely knowledgeable and exceptionally helpful man. He may (or may not!) support my supposition above ;)

    I do, in fact I have all three.

    I entirely agree with Tom's comments on the Frodsham book, although perhaps he is being typically kind :)

    The book is very well researched, and contains a regular goldmine of information. However it is exceptionally badly assembled which makes it firstly (as Tom said) extremely difficult to read coherently, and secondly very difficult to use as a reference source. What Mercer lacked was a good writer and a strong editor!

    Nevertheless it is the only game in town - it contains information which you just won't find elsewhere. You have to know that the book is primarily about Charles Frodsham - although many others of the family are discussed but relatively briefly.

    I paid £200 for the Frodsham book several years ago, and as a collector of Frodshams I consider that reasonable value, but I couldn't honestly recommend it as good value to anyone but a serious Charles Frodsham collector.
     
  13. MartyR

    MartyR Moderator
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    Ooops, I meant Cdr Peter Linstead-Smith, not Jonathan Betts ... although the comments I made apply equally to both :D
     
  14. Ddscott2004

    Ddscott2004 Registered User

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    Yes Marty that would be the gentleman he referred me to.

    It costs less to purchase that book from the UK than it does here in the USA. I will probably go ahead and buy it since, as you stated, its the only game in town.

    Here is a partial letter I ran across on the internet that I found very interesting involving Henry Frodsham and his Henry Frodsham No 1. You have probably already seen it. This may answer my question about starting with the number "1"??

    Thanks for all your help.

    Fordsham1.jpg
     
  15. Tom McIntyre

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    This is sort of an aside that you may find interesting. In the beginning of commercial chronometers, the battle for supremacy of design and quality was primarily between John Arnold and Thomas Earnshaw. Earnshaw was a skilled craftsman while Arnold was a personal friend of the king and a member of the gentry. Earnshaw felt that he was discriminated against and there was a conspiracy to give all the credit to Arnold. Several of the major makers did seem to favor Arnold but eventually Earnshaw's design won out. The Frodshams were among the few who supported Earnshaw in the beginning so Parkinson and Frodsham, G. E. Frodsham and the direct familty business line were in the "Earnshaw Camp."

    When John Arnold's son, John Roger Arnold, died Charles Frodsham who was the child "left out" of the family business but a respected maker, purchased the Arnold estate and adopted the name Arnold & Frodsham. This little marketing coup led to his name being the most prominent of the Frodsham names and his primary competition were the Dent family whose patriarch had been in a partnership with John Roger Arnold for ten years which ended a few years before John Roger's death.

    The current Frodsham firm purchased the assets of the Charles Frodsham business not that many years ago.

    I do not think Parkinson and Frodsham or G. E. Frodsham of Gracechurch Street were part of that deal.
     
  16. MartyR

    MartyR Moderator
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    There is a lot of interesting detail on Capt Parry in Vaudrey Mercer's book.

    The Captain Parry referred to in that letter was the Lt Parry who led an expeditionary voyage in 1818 (on behalf of the Admiralty) to discover the North West Passage on the Isabella carrying P&F's chronometer #228 and then a year later a further expedition on the Hecla carrying P&F's #259 in addition to #228 (both in the care of Lt Parry), plus a further two P&F chronometers #253 and #254 in the care of a Capt Sabine who was the expedition's Astronomer.

    In 1821 Capt Parry (he had been promoted!) led a third expedition on the Fury, accompanied by the Hecla, and now all four P&F chronometers used on the 1819 expedition were taken, plus a further two P&F chronometers #458 and #460. Further, two Arnold marine chronometers and two pocket were taken, plus two by other makers. The crucial role of chronometers in navigation is demonstrated by the fact that this expedition of just TWO ships carried no less than TEN chronometers.

    In 1824 Parry led a fourth expedition using Hecla and Fury. A total of at least FOURTEEN chronometers were carried, including P&F #228, #254 and #259 (again), plus the Henry Frodsham #1 which is referred to in your letter extract. As an interesting note, #259 which had been bought by the Admiralty is now recorded as belonging to Captain Parry. Other chronometers on all these voyages are shown as belonging to ships' captains, so it was obviously common practice for a Captain to purchase a favoured chronometer from the Admiralty.

    Henry Frodsham was William James' oldest son, born in 1802 and apprenticed to his father in 1823. That is unusually late, most boys being apprenticed at the age of 15; perhaps he had previously been apprenticed to another watchmaker? He made chronometer #1 just a year into his apprenticeship, and Mercer notes that this performed "as well as any of the others and was adopted as the Standard Chronometer". No doubt this was why Parry wished to acquire the chronometer on behalf of a colleague! Henry went on to run his father's business in Liverpool in 1831, and bought that business in 1834.

    Mercer also records a further single-ship expedition in 1824 which carried two P&F chronometers including W.E.Frodsham #1. This was William Edward, William James' second son born 1804 and also apprenticed to his father in 1823. He would have made this chronometer aged 19 or 20 in the first or second year of his apprenticeship.

    These two #1 chronometers tell us something important about "makers' signatures" during this period. Both were made under the auspices of P&F by their own apprentices, and they allowed the apprentices to sign them in their own names. Even allowing for the fact that the apprentices were the owner's sons, this seems commercially surprising. I recall having read that Edward Dent also signed some of his own work while he was apprenticed to Vulliamy, and si milarly Thomas Prest when he was employed by Arnold.
     
  17. Ddscott2004

    Ddscott2004 Registered User

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    Just received this last night. P&F #122. Purrs like a kitten so far...............
    03042015 006.jpg 03042015 008.jpg
     
  18. MartyR

    MartyR Moderator
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    Awww c'mon DD - no teases please ... post those movement photos pleeeease o:)
     
  19. Ddscott2004

    Ddscott2004 Registered User

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    P&Fmechanism.jpg

    I will get some closer ones later that can be enlarged. This old girl is running pretty fast. But at least she's running..................Nutjob
     
  20. Omexa

    Omexa Registered User
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    Hi Ddscott2004, what is the diameter of the back of movement? Regards Ray
     
  21. Ddscott2004

    Ddscott2004 Registered User

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    As requested. The diameter of the back of the movement is 2.45". The dial is 3.15".

    03052015 001.jpg 03052015 002.jpg
     
  22. Omexa

    Omexa Registered User
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    #22 Omexa, Mar 5, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2015
    Hi Ddscott2004, I wanted to compare the construction and size to my "Pocket Chronometer". My Chronometer is a little brother (diameter 48.50mm's) to your Chronometer. Regards Ray 8.jpg
     
  23. Ddscott2004

    Ddscott2004 Registered User

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    Very nice Ray
     
  24. Ddscott2004

    Ddscott2004 Registered User

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    Great information thanks MartyR. I located that book over in England cheaper than it is here in the USA. I believe it would be a nice addition to my small library.
     
  25. MartyR

    MartyR Moderator
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    Well found, DD :thumb: You will find most of the information I posted in here in Vaudrey Mercer's book, and after a while you will discover (as I did) the value of reassembling bits of information from various parts of the book to create new and more intelligible sub-sections :) The posts I amde here now appear in my digital sub-library, so that I can reference them in the future.
     
  26. artbissell

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    I have refused opportunity to buy a P&F that is in a double box smaller copy of the HAMILTON 21 two boxes. Mechanically fine with good original dial and original gimbal hardware. Small size compared to the 21. Should I reconsider since it is a chance to have an old apparently respected Brit chrono at 1/2 of Hamilton 21 value? artbissell
     
  27. Tom McIntyre

    Tom McIntyre Technical Admin
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    Small chronometers are much less common than the full size 56 hour variety. One of my favorites is my Barraud 8 day that is roughly the size of a 30 hour piece.

    A 30 hour chronometer is generally less desirable than a 56 hour piece, but everything depends on the individual item and its originality and condition.

    In equal condition, a Parkinson and Frodsham piece from 100 years earlier should be worth a bit more than a Hamilton 21.
     
  28. artbissell

    artbissell Registered User
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    TOM: Thanks for advice and encouragement. I will not hold you responsible for unlikely buyer's remorse. Dave Cooper is a probable backup buyer. Art
     
  29. artbissell

    artbissell Registered User
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    Dave bought it. He will properly renovate it and add new authentic boxes.
     
  30. Tom McIntyre

    Tom McIntyre Technical Admin
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    Art, you are off message. :)

    Dave only adds "original" boxes.
     
  31. artbissell

    artbissell Registered User
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    Yes, and his excellent source will have exactly original material and design info.
     
  32. artbissell

    artbissell Registered User
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    HOWEVER. DAVE found a service paper and decided to retain the American style boxes that were made for this old P&F use during WW2. art.
     

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