Chronometry: Parkinson & Frodsham cosmetic renewal?

Discussion in 'Chronometers' started by artbissell, Jan 3, 2016.

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  1. artbissell

    artbissell Registered User
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    #1 artbissell, Jan 3, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2016
    Member Dave Cooper did his usual thorough and high quality magic on an old tired 1811 J&P. polished and reblued everything in addition to fine service work. He left unoriginal American style old gimbal box used during WW2 unimproved. Is it usual, unlike with other kinds of old relic antiques, to prefer new finish appearance to nicely aged? I prefer the renewed finish. artbissell

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  2. Paul Regan

    Paul Regan Registered User

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    Art, I'm with you on having the movement looking as good as it can be!
     
  3. doug sinclair

    doug sinclair Registered User

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    Beautiful to be sure. One thing I always wonder about with plates that might have been gilded when the instrument was produced. Over time, the gilding does begin to appear a bit tired. The process involved of bringing back the original lustre is what concerns me. Buffing? Removed the gilding. Electroplating? I doubt that could match the original gilded colour and lustre. Non-destructive chemical cleaning of the surface without disturbing the gilding? I don't know how that could be done. Re-gilding? Maybe! Media-blasting with, for example, walnut shells? Removing the gilding. The old adage,"don't do anything that can't be undone" seems to apply.
     
  4. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi Art,

    This is a very contentious subject that you've raised, and I don't believe that there's a single rule which can be applied to determine the best approach. Academic horology has for a considerable period been heavily in favour of conservation in preference to restoration, and this attitude is permeating through to more and more repairers, (I speak of the UK and Europe here, having no experience of other countries apart from what I see on this board).

    I must not generalise, because every piece that crosses the bench must be assessed as an individual project, and there are multiple factors to be taken into account; apart from the obvious ones such as age, technical significance, maker and aesthetic qualities, (and that last is another minefield in its own right!), and not least, the owner's opinions and demands, how much weight should be given to provenance? Is an otherwise unexceptional piece which can be proven to have belonged to some significant or famous person to be treated any differently from an otherwise identical example without such a history?

    I suspect that most people here would agree that a timepiece should be in a condition to run, even if only occasionally, and function more or less as its makers intended, as a minimum. Then what is to be done if wear or damage prevents that; should all the faults be remedied with appropriate interventions to produce the desired result, thus "contaminating" the historical record, or should it be stabilised in its current state as a static and silent document?

    These considerations don't just apply to the Tompions and Mudges, they have to influence our treatment of every piece, however humble, over which we have temporary stewardship, and as long as we appreciate that, we can pass them on with as much of their history as possible.

    The quick answer to your question is therefore, "it all depends" . . .

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  5. artbissell

    artbissell Registered User
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    3 fine answers for my gray area question. Another is internal date hand scratched 1811 is lower than I see for other 2000+ serials. Maybe because other listed dates were for U.S. import times? artbissell

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  6. Tom McIntyre

    Tom McIntyre Technical Admin
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    I learned recently that when an auction house describes a piece as "fully restored" it means that anything goes to improve the likely sales price.

    To me the issue is the knowledge that may be lost due to the restoration. If there is extensive photography and description of the original state and documentation of each process applied to the material, I am fairly comfortable with cleaning up past sins against the piece. (That desire is, by the way, the basis for the rules around the Pritchard Prize awarded from time to time by the NAWCC.)

    However, if the piece is really rare and/or historically important, then I think the restoration should be much more gentle.

    Conservators would argue that any alteration that is not fully reversible should not be undertaken. The logic is that science may improve to the point that information that is not currently detectable may become so at some point in the future. That works well for furniture and artworks, but does not work so well for machinery where protective layers under the restorative layer are not really possible.

    In the case of timepieces, including chronometers, there must exist enough working examples and collectible items to ensure the continued interest of the public in such items. If that is not done, then the few pristine pieces disappear into collecting black holes and the remainder lose favor to the point they become historical debris. Museums help a lot in preserving interest in artifacts, but I believe collectors are also very important and probably necessary for the health of the subject.

    I doubt we will ever achieve consensus on this but it is nice to have the discussion with such a nice example.
     
  7. DeweyC

    DeweyC Registered User
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    Polished steel work and blued steel on chronometers is not cosmetic, it resists corrosion. It was/is considered the standard of service to include this work.

    As for fire gilding plates, no English chronometer maker I know did that. Nardin and some continental makers did; but not many. Brass only becomes an issue when someone handled the movement and the acid from their skin etched fingerprints onto the plates.

    While I can get the brown stains out, the permanent etching remains.
     
  8. Dr. Jon

    Dr. Jon Registered User
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    It is nice work. Chapter * had a great symposium at Harvard featuring John Losch who spoke on this subject. He said that when he started as conservator restorer for Harvard the director would have him look under parts to see th eorigianl finish and restore everything similar to that finish. Now they do not do it. Fashions change. For something like marine chronometer which had a long service life its owners may have had many things done to it and in my view that is part its history.

    One minor thing, my reading of the hand marks, the style and serial number and Mercer's book argue that the manufacture date for this beauty is about 1842 and the refurb about 1861, not 1811.
     
  9. artbissell

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    Good replies I agree with. art
     
  10. Dr. Jon

    Dr. Jon Registered User
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    Thanks, pardon my typo the symposium was done by NE Chapter #8 and they deserve a lot of credit for this.
     

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