Marine: Questions on early chronometer watches

Discussion in 'Chronometers' started by nomorewatch, Apr 23, 2013.

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  1. nomorewatch

    nomorewatch Registered User

    Aug 2, 2012
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    1. What was the earliest successfully designed and manufactured chronometer watch? is it in any museum or in private collection?

    2. How many Harrison's H4 and H5 were produced in total? is any of these masterpieces in the market?

    3. what was the earliest successfully designed and mass-produced chronometer watch? are they collectible and affordable?

    4. How many chronometer watches are considered historically important? How and why they are important?

    5. How many types of escapements were used on those historically important watches? which one is the most commonly-seen among them?

    6. If I start being interested in early chronometer watches(before the mass-production period), which one you would recommend me to study, purchase and collect?
     
  2. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Depends on how you define the term "chronometer"; strictly speaking, I'd only use it for a spring or pivoted detent escapement, as developed in the UK by Arnold and Earnshaw, and in France by leRoy amongst others, and is present in marine timekeepers, but it's subsequently come to be applied to any particularly accurate watch, especially now with the Swiss COSC certification.

    Harrison only made H4 and H5, which are priceless museum pieces, but Larcum Kendall made a copy of H4, known as K1, which went with Captain Cook on his second and third voyages, and K2, another later copy, was with Captain Bligh on the Bounty.

    Try and get a look at Commander Rupert Gould's classic book, "The Marine Chronometer" for background and history.
     
  3. Roland Ranfft

    Roland Ranfft Registered User

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    Hi there,

    Probably a bit narrow: Harrison's No.1 is regarded as first marine cheronometer, and it has a verge escapement. The Harrison No.1 is actually the only "volume produced" model. One is in Greenwich, another (actually running copy) in Wuppertal, Germany. Two samples though, double as much as all other. :D

    Regards, Roland Ranfft
     
  4. Dr. Jon

    Dr. Jon Registered User
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    I have devoted a lot of tiem and effort to tracking down that question. Harrison's marine timekeepers were not properly called chronometers but marine time keepers. The term chronometer came into use a bit alter and shortly afterward came to mean a detent escapement with a freesprung balance.

    The earliest use of the term "Chronometer watch" dates to 1856 with a presentationof a timepeice so labeled by marine insurance underwriters, although John Hutton patented a "Chronometer Lever" based on a variant of the Savage lever in 1846.

    I have covered soem of this in an article I published last year in the Watch and Clock bulletin. If you can't access it PM me andI'll send you a PDF of the article.

    In the interim the Geneva Observatory started rating lever watches they called chronometers, to the fury of the English, by the mid 1870's. I am still working on that.

    By about 1900 the Swiss observatories created a special class called Chronometer du Bord for large lever watches for navigation. These were for torpedo boats, which were small fast and had a very rough ride, judged to severe for traditional marine, detent chronometers.

    As a previous post shows the use of the term "chronometer watch" is still controversial.
     
  5. nomorewatch

    nomorewatch Registered User

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    Thanks for reminding me that the bulletin has tons of useful materials, but how can I search your articles? Please instruct me.

    BTW, what's your criteria of a "chronometer watch"?
     
  6. Dr. Jon

    Dr. Jon Registered User
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    #6 Dr. Jon, Apr 25, 2013
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2013
    My own definition is bit complex because it varied and I try to go with what was in place at the time. It is also a bit pedantic.

    I would call an English "half chronometer" watch presented by Insurance Underwriters a chronometer watch if it dated between about 1850 and 1900. English half chronometers from about 1850 to 1884 were usually free sprung lever watches of high quality sold by recognized chronometer makers. At least one example by Barraud and Lund was not freesprung but also fits that class. After 1884 the Kew tests are in place and I'd call any watch with a Kew Certificate a chronometer watch.

    I would also call any German, Swiss, French or other watch with an observatory rating, that is that passed observatory standards a chornometer watch provided I believe the markings. If it was made by a maker I consider reputable I believe the markings. Sometimes they are not marked but other sources show it had met observatory timing standards.

    I am out on a limb here, but I also accept "Demi and semi chronometers as chronometer watches, if made by good firms. Vacheron and Henri Capt are examples. I believe these in fact passed second or third class rating tests. I have not found any published article supporting this view but I have found lots of records of second and third class trials. Surprisingly the pass rates in the lower classes were about the same as for first class watches. I suspect that the term demi or semi was preferred for marketing over second or third class.

    For watches dated from about 1850 to about 1870 I consider these to be top grade. After that I have two higher ratings, competition watches and award winners. The major observatories gave prizes to top scoring watches which more than passed. These contests ran until 1972 when Seiko won everything and the Swiss stopped the trials. These are watches made to a very high standard and then worked on by "regleurs" very skilled specialists.

    I doubt any modern mechanical watch does any better than the last contest winners. They were trying to compete with quarts for accuracy and came fairly close. This was the era of the high beat watch 36,000 per hour. Many had lifetime problems but the survivors can be very good. Von Osterhausen in his book on wrist chronometers reported that a marker Girad Perragaux HF chronometer was one of the best performers in his trail when he compared 75 wrist chronometers. Since this thread is about pocket watches its a bit off topic but

    Today, a COSC rated watch is a chronometer watch to me. Its a fairly decent standard and one company cranks about about a million per of these per year and has for a long time so its no longer a particularly rare level of performance. Most very high end watches do considerably better. Thus the term chronometer watch is time based, if you pardon the pun. The term has lost a lot of cachet for modern watches. Modern chronometer watches are quite good and comparable in performance to the ones I prize but are not the product of small teams of very talented artisans.
     
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  7. tick talk

    tick talk Registered User

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    Hi Jon: can you please send me a copy of the article you wrote for the bulletin as mentioned in this post? LOL, your mailbox is full so my pm bounced! Re Swiss demi-chronometres, my apologies but I thought I'd already shared this info received from the Geneva observatory, which did the majority of V&C and Capt chronometer tests. Here is part of the communication from the managing director:

    Demi-chronomètre devrait être une montre qui ne respecte pas les tolérances du COSC. Pour autant que l’on ait toujours comme critères de jugement les considérations techniques. Il me semble que demi-chronomètre est plutôt une appellation commerciale non reliée à des considérations techniques. En souhaitant avoir répondu à votre question, recevez, Monsieur, mes meilleures salutations. B. Pernier

    My translation is that the Geneva Observatory did not use or grant a designation of demi-chronometre. Pernier send me a 2 pg. word doc that I've attached for your research. Cheers, Dean
     

    Attached Files:

  8. Tom McIntyre

    Tom McIntyre Technical Admin
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    I am pretty sure that H1 and all its descendents have a Grasshopper Escapement.

    H4 is technically a verge, but it is dead beat with curved diamond pallet surfaces so a bit beyond the common verge. The same mechanism is in H5, K1 and K2. The Mudge chronometers take this concept a step further and add a remontoire at the escapement to ensure constant force on the pallets.

    The dead beat verges and related frictional rest escapements are another interesting topic for discussion.
     
  9. Tom McIntyre

    Tom McIntyre Technical Admin
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    If you are logged on as an NAWCC Member you can use the Bulletin Quick Index.

    A search for chronometer returns 470 results.
     
  10. nomorewatch

    nomorewatch Registered User

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    After typing the word "skeletonized", 21 results showed up, when I clicked on the article number(which is also the only clickable item), it turns out to be a new blank page, what should I do?
     
  11. rmw

    rmw Registered User

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    The use of the word chronometer is subject to a certain amount of chauvinism. The English use it to mean a timekeeper with a detent escapement (other than the early attempts at longitude keepers, like H4 and H5, and the Kendall copies, and Mudge’s attempts to produced a timekeeper of similar accuracy). Once Earnshaw and Arnold had produced their detent escapements, Chronometer was only used for watches built on their principles. The Swiss on the other hand apply the term to accurate timekeepers of various sorts, but apply it to modern watches that have passed the COSC standard.

    I believe that the term half-chronometer and the like was really only a marketing tool. While usually applied to high-grade watches, there are plenty of watches better than those so designated which were sold simply as watches.

    To confuse the matter further the Royal Navy applied the term Chronometer Watch to high grade deck watches for some time (code HS1). These were often Swiss lever movements, no better than a Hamilton 22 (although that is saying quite a lot), and may have included Hamilton 22s, although I have only seen Nardins and V & Cs labelled in this way. In fact after WW2, the Royal Navy increasingly relied on good deck watches as the prime source of time at sea for calculating longitude, rather than the traditional chronometer.
     
  12. tick talk

    tick talk Registered User

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    Yes that is true, at least for V&C, regarding HS2 navigation watches. IIRC, HS1 was a box chronometer, while HS3 was an actual deck watch. FWIW, the Royal Navy had very strict standards and they did test those Swiss watches they labelled as chronometers. However, movements provided by V&C to the RN and Kriegsmarine were generally not Observatory-tested; such rating being left to the end-user. Exceptions would be when they dipped into their stores of Observatory movements from past years, which were cased and sold for navigation purposes due to the demands of war.
     
  13. Tom McIntyre

    Tom McIntyre Technical Admin
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    Each result is a record that describes an article reference using the glossary just above the search field. Clicking on the link will display the pdf file for the reference. Which of the references did you click? Do you have the Adobe pdf reader installed in your browser?

    Most of the hits reference article 372 which is from Bulletin Number 84 and is a 14 page article by Kalish with lots of references to skeletonized watches. Depending on your Internet connection a 14 page article could take a while to download.
     
  14. nomorewatch

    nomorewatch Registered User

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    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marine_chronometer
    do you think the wikipedia has a precise and brief definition and history of the chronometre watches?
     
  15. nomorewatch

    nomorewatch Registered User

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    yes, I have figured out the problem, but there are so many repeated results, how come?
     
  16. Dr. Jon

    Dr. Jon Registered User
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    I took a quick look at the Wikipedia article you referenced. It does not address this issue, which I see as terminology and its history of usage.

    To my knowledge Insurance Underwriters were the first to use the term to describe watches they gave to steam ship captains in appreciation of loss prevention by outstanding actions. The earliest exampel I know of took place in 1856, before certification of any kind existed. (At that time Greenwich conducted maring chronometer trials in which the score performance and the Admiralty bought in order for rating. If they needed 54 they bought the top 54. There were marine or box or detent chronometers. They were rated and scored but not certified. Everyone else took what was left .)

    The term came in more official use when the Greenwich observatory created a category by that name for torpedo boat watches. The same timepieces were called "Chronometres du Bord" by French speaking makers and the testing category was established at Neuchatel, Besancon, and Geneva.

    Torpedo boat watches are often called deck watches but that therm can also refer to comparing watches which are a lesser grade.
     
  17. rmw

    rmw Registered User

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    Certification may be a red herring. While Deck Watches may have been subject to testing, and certification at Kew and other places, you should remember that a true Deck Watch did not have to maintain its rate for any appreciable period for it to be perfectly serviceable. Its function was to show the time accurately on deck during astronomical observations. It would have been compared with the ship's chronometers immediately before and after this operation.

    Lever watches named, almost indiscriminately Deck Watches, Torpedo Watches, or even Chronometer Watches, which served in the place of traditional chronometers in smaller ships or when, for example during WW2 enough chronometers were not available, would have been supplied from store with a note of its rate ascertained during the watch's last service. I attach (I hope) a scan of part of a certificate issued in relation to a Hamilton model 22.

    View attachment IMG.pdf
     
  18. nomorewatch

    nomorewatch Registered User

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    those you mentioned seem to be very historically important, and they are probably above what I can afford or my ability of searching.

    still, thank you for everything
     
  19. Tom McIntyre

    Tom McIntyre Technical Admin
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    The list of references is determined by the people who created the index. If you provide a little more information you will usually get a shorter list. However, the search is not over the text in the documents, it is over the keyword strings that the indexers (people) created.

    All the records that have the same reference number on the left will return exactly the same document. The contents of the other fields are what the indexers entered for those fields.
     

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