REVIEW: Sauer - Time at Sea - Chronometers and their Creators

  • Thread starter Fortunat Mueller-Maerki
  • Start date

Fortunat Mueller-Maerki

NAWCC Star Fellow
NAWCC Fellow
NAWCC Life Member
Sep 23, 2001
The following bookreview was first published in the
September 2013 Issue of
The Journal of the Antiquarian Horological Society and is reprinted here with their kind permission

Bookreview by Fortunat Mueller-Maerki

A History of the Marine Chronometer - Written for a Readership Beyond Horologists

Time at Sea – Chronometers and their Creators: Three Centuries of Cutting Edge Technology, by Dr. Albrecht Sauer, translated into English by Paul McColgan, designed by Peter Gössel. Published 2012 as a fully bilingual German/English book by Deutsches Schifffahrts Museum, Bremen (Germany); [German title: Zeit und See: Chronometer und ihre Schöpfer – High-Tech aus drei Jahrhunderten]. Catalog of a temporary exhibition (6.Mai – 25. November 2012) at the German Maritime Museum, Bremen. ISBN 978-3-86927-009-8. Paperback, 136 pages, 21 x 21 cm, 182 color illustrations. Six QR-Codes in the text leading to online videos. Available through for Euros 20 plus shipping.

Enthusiasts of marine chronometers have been blessed with a wide choice of excellent publications. Beyond the classic text by Gould (1923, recently republished in a much lauded updated and expanded edition by Jonathan Betts), there are the major encyclopedic books by Mercer (1991), von Bertele (1991) and Whitney (1985), in addition to more country or maker specific books by Mercer (UK), Bot (France), Parvoulesco (France), Nardin/Fallet (Switzerland) and Oestmann (Germany). All these books are well worth reading, as they were authored by knowledgable eminent horologists.

The book under review is just as good and thorough, but it approaches the she subject from a slightly different perspective, as it is written by a scholar of maritime history and outlines the history of marine timekeeping - which is fundamentally a history of technology subject - from a historic and socio-economic point of view. In the opinion of this reviewer this makes the new book probably the best book available on marine timekeepers for any reader that is not primarily a horologist.

The book was produced as the “catalog” of widely acclaimed temporary exhibit held for most of 2012 at the Museum of Maritime History in Bremen (Germany), but the publication does not feel like or read like a catalog at all. It also is a fully bilingual publication, with all text (including image captions) appearing both in German and in English. The exhibit was structured into 24 subjects, (probably representing 24 exhibit sections or showcases), and the book follows that setup, resulting in 24 chapters (of varying length, 1 to 6 pages), mirroring the 24 hour clock used for navigation.

As the book contains 182 color illustrations of objects or documents (many of them full page), it follows that the text is relatively sparse. But like any well thought through and carefully presented exhibition, the book tells a captivating, interesting and coherent story as much through the objects shown as through the text.

The following list of chapter titles summarizes the contents:

I – Solar time
II – Time Zones
III – Observatories and Precision Regulators
IV – Time and Longitude
V – Time and Celestial Navigation
VI – Losses at Sea caused by Miscalculation of Longitude
VII – The Longitude Prize
VIII – Celestial Timekeeping
IX – Scholars View on Mechanical Timepieces
X – Technical Obstacles for Mechanical Timepieces
IX – The [Chronometer] Escapement
XII – Chronometer Pioneers in England and France [Chapter ‘12’: the ‘High Noon’
and centerpiece of Chronometric history.]
XIII – The First Chronometers in Germany
XIV – Manufacture
XV – Transfer of [Chronometric] Knowhow to Germany
XVI – Centers of Chronometer Production
XVII – Regional Chronometer Makers
XVIII – Chronometer Reliability
XIX – Time Transmission and Timeballs
XX – Use at Sea
XXI – The Standardized Chronometer [The ‘Deutsche Einheitschronometer’]
XXII – Radio Transmission
XXIII – Quartz Timepieces
XXIV – Global Positioning System

The book also contains modern high-tech links to half a dozen videos by including scanable QR-Codes that allow the reader to view animations and videos of some of the illustrated objects on their smartphones.

While the book was obviously originally created as a companion and souvenir piece for visitors to the 2012 exhibit in Bremen, it is much more than that. It is a concise, well done (although somewhat germano-centric) history of the marine chronometer and its place in the history of both navigation and horology, that offers the serious chronometer enthusiast visual access to instruments not commonly found in other publications on the subject.

This reviewer lauds the decision of the Deutsches Schiffahrtsmuseum to produce a fully bi-lingual German/English book, making this interesting temporary exhibit accessible at a reasonable price to chronometer lovers around the world for generations to come.

Fortunat Mueller-Maerki, Sussex NJ USA 22 July 2012


Last edited by a moderator:

Dr. Jon

NAWCC Member
Dec 14, 2001
New Hampshire
I just tried ot order it from your link and they replied that they will not ship to my address. Do you know what is going on there?


NAWCC Member
Aug 6, 2006
Do you have an account in Germany? I tried to use my login from the uk to no avail. The book is not recognised by Amazon UK.


Dr. Jon

NAWCC Member
Dec 14, 2001
New Hampshire
I too tried several Amazons and only the German one has the book. I have ordered successfully from the US, Canadian, and German Amazons in the past and have not had problems before this time. All of them recognize my US login credentials.


Registered User
Apr 25, 2008
0 is not the actual seller; it appears that the publisher is selling as an Amazon affiliate (whatever you call it) and performing the shipping themselves. However, they ship only within Germany; going to the publishers website and running through the check-out process ends in the same frustration as on; you can try yourself at:

However, I did find the following through "":

Sadly, shipping is more than the book ($30 to the US, according to bookfinder); I didn't go through the check-out process myself to see if there is a cheaper alternative.

Forum statistics

Latest member
Encyclopedia Pages
Total wiki contributions
Last page
Hard Life for Wristwatches by Roy Gardner