Waltham 8-Day Chronometer Watches Mysteries

KipW

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I have a traditional Marine Chronometer as well as what is likely the best mechanical chronometer ever, a Hamilton Model 22 (complete with interesting history and provenance) but it's the Waltham that fascinates me most. I think that's because there is surprisingly little detailed information on them. On the other hand, there are lots of little mysteries surrounding them. In my small collection of four - two "born" and two "drafted" (as Tom McIntyre puts it) ranging from 1910 to 1940 - I notice differences that are intriguing.



(#18072577) is a private label Bigelow Kennard travel clock listed in the Gray Book as "chrono" grade dating to 1910. This one has (what might be the definitive "born" feature) a diamond end stone, but oddly no micrometer regulator. It also features screw set jewels, which must be an early arrangement that was soon discontinued. Does anyone know the details about this?



(#19042611) is a "born" boxed/gimbaled Crono and dates to 1913. This one has the later jewel setting, and the typical micro regulator, but sports an actual 8-day wind indicator rather than the red dot type. Does anyone know why the two types and when the graduated wind indicators were used - then discontinued? Was this an "intermittent" feature for all "chrono" grades or was it exclusive to the navy or what?



(#17835612) is the most intriguing because this old timer from 1910 appears to be a "drafted" conversion done during WWII, and has an added Hamilton 992B-style micro regulator, lives in a gimballed tub but has no box. It is simply attached to a homemade board mount and also dates to 1913, but obviously was not "Chrono" grade when new. I strongly suspect this was one of many privately owned 8-day watches converted for war demands. The fact that it was probably 30 years old at the time sure seems to underscore how critical the need was then. I wish this one could talk, it has to tell quite a story.



(#30629169) the least "equipped" and plainest, is the "drafted" conversion of a 9-jewel grade 809, with "Correlator/Conel" balance and hairspring. Likely a Roth Brothers conversion, there are beefy extra jewels to make the 15, and only a seconds hand on the dial, yet as Tom McIntyre implied in "From War To Boudoir" the time keeping is on par with my Hammy 22, and both (currently) do better than the Kirov 6MX sitting next to them.



I guess, getting right down to it, I'd like more history and information on the Walthams because as good as the Hamilton 22 is when you've seen one, you've seen them all... unchanged except for a winder mod (and dial lettering) throughout its production. IMO, traditional Marine Chronometers are frankly arcane and the Hamilton 21 with its 472 production changes is just too highly rated and spendy.

Harrison's success came in the form of a large watch and to my mind Waltham's 8-day stems from the same logic and that logic culminated in the brilliant Hamilton 22. The Waltham just winds up being the most entertaining and affordable of them all.

BTW - the internet archive has a downloadable public domain booklet "A New Chronometer" comparing traditional chronometers to the (then) new Waltham 8-day chronometer. Guess which one loses? Good read no matter what and highly recommended!
 
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wisty

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I am not a watch expert, but I have one of the drafted watches that you are referring to.

Waltham Box 1.jpg Waltham Gimbels.jpg Waltham Movement.jpg waltham Balance 2.jpg
The movement is marked Waltham Watch Co 8 Days 15 Jewels Adjusted and has serial no 17793000 (all these markings look like machine engravings or are punched). The serial no places manufacturing in 1908 or 09. The case has lugs on the back ( just visible in the 3rd photo) which suggests it was originally a car watch for dashboard mounting.
The balance wheel is split, compensated and has 16 adjusting screws around the periphery.
It has a red dot style wind indicator and is mounted in a gimballed bowl with a screw down glass front. This is installed in a small 3 layer chronometer box.
The dial has had the numbers NW205 and a British military arrow hand painted on. The screw on watch back, movement, brass bowl and an ivory (?) plaque on the centre section of the box are all marked NW 205 and have the British military arrow mark. The watch back and the case plaque are also marked CW. All these marks have been hand engraved.
I had a long discussion on a clocks newsgroup (some 20+years ago) with a number of people and the conclusions was that it was a re-casing (drafting in your terms) of a (much) older watch, and that the conversion was probably done during the second world war.
[Sorry about the quality of the photo's - they were taken at the time of the discussion and I have had no reason to update them.]
 

KipW

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I am not a watch expert, but I have one of the drafted watches that you are referring to.

View attachment 720514 View attachment 720515 View attachment 720516 View attachment 720517
The movement is marked Waltham Watch Co 8 Days 15 Jewels Adjusted and has serial no 17793000 (all these markings look like machine engravings or are punched). The serial no places manufacturing in 1908 or 09. The case has lugs on the back ( just visible in the 3rd photo) which suggests it was originally a car watch for dashboard mounting.
The balance wheel is split, compensated and has 16 adjusting screws around the periphery.
It has a red dot style wind indicator and is mounted in a gimballed bowl with a screw down glass front. This is installed in a small 3 layer chronometer box.
The dial has had the numbers NW205 and a British military arrow hand painted on. The screw on watch back, movement, brass bowl and an ivory (?) plaque on the centre section of the box are all marked NW 205 and have the British military arrow mark. The watch back and the case plaque are also marked CW. All these marks have been hand engraved.
I had a long discussion on a clocks newsgroup (some 20+years ago) with a number of people and the conclusions was that it was a re-casing (drafting in your terms) of a (much) older watch, and that the conversion was probably done during the second world war.
[Sorry about the quality of the photo's - they were taken at the time of the discussion and I have had no reason to update them.]
 

KipW

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Wisty, you have one of those "interesting" 8-day Walthams I like so much. I looked up the serial number on Pocketwatch Database and it comes up as a 1910 model made in 1910. Most of what I read and have learned about these watches runs to descriptive terms like "workhorse" and "versatile", which is exactly what they are! Used for more applications than any other movement, including deck watch chronometers. One of my many curiosities about them is what exactly makes the chronometer grade. The markings and details can be very similar between a "born" chrono and "draft" ones. Since unlike a railroad watch they do not need to be adjusted to positions, I wonder if the true difference in these 15 jewel watches has to do with the diamond end stone, the micrometer/whiplash regulator and the graduated wind indicator typically used on chrono grades (although not exclusively it seems). Also, I don't think there was a chrono grade, as such, on any of the 809 watches, once the conel/correlator balance was used. The bottom line, is these 8-day Walthams hold a place in history as the first American chronometers and hold their own as timekeepers. After all, the term chronometer really means accurate timekeeper, nothing more. As far as I can tell, the traditional marine chronometer with spring detent escapement is a better rate keeper than timekeeper. Since most collectors aren't going to sea for months with them these days, to me they have become curious, entertaining anachronisms. I'm glad I have one, but won't be looking for any more of them. Whereas the Waltham 8-day is a watch to watch!
 

KipW

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Wisty, I forgot to mention something you probably already knew. Your W8D was issued to the British navy at some point, hence the so-called "broad arrow" markings.
 

KipW

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This is perhaps the hardest version of a W8D Chronometer to find. Produced in 1940, it is a 15-jewel model 1926, with sub-seconds hand, conel hairspring, and correlator balance, which was converted to chronometer status (drafted) for duty in WWII by adding a whiplash micrometer regulator and possibly the sub-seconds hand. There may be thousands still out there, but I've not seen another for some time. Most late production conel/correlator W8D's do not have sub-seconds hands (or wind indicators) for some reason? If anyone has a late boxed conversion Chronometer like this, especially if has a wind indicator, I'd sure like to see it.

s-l1600 (1).jpg s-l1600 (4)-.jpg s-l1600 (6)--.jpg s-l1600.jpg
 

KipW

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Ads for the Waltham 8-day chronometer circa WWI, although one dates to 1920. To me, it is weird that even Whitney glosses over the FACT that Waltham, not Hamilton, was the first to produce chronometers in America. Like it or not, American know-how and willingness to go a different way, by both companies, resulted in better, simpler, more durable and equally accurate timekeepers for marine navigation. Innovation, not tradition was the way forward to meet wartime needs.

The Genius Of Waltham 1920.png Waltham Box Chronometer Shortage Ad 1917.png zwaltcw.jpg
 

Jerry Treiman

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Ads for the Waltham 8-day chronometer circa WWI, although one dates to 1920. To me, it is weird that even Whitney glosses over the FACT that Waltham, not Hamilton, was the first to produce chronometers in America. Like it or not, American know-how and willingness to go a different way, by both companies, resulted in better, simpler, more durable and equally accurate timekeepers for marine navigation. Innovation, not tradition was the way forward to meet wartime needs.

View attachment 720947 View attachment 720948 View attachment 720949
We l l l l l l....., there are "chronometers" and there are Chronometers! Although Waltham may have called it a chronometer it still had a basic jeweled lever escapement. It served a purpose in times of need, but it is not a timepiece with a detent chronometer escapement like Hamilton made for WW2.
 
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KipW

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We l l l l l l....., there are "chronometers" and there are Chronometers! Although Waltham may have called it a chronometer it still had a basic jeweled lever escapement. It served a purpose in times of need, but it is not a timepiece with a detent chronometer escapement like Hamilton made for WW2.
 

KipW

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I get that. But, I would argue that the archaic use of the detent and fusee does not automatically make a superior tool for the job. Especially, when you imagine what happens to reliable running let alone timekeeping if you remove the "crutch" of gimbal mounting for fussy "Chronometers". (So fussy, in fact, that it was a reason to require several on large vessels.)

Hamilton made the best " Chronometer" of all time, but only by changing the traditional balance to something they knew would work better. Innovation!

There are indications that Hamilton would rather have ignored the conventional design altogether, in favor of their Model 22, which - SURPRISE! - uses a lever escapement. The Waltham 8D and the Hamilton M22 also virtually eliminate the need for an experienced "springer", to perform all the tedious adjustments required to bring a Chronometer to a decent rate. That in itself was a major bottleneck "in times of need".

All I'm saying is, that the points made in "A New Chronometer" (post #2) are valid, and enough to make me respect and appreciate lever chronometers (especially those with monometallic balances) more than detent Chronometers.
 

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