A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Brendan Kinch
Date: 2012 Mar 3, 11:19 +0100
Further info on prices back then.....
In 1805 the British Admiralty planned conducting chronometer trials in order to ensure they got the best chronometers. The trials were to be split into two parts, first onshore (3 months) and the second part (having passed part 1) was to be on a serving ship (4 to 6 months).
The best chronometers, not varying more than 4 minutes (1 degree of longitude) over the 4 month sea trial were eligible for purchase at 100 guineas, those within 6 minutes; 80 guineas and those within 8 minutes; 60 guineas. (I see quoted that a long case clock at this time would have cost about 10 guineas, so you get an idea of just how costly these chronometers were).
As far as I know it was the predictable rate that was the important thing, i.e. that the error was constant (or nearly so) regardless of vessel movement, temperature and atmospheric pressure. The results of trials between 1844 and 1914 are available and the performance of the chronometers were noted by their 'trial number'. The record shows column 'a' as the difference in seconds between the greatest and least weekly rate during the trial and column 'b' shows the greatest difference between one week and the next. The trial number was calculated as: a + 2b
A glance through "The Ship's Chronometer" by Marvin E. Whitney would appear to confirm that this was the going price of chronometers in the USA up until the end of the century, when prices dropped significantly.
It should be remembered that the US had no indigenous chronometer makers in 1812, or for some time yet. It would be over 100 years before there was any substantial manufacture of chronometers in the US. Too, in 1812 the US was at war with their main source of chronometers, England, so there would have been a severe shortage of new chronometers.
Interestingly , what is widely recognised as the first chronometer made in the US was actually made in 1812, by William C. Bond. But it was really a demonstration piece as it was powered by a falling weight, so was not practical to take to sea. Why was it not powered by a main-spring? Because America could not make the steel necessary for a main-spring and parts like that came from England....
At 04:20 03/03/2012, you wrote:
Does the $ 400. price seem unreasonable/mistake? Chronometers were costly, but $400. in 1812 is a fortune. I must be missing something!
----- Original Message -----
From: Don Seltzer
Sent: Friday, March 02, 2012 8:32 PM
Subject: [NavList] Re: Help with London Chronometer maker
Thanks for the suggestion. I took another look at the receipt today, and the name is written in a flowing script. The first letter could conceivably be an H. The second still looks very much like a u, but it could be either careless writing or the writer simply misread the name on the chronometer.
Barring any other candidates, my guess is that you are correct; the maker was James Hatton.
[NavList] Re: Help with London Chronometer maker
From: Brendan Kinch
Date: 1 Mar 2012 09:02
One possible candidate maybe HATTON, James . Obviously that means that the second letter of the name is possibly in error also, either as it is written or read from the document.
It seems a good bet though as Tony Mercer in his book Â´Chronometer Makers of the WorldÂ´ lists some chronometer numbers for Hatton very close to one you have quoted (e.g. 309, 311, 319, 324.....these were all 8 day chronometers) and 1812 as the year for these.
He does however mention the name Hutton several times - each though somewhat later than 1812.
I have just recently taken an interest in chronometers.....perhaps someone else on list has more definitive information.
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