- Museum number
Chronometer watch with presentation case.
Spring detent escapement; tourbillon.
Enamel dial with thermometric scale.
- Production date
- 1836 (case)
Height: 34 millimetres
Length: 147.50 millimetres (presentation case)
Width: 86 millimetres
- Curator's comments
Text from 'Watches', by David Thompson, London, 2008, p. 118-119.
Hunt & Roskell
GOLD CASED POCKET CHRONOMETER
At times even the finest watch presents problems in attribution and the perceived knowledge does not quite add up. This piece raises just such a problem. In the horological sense it is a spectacular example of the chronometer maker's art in the nineteenth century. At first glance one would assume that the watch was made by the company whose name appears on the back plate of the movement and on the engraved dome of the case: Hunt & Roskell of 156 New Bond Street, London. However, things are not as they seem. First, in line with established practice, the beautifully made 18-carat-gold case is punched with the maker's mark 'PM', that of Philibert Matthey, a watch-case maker of 5 Easton Street, Spafields, whose mark was registered at Goldsmiths' Hall in November 1831. In 1836, when he made this case, Matthey moved to 5 Baker Street, Clerkenwell, and registered a new mark.
There is a full set of London hallmarks for 1836 and this, together with the maker's mark, presents a problem. In that year, according to the latest research and documentation of Hunt & Roskell, a company of that name did not exist. Extensive research by John Culme provides a detailed account of the firm's development. It shows that the company was founded in 1792 by the celebrated goldsmith Paul Storr, who went into partnership with John Mortimer as 'Storr & Mortimer, Goldsmiths and Jewellers to Her Majesty' between 1822 and 1839. In 1826 Storr's nephew, John Samuel Hunt, joined the firm. Storr retired in 1838, his place was taken by John Hunt junior and the firm traded as Mortimer & Hunt until Mortimer's retirement in 1843, at which time Robert Roskell joined the firm. Only then did the name become 'Hunt & Roskell'. Thus a watch dating from 1836 should be signed 'Mortimer & Hunt'. It can only be assumed that this watch was at least seven years old when it was acquired by the firm and engraved and gilded ready for retail.
The movement is a spectacular tour de force of the watchmaker's art. It is a superb example of a pocket chronometer with a spring-detent escapement mounted in a revolving tourbillon carriage, a device invented by Abraham Louis Breguet to even out positional errors by constantly revolving the escapement and the balance to regulate the varying gravitational effects caused by the watch being in differing positions. Another rare feature of the watch is the spherical balance spring, an invention of Jacques-Frédéric Houriet in Le Locle, Switzerland.
The high-quality white enamel dial has minutes around the outside and subsidiary dials for hours on the right and seconds on the left. The sector at the bottom is a thermometer calibrated in Fahrenheit and Réaumur. This watch is one of a small group of tourbillon watches related to Jacques-Frédéric Houriet in Le Locle. In 'Das Tourbillon' Reinhard Meis illustrates one unsigned example from a private collection, which is similar in all respects to this watch. He shows a second example signed 'Urban Jürgensen Sonner', which is dated to about 1830; a third is inscribed 'Fc Ls Favre-Bulle au Lock' and dates to about 1820.
Fourthly, there is a watch signed on the dial 'Du Bois et Comp.', with a movement stamped 'FH88', a mark ascribed to Jacques-Frédéric Houriet. Each of these watches has a Réaumur thermometer and a tourbillon of similar design. The marked similarity between them all underlines the probability that the Hunt & Roskell watch here was, like the others, made by Houriet in Le Locle. Houriet was part of the company of Courvoisier & Houriet and died in 1830. He was a remarkably skilled watch- and chronometer maker who, during the French Revolution, had worked with the exiled Abraham Louis Breguet in Le Locle. In 1853 Pierre Dubois recalled that Houriet continued to make chronometers from his retirement in 1818 until his death in 1830 at the age of eighty-five.
Comment from Anthony G. Randall and Richard Good, Catalogue of Watches in the British Museum. Vol. VI (1990)
Made by Hunt and Roskell, 1836
Signature: On the back plate 'Hunt & Roskell 156 New Bond Street LONDON No 10514'.
Case: Gold open face, with the London hallmark for 1836 and the maker's mark P.M. Solid pendant without push-piece also with 18-carat mark, no fly springs. The middle decorated with reeding, the glazed bezel, cuvette and back hinged to the middle. The back marked as the back plate. Blocks fitted in the middle for the case screws to purchase on. Diam. 58.7 mm, h. over the glass 20.4 mm.
Dial and hands: Flat enamel dial attached to the front plate by two feet and screws on the inside of the plate. Central minute hand, with subsidiary seconds and hours on the upper left- and right-hand sides of the dial respectively. Thermometer graduated in the Fahrenheit and Reaumur scales of temperature in the bottom half. The glass is recessed in the middle on the inside, over the centre arbor.
Blued steel hands with crescent tails.
Front plate diam. 53.3 mm; back plate diam. 49.7 mm; frame h. 12.2 mm.
Frame: Three-quarter plate with three tapered turned pillars, the back plate retained by blued steel screws. The movement retained in its case by a positioning peg and three large polished steel dog screws. A chain guard fitted between the tourbillon carriage and the barrel, screwed to the underside of the back plate. The tourbillon carriage support at the top, a cock. Another cock carries the upper fusee bearing.
Fusee: Keywind fusee with continental stop-work and Harrison maintaining power. The maintaining ratchet wheel steel, the maintaining detent polished steel and pivoted in the frame, the return spring a piece of steel wire set in a screw and pointing down from the top plate. The setting-up-work mounted on the back plate, both ratchet and wheel polished steel, the ratchet held by a shoulder screw. The barrel arbor squared on one end only. The mainspring hooked to a brass peg in the barrel wall and with a steel bride lodged in the cover and bottom of the barrel. The very fine blued mainspring, signed 'Bandelien Frères', showing little sign of wear. The barrel fitted with the cover towards the front plate.
Going train: Well-made train with gilded brass wheels and polished pinions, arbors and pivots, arranged for the com¬paratively high count of 21,600 beats per hour. The fixed fourth wheel held by three screws. A brake operated by a push-piece near the pendant acts on the rim of the third wheel.
Jewelling: The pivots of the centre, third, tourbillon and escapement arbors in rubbed-in pierced jewels of a whitish pink colour. The escape pinion arbor and balance staff with endstones.
Tourbillon : The carriage revolves once per minute and is driven by the third wheel, acting on the fourth pinion fixed to the bottom of the tourbillon frame. The fixed fourth wheel concentric with the carriage meshes with the escape pinion. The steel carriage frame is built up on a pierced plate with two wide pillars of flat section supporting a single member across the top with a raised portion for the upper pivot, the upper balance pivot bearing and to carry the balance spring stud. The entire frame, the cocks for the escape wheel bearings and the detent mounting are finished with an almost blemish free mirror black polish. This includes the underneath of the carriage, the inside surfaces of the pillars, and all the bevelled edges on the upper surfaces, a truly marvellous feat of craftsmanship.
Escapement: Spring detent escapement of Earnshaw type. The gold escape wheel recessed on the underside leaving only the teeth the full thickness. The tooth form similar to that used by Earnshaw. The detent with pierced return spring, half-round locking jewel, and gold passing spring pinned in a block on the detent. The passing spring thinned near its pinning point. The detent foot planted on or near to a tangent to the locked wheel tooth. The polished steel impulse and discharge rollers both jewelled. The impulse pallet leaning towards a radial from the roller centre to the tip, so that the leading edge of an escape wheel tooth and the impulse surface of the pallet lie on a straight line, or nearly so, at the beginning of impulse. The impulse roller with poising holes drilled opposite the pallet. Banking for the detent provided by a steel piece with an adjusting screw forming part of the detent mounting, itself screwed to the frame. The detent positioned by a friction-tight adjustable dovetailed tongue.
Balance: Bimetallic two-armed balance with gilded brass segment weights, the rims graduated with a series of dots. The movement of the free ends of the rims limited by gold nuts on threaded studs passing through clearance holes for the threads in the rims into gold blocks screwed to the ends of the balance arms. Gold timing screws at the ends of the arms passing through the rims into the same gold blocks. Screws in the side of the segment weights for fine adjustment of the compensation. Diam. of rim 18.7 mm, h. 2.02 mm.
Balance spring: Blued steel spherical balance spring, free sprung to a stud fixed to the upper frame member of the carriage.
Thermometer: Rack and pinion with spiral return spring operated by a u-shaped bimetallic strip. Compare with the similar metallic thermometer signed 'Urban Jürgensen Invenit et Fecit'.
Great wheel (fusee) 70 teeth
Centre pinion 14 leaves, wheel 80 teeth, 6 arms
Third pinion 10 leaves, wheel 75 teeth, 5 arms
Fourth pinion 10 leaves, wheel 72 teeth
Escape pinion 6 leaves, wheel 15 teeth, 4 arms
Beats per hour: 21,600
Cannon pinion 12 leaves, minute pinion 10 leaves
Hour wheel 40 teeth, minute wheel 36 teeth
Provenance: Ilbert Collection; purchased by Ilbert from Webster in 1930.
The movement at least of this watch was made in Switzerland. Alfred Chapuis (see Bibliography), illustrates a similar watch signed Du Bois et Cie, which he attributes to J. F. Houriet (1743-1830) in about 1820. Houriet invented the spherical balance spring to reduce the effects of any decentralisation of the spring. He would have been 77 in 1820.
Another similar watch in the museum of Le Chaux-de-Fonds, but having concentric central minute and hour hands, is signed 'Frédéric Louis Favre-Bulle' who lived from 1770 to 1849. In the same museum there is also another example with a similar dial arrangement to that illustrated here, but with the seconds and hour subsidiary dials interchanged. It is signed on the dial only 'Urban Jurgensens Sönner', and dated about 1810.
Bibliography: Alfred Chapuis, 'Les Grands Artisans de la Chronométrie', Neuchâtel, 1958.
- On display (G39/dc14/no62)
- Latest: 4 (2016) dusty, some inactive rust on balance
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Previous owner/ex-collection number: CAI.0299 (Ilbert Collection)
Previous owner/ex-collection number: H33 (Ilbert Ledger)