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spring-driven clock / marine chronometer / clock-case

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Marine chronometer; spring-driven; eight-day movement; powered by two separate mainsprings housed in single barrel; fusee with Harrison's maintaining power; Mudge's constant force escapement; temperature compensation achieved by use of two bimetallic strips; separate enamel dials: minutes of time and equivalent in degrees to left, hours of time and degrees to right, seconds to bottom, 'up-and-down' to top; difference between local time (established by observation) and Greenwich time (displayed by chronometer) gives longitude; octagonal mahogany box with glazed top, bottom and sides; outer octagonal mahogany box.


  • Producer name

  • Date

    • 1774
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 7.65 centimetres
    • Width: 13.25 centimetres
    • Depth: 13.25 centimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Position

      • Inscription Content

        Thos. Mudge Invt & Fect London
  • Curator's comments

    This object was also registered as CAI-1946 but is no longer used.Comment from Anthony G. Randall and Richard Good, Catalogue of Watches in the British Museum. Vol. VI (1990)

    Made by Thomas Mudge (c. 1715-14 Nov. 1794), 1771-1774

    Marine Timepiece

    Signature: On the back plate 'Thos Mudge Invt et fect London'.

    Box: The mahogany outer carrying box is octagonal with two brass handles on opposite sides. The bottom is a brass plate with an eccentric winding hole covered by a circular escutcheon plate. Carefully joined separately moulded side panels, three sections of these panels are hinged and can be swung aside to remove the inner box. The hinged section has a latch that fits the lock beneath the carrying handle. The side panels are lined inside with faded red velvet and padded.

    Inner box: In a letter to Count von Brühl dated 23 August 1774, Mudge states: 'I acknowledge it would have been better of brass. My only reason for making it of wood, was to save money, of which I have had, at no time, much to spare. '
    The octagonal inner box (containing movement) is composed of many pieces of mahogany carefully and exquisitely made with overlapped joints and is light, strong and remarkably dust tight. The middle section is reinforced with two brass rings inside, above and below the windows. The inside of the middle section is turned and painted blue. The top glass is surrounded by delicately turned mouldings. The two sections are hinged with a push-piece operated catch at the front.
    The catch has a downward-pointing tongue which engages with the catch and spring beneath the movement dial plate. The seven-knuckle hinge has a steel taper pin retained by brass screws.
    The glazed bottom is pierced by a large hole taking a partially gilded circular escutcheon plate with eccentric hole for the key. The escutcheon plate assembly is retained by three screws. Detachable glazed bottom retained by plate in middle section which fits slots in bottom opposite a catch. Catch has recess with square for key. Middle section into rebated groove in top and bottom. Box presumably octagonal so that machine may be tested in any of the eight vertical positions.
    Outer box: base 164mm across flats, sides 146 mm across flats. Inner box: base 132 mm across flats, top 127.5 mm across flats, sides 120.5 mm across flats.

    Dial and hands: Separate enamel dials show on left of centre minutes (in minutes of time and degrees) on right, hours (in hours and degrees) at top, reserve of going in days, and at the bottom, seconds. When the timekeeper is set to GMT then the time shown at local noon will indicate longitude.
    The round dials are retained by moulded brass rings and the reserve of going dial by a moulded sector, and these and the silver decorative pieces are secured by small screws from the back. All visible surfaces of the dial and the fixing pieces are gilded. No repairers' marks are to be found anywhere on the dial or its parts.
    Hands of blued steel.

    Dial plate 114.3 mm across the flats, 106.6 mm across the raised circular portion; front plate diam. 107.3 mm; back plate diam. 107.4 mm; frame h. 34.9 mm.

    Frame: Full plate construction with five turned, baluster shaped pillars, with square ends and riveted to the front plate. The dial plate is pinned to five short pillars also riveted to the bottom plate. The top or back plate, which is pinned to the pillars, carries another smaller bridge covering a large hole over the barrel. This small bridge carries the setting-up worm. The barrel is beneath a large hole but cannot be passed through it. Many of the smaller frame components are retained by brass screws. Pillars, main plates (except for underside of dial plate) and some of the smaller frame components gilded. The remontoire and balance potence are not gilded.

    Fusee: Reversed but planted as normal so that each wheel in the train rotates in the opposite direction to normal. The dust-excluding pipe screwed to the back plate protects the winding square. The great wheel and the Harrison's maintaining ratchet are of brass with six crossings and are retained by a steel boss with four flats. This is an interference fit on its arbor. The brass winding ratchet has one click with a brass return spring. The stop-piece and maintaining detent springs are also brass. English stop-work with a lever system is controlled by a lever on the back plate, and can be swung in or out of the path of the fusee chain so that the machine can run for two or eight days.

    Barrel assembly: This remarkable arrangement consists of two quite separate barrels which fit inside a drum that carries the fusee chain. The barrel arbor pivots in the barrel nearest to front plate and this is fixed inside the chain drum by three edge screws. The other barrel, badly distorted probably by mainspring breakage, is open at both ends. The back plate end carries a flange with skew-cut teeth that engage with the setting-up worm. These teeth rest in a narrow recess in the large hole in the back plate already mentioned. The upper end of the arbor pivots in a cover plate that retains the open barrel and the lower end of the arbor pivots in the front plate.
    When the worm is rotated both springs move since they have a common 'live' arbor. On rotating the upper barrel one turn, assuming springs of equal strength, each barrel will rotate half a turn. Looking down on the back plate the upper spring coils clockwise and the lower anticlockwise (from centre to outside).
    Although it is not possible to be sure of Mudge's reasons for using this design of barrel end spring it is at least possible to predict the results by comparing a barrel with a single spring to Mudge's arrangement.
    Applying the formula for the maximum torque available from a given spring which is:

    T max = θ(Eht³) / 12l

    where 6 is the effective angle through which the spring is bent, i.e. in this case the effective number of turns of winding; E is Young's modulus (the same for both); h is the height, t the thickness (the same for both springs, i.e. the maximum for the barrel according to the classical criteria) and / the length of the one spring

    A     T max = θ(E x h x t³) / 12l

    Although there are two springs in Mudge's arrangement they must be treated as one in the calculation and the formula becomes:

    B     T max = 2θ (twice the turns) E x ½h (half the height) x t³ / 12 x 2/(twice the length)

    Removing all the identical terms from both, the result in formula A becomes T max = l and in Formula B, T max = ½. T max for the double spring arrangement then is only half that achieved for the single spring. This is the result that one would expect. There is no magic that can produce more total stored energy from a given barrel volume than is obtained by applying the classical rules.
    The only choice one has is in how the stored energy is released, namely either as a lower maximum torque and many turns or as a higher maximum torque and fewer turns. Normally obtaining more turns than given by the classical formula would be at the expense of a lower overall power output and would mean using a thinner spring than given by the classical formula. This leads to an overall greater loss of power because of intercoil friction which ironically can be used to produce a more constant torque output, a fact that can be very useful in a going barrel design. There is, apparently, no advantage though when a fusee is employed for this can do the job of equalling the torque provided by the spring.

    With Mudge's arrangement more turns have been achieved without encountering the problem of the greater intercoil frictional losses that occur with thin springs. This is because the springs are the same in all respects except height to that which would be obtained as a result of applying the classical formula. The loss in the system comes from the reduction in the available height and barrel diameter but to offset this there are two gains: the lower frictional losses at the barrel and fusee pivots and since there is a greater reduction at the barrel stage there is less need for reduction in the gear train with a corresponding increase in efficiency. Although the latter saving is not probably of any great consequence the losses at the barrel and fusee pivots are much larger than is normally appreciated and can be so great at times that the barrel pivots can seize. It is significant that in some high-class American watches the mainsprings are unexpectedly thin. It is quite likely that the reason for this is the use in these watches of an arrangement that gives lower frictional losses than usual at the barrel (for details see Chamberlain 1941, Chap. 15).
    Another gain that is not so obvious results from the need for a lower reduction in the gear train. Obviously all else being equal if twice the number of turns are available at the barrel then the reduction ratio in the gear train for unit torque at the escapement needs to be half what it would normally be. This again will lead to lower frictional losses.

    Going train: The high count train has arbors with a high standard of polish. The centre arbor, undercut to prevent oil spread from the pivot in the front plate, but all other pinions have flat polished ends. Pinions are slightly rounded at ends from polishing process. Wheels made and finished well with light crossings as well as flat surfaces polished. The wheels reduce in thickness from the central boss to the edge. The strong, light and elegant contrate wheel has crossings that taper in both width and thickness from centre to edge.
    Both centre and third arbors appear to be made of two pieces carefully fitted together. The centre wheel is riveted to its arbor, the third and contrate wheels have brass collets. A small wheel on the fourth arbor drives another similar wheel on the arbor that carries the seconds hand so that this can revolve in usual direction. This is necessary because the fourth arbor rotates in the reverse direction to normal.

    Jewelling: The lower pivot of the fusee arbor runs in a large brass bush, the upper directly in a hole in the back plate. The third arbor pivots in detachable brass bushes retained by brass endplates, these being hollowed to prevent drawing of oil from the bearing. Brass fourth arbor bearings are retained by steel end-plates.
    The escape arbor pivots and those of the two pivoted constant force pallet arms run in pierced jewels. The outer pallet arm pivots have steel endplates and the escape arbor pivot has an endstone at the end remote from the balance staff.
    The balance staff pivots are large at 40/100 mm diam. with the end that rests on the diamond endstone shaped to a pointed cone. The side thrust from each pivot is taken by four anti-friction rollers which are pivoted in cages mounted on the balance cock and the potence. These rollers are planted so that the pivots of one set are displaced radially by 45° with respect to the other set.

    Escapement: Mudge's constant force escapement in which impulse to the balance is given alternately by one or other of two spiral springs. Each of these springs is attached to a pivoted arm that contacts a pin on the balance staff. Also carried on the arbor of each pivoted arm is a curved steel pallet to receive impulse from the escape wheel teeth. The pallets end in a nib which locks the tooth on the escape wheel. Each of these pallets has a deep score mark where the escape teeth have rubbed.
    The balance and its two balance springs, together with the two pivoted arms and their spiral springs, make up a system which is isolated from the going train except at the moment of unlocking. The amount of energy taken from the system at unlocking is dependent on that supplied through the train. Otherwise the only variable in the system is the state of oil in the pivot holes. Since there are no less than twenty of these within the system, excluding the balance pivots acting on the diamond endstones, the state of the oil must have a significant effect on the rate. In addition, the pallets probably need to be oiled.
    One of the upper set of anti-friction rollers has a pronounced nick in its edge, suggesting that at some time its pivots have seized solid. The balance pivot is also slightly marked. There is also quite considerable play of the balance pivot between the upper rollers, and this is more in one direction than another. The brass pins on the balance staff receiving impulse from the pivoted arms show signs of rubbing. This is probably due to the greater freedom of the balance staff pivots as opposed to that of the arm pivots, but could also indicate that these six pivots are not exactly planted on the same centre line. For a full and complete description of the escapement see R. Good, 'Pioneers of Precision Timekeeping', Antiquarian Horological Society, pp. 75-91, n.d., also Gould 1923, pp. 77-9.

    Balance: Plain brass three-armed balance of large diameter and thin section. One of the arms has an enlarged almost circular portion near the boss to counterpoise the cranked part of the balance staff. It is secured to a boss on the balance staff by two screws.

    Balance spring: Two open coiled spiral springs are fitted, one above and one below the balance. Each has a long straight portion towards its stud, and they are coiled in the same direction, clockwise from the collet. The thermal compensation device acts on the lower spring, the.mean time adjustment on the upper one, in both instances this is carried out on the straight part of the spring. The mean time adjustment is made by rotating the squared arbor on the left-hand end of the balance bridge, the thimble has a vernier working with a fixed concentric drum. A brass carriage carries the adjustable index pins. The lower spring is of 4j turns, excluding the straight part, the upper one similar or slightly less, they are tempered to a brownish purple and have been reduced in thickness on the straight part towards the stud. This was one of Mudge's methods of making isochronal adjustments. The index pins could also be moved towards or away from each other. He also altered the set up of the constant force spiral springs and there are dot marks on the brass jewel settings over each spring to give a reference for this. In a letter to his patron Count von Brühl on 11 January 1774, Mudge stated that he had adjusted the machine to have a variation of rate of two seconds in twenty-four hours with a variation in semi-amplitude of 30°. In another letter, dated 15 November 1774, he mentions the effects of barometric error and relative humidity and although he cannot envisage their elimination considers that they may often cancel each other out.

    Thermal compensation device: Two bimetallic laminae are fixed in a straight line with their free ends crossing over each other. Each carries a brass pin at its free extremity resting on one or other of two arms forming part of a block on a pivoted arbor. Looking at the device, the laminae can be distinguished by the small brass rivets holding the brass and steel together. The left-hand one has the brass on the outside and the steel inside, the right-hand one the opposite. Also carried on the pivoted arbor are an arm with index pins to embrace the lower balance spring, with a kink where it passes round the balance staff, and a pointed tail passing over an engraved silver scale. The fixed ends of the laminae are held with screws on a double slide. This has a double threaded arbor with squared end to move the slides towards or away from each other to vary the amount of compensation obtained. The whole assembly is carried on an L-shaped base secured to the back plate, and having one round and one square steady pin. All the brass parts are gilded. Although very ingenious and beautifully made, this system was found to be sluggish in action.

    Balance bridge: The decoration is rather inelegant when compared with other eighteenth-century horological work, especially that of the great English masters. This is partially explained in a letter from Mudge to Count von Brühl on 5 October 1775, in which he mentions that a larger balance has been made and other alterations carried out. He thought the first too small and heavy. He also made a third balance 1/10" bigger than the first and nearly 4/10" smaller than the last. These two balances being screwed to the staff were interchangeable and thus comparisons could be made between them.
    Mudge comments on the time and trouble he had had making a new cock and associated pieces '. . . I shall let the cock [bridge] go without its usual ornaments of graving and gilding, as I am loth to spend any more money upon it, or so much time . . .'.
    The holes for the original bridge survive on the back plate near the third and fourth arbor bearings and on the barrel bridge. The latter must have been on a piece fixed to the barrel bridge. When this was removed it left behind an impression marked by a break in the gilding. This is normally covered by an extension of the graduated sector under the balance, obviously made so as to hide it.
    A point of especial interest is the 'safety' piece held by a shoulder screw from underneath. Its use was for a lqng time obscure. The claw-shaped end embraces the stud of the upper balance spring and the disc on the end of the tail covers a screw securing the foot of the balance bridge to the table. In the original arrangement this piece was a safety device to make it impossible for the bridge to be removed until the stud had been freed and pushed down through the shaped hole in front of it, after which the brass piece could be swung aside to reveal the screw. Without these precautions inadvertent removal of the bridge without freeing the stud could cause distortion of the upper balance spring.
    With the 'new' balance bridge Mudge used the old bridge securing screws for the feet and other screws to secure the feet themselves to the back plate. However the safety piece was preserved, and it is remarkable that it was also fitted to several of the copies made for Mudge's son by Howells, Pennington, Pendleton and others, although it had no purpose. At best it could only have served as a reminder to free the stud before removing the bridge.

    Mean time adjustment: This assembly is mounted on the top of the balance bridge with the two steel arms carrying the index pins screwed on the underside. It can be moved towards or away from the upper balance spring stud by rotating the squared shaft carrying a graduated thimble and only acts on the straight portion of the upper spring. Note that the steel steady pins of the steel arms are fitted in slots so that they can be moved for making isochronal adjustments. In the copies made for Mudge junior a better, easier and more positive arrangement was used to effect these adjustments.

    Going-train counts:
    Great wheel (fusee) 108 teeth, 12 turns of groove
    Centre pinion 12 leaves, wheel 128 teeth, 6 arms, 1 turn per 106½ minutes
    Third pinion 12 leaves, wheel 120 teeth, 6 arms, 1 turn per 10 minutes
    Fourth pinion 12 leaves, wheel 120 teeth, 6 arms, 1 turn per minute
    Escape pinion 12 leaves, wheel 15 teeth, 5 arms
    Beats per hour: 18,000

    The idle wheel on the seconds arbor has 45 teeth, 4 arms, and is driven by another similar on the fourth arbor.

    Up-and-down indicator: A brass pinion of 7 leaves on the end of the fusee arbor meshes with a wheel of 48 teeth carrying a brass pinion of 14 leaves. This last pinion meshes with a counterpoised sector of 27 teeth, on the arbor of which is carried the indicator hand.

    Motion work:
    The centre arbor carries a brass wheel, friction tight for hand-setting, of 80 teeth, meshing with another of 45 carrying the minute hand and rotating once per hour.
    The fourth arbor turns once per minute since it drives the seconds hand via a 1:1 ratio gearing.
    The third arbor turns in 120/12 = 10 minutes
    The centre arbor turns in 128/12 x 10 minutes (= 106 ½ minutes)
    The wheel of 80 also turns in 128/12 x 10 minutes
    The wheel of 45 therefore turns once in 44/80 of 128/12 x 10 minutes = 60 minutes
    The motion wheel of 80 also carries a pinion of 8 leaves meshing with the hour wheel of 108 teeth turning once in 24 hours
    The pinion of 8 carried on the wheel of 80, turns once in 128/12 x 10/60 hours
    The wheel of 108 must turn once in 128/12 x 10/60 x 108/8 hours = 24 hours

    This is, of course, a most surprising and unusual arrangement of the gearing. A partial explanation is that with a comparatively slow rotation of the centre arbor the great wheel to centre pinion gearing and the number of turns of the fusee can be reduced, as compared with what they would need to be if the centre arbor turned once in twelve hours. However if the centre arbor period had been further increased to one turn in 120 minutes instead of 106 ⅔, another seemingly logical solution, this would have increased the ratios necessary in the going train. One can only assume that the arrangement is a compromise. Certainly Mudge had very good reasons for what he did, even if his precise motives now escape us.

    Balance brake: Between the balance and the edge of the back plate is a large slot mostly filled by an insert but leaving a sector-shaped hole. There is also a hole near this with a rubbed ring where an arbor has pivoted. This was probably for a brake lever operating on the edge of the balance, and activated perhaps by the fusee chain. It appears to have been discarded during construction of the machine, probably when the going was reduced from eight to two days.

    Provenance: Thomas Mudge constructed this chronometer between about 1771 and 1774. It was tested at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich from 14 December 1774 to 12 March 1775; when it stopped with a broken mainspring. It was repaired by Mudge and retested from 11 November 1776 to 26 February 1778 when the mainspring broke again. After the second breakage Mudge modified the stop-work to use only the first two days of wind. After his death in 1794, the chronometer remained in the possession of Mudge's friend and patron John Maurice, Count von Brühl (1736-1809), Envoy of the Kingdom of Saxony to the Court of St James's from 1764 until his death.
    There is a letter from a dealer in works of art and virtue, W. Forster, to the Rev. Walter Mallock dated 17 July 1843, preserved in a copy of a booklet, 'Description of the plates of Mr. Mudge's Time-keeper', by Robert Pennington. Forster states that he purchased the chronometer at a sale in Great Marlborough Street, London, in 1807 and sold it to the Duke of Sussex. At a sale of the Duke's effects at Christie's he bought it back. His purpose in writing to the Rev. Mallock was to offer the latter the chronometer for twenty-one guineas, as he had had another offer of sixteen guineas for it from a Mr Emery.
    The chronometer remained in the Mallock family until 1933 when Ilbert purchased it and the Mudge lever clock from Miss Helena Mallock. Presented by Mr Gilbert Edgar C.B.E. in 1958.

    Exhibited: British Clockmakers' Heritage, Science Museum, London, May-September 1952; British Watches and Clocks, City of Birmingham Museum of Science and Industry, October 1953-February 1954; Masterpieces of British Art and Craftsmanship, Ormeley Lodge, Ham Common, Surrey, July 1954; Five Centuries of British Timekeeping, Goldsmiths' Hall, London, October 1955; Pendulum to Atom under the auspices of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers at Goldsmiths' Hall, London October 1958.

    Bibliography: Thomas Mudge, Thoughts on the means of improving watches, London, 1765; Count von Brühl, A register of one of Mr. Mudge's timekeepers, London 1771; Thomas Mudge, Register of the going of Mr. Mudge's first timekeeper for April 1780-May 1781, London, 1781; Count von Brühl, Three registers of a pocket-chronometer. With an account of the first Mr. Mudge's timekeepers by Vice Admiral Campbell in a voyage to and from Newfoundland, London, 1784; id., A reply to Rev. Dr Maskelyne, London, 1792; Thomas Mudge, jun., Memoirs of the life and mechanical labours of the late Mr. Thomas Mudge with portrait, London, 1792; id., A Narrative of Facts, London, 1792; id., Report on the select committee of the House of Commons to make enquiry into the principles on which the Mudges' timekeepers have been constructed, London, 1793; id., Description with Plates of Mr. Mudge's Time-keeper, London, 1799; Gould 1923, pp. 77-9; Chamberlain 1941; Cecil Clutton, 'Josiah Emery's No 1 Marine Timekeeper', AH, June 1961, pp. 206-7; Richard Good, 'Pioneers of Precision Timekeeping', AH, n.d., pp. 75-91.Text from 'Clocks', by David Thompson, London, 2004, p. 128.
    Thomas Mudge
    Marine Timekeeper No. 1
    London, 1771-4
    Height, 7.65 cm, width 13.25 cm, depth 13.25
    Thomas Mudge's contribution to the story of marine chronometry took the form of a series of chronometers of which this is the first and is now commonly known as his 'Timekeeper No. 1'. In this amazing machine Mudge introduced a number of new ideas, including the concept of a single mainspring barrel that actually contains two mainsprings operating together in an attempt to provide a more even torque to drive the gear train. More importantly, however, Mudge introduced his 'constant-force' escapement in this marine timekeeper. He had already used a remontoire in his lever clock but here he develops the concept a stage further so that the balance is given a constant impulse at every beat of the escapement.
    The dial of this elegant chronometer consists of a gilded-brass dial plate with three white enamel subsidiary dials for hours, minutes and seconds, separated by three pierced and engraved silver scrolled spandrels. At the top is a sector numbered 1-7 flanked by the letters U and D for up and down, to show the state of winding. It was essential at sea that these timekeepers should be wound without fail and should never be allowed to stop through neglect. This example runs for eight days but would have been wound every week.
    Equally stylish are its beautifully-made mahogany boxes of octagonal form, the inner with a glazed panel in each facet to reveal the movement, the outer with solid panels and an opening hinged section for access.
    In a letter to his patron, Count Maurice von Brühl, dated 23 August 1774, Mudge wrote, "I acknowledge it [the case] would have been better of brass. My only reason for making it of wood, was to save money, of which I have had, at no time, much to spare". The machine was tested in private trials at Greenwich between June 1774 and February 1778 but failed because the mainsprings kept breaking. On 1 March 1777 Nevil Maskelyne, the Astronomer Royal, stated that it had gained 1 minute and 19 seconds while on trial at Greenwich for 109 days - an average of less than one second per day. He said that the machine was "greatly Superior in point of accuracy to any timekeeper which hath come under my inspection". As a result of its performance Mudge was awarded a payment of £500 by the Board of Longitude. Following a report by a House of Commons Select Committee in 1793, Mudge was awarded a further £3,000, but his death the following year precluded any further work. It was not to be the end of the story, though: using the money, Thomas Mudge junior set up a small manufactory where some twenty-seven copies of his father's chronometer were made.
    Ilbert Collection

    N.B. The dial is also calibrated in degrees.


  • Bibliography

    • Watches Vol VI 165 bibliographic details
    • Thompson 2004 p.128 bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G39/dc10

  • Exhibition history

    Exhibited: 2008 Feb 1-Apr 16, Liverpool, Prescott Museum, 'Lost Time'

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    The Ilbert Collection of clocks, prints and other related material was destined to be sold at Christie's auction house on 6th-7th November 1958. As a result of the generous donation of funds by Gilbert Edgar CBE the sale was cancelled and the material purchased privately from the beneficiaries of the Ilbert Estate.NL1Ilbert's watches were then acquired with further funds from Gilbert Edgar CBE, public donations and government funds. These were then registered in the series 1958,1201.

  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number


  • Additional IDs

    • CAI.1946 (This number is not in use - the object was once registered as CAI-1946 but this is no longer used)
    • CAI.2119 (Ilbert Collection)


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