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Exhibit № 44. William Harrison, London No.33, Hallmarked 1797

Exhibit № 44. William Harrison, London No.33, Hallmarked 1797

A historically interesting and important George III silver pair-cased pocket watch with verge escapement modified to ‘H4’ type with miniature diamond pallets

This watch is one of only five known timekeepers to employ the jewelled verge escapement invented by John Harrison and used in ‘H4’.

£35,000


Height

Diameter: 45 mm

Case

The plain silver inner case with glazed hinged bezel, long fixed pommel and hinged bow, the plain outer case with further hinged ring-turned bezel and push-button-sprung release, both cases stamped with maker’s mark TG (probably Thomas Gooch) and hallmarked for London, 1797.

Dial

The fine original vitreous enamel dial with Roman hours inside the minute division ring and Arabic minutes every 5 outside. All inset within the gilt hinged dial band and with well shaped blued steel Beetle and ‘poker hands.

Movement

The fine gilt-brass full plate movement held by five baluster-vase turned pillars, with fusee and chain line, the backplate signed W: Harrison, No.33, London with pierced and engraved screw-fixed balance cock with diamond endstone and silvered Arabic regulation dial, the modified jewelled verge remade from a standard escapement, with unusual sliding potence for the balance wheel. The gilt-metal dust cover further signed W: Harrison, London 33 with pieced regulation sector-aperture and semi-circular blued steel fixing-lever.

Duration

30 Hour

Provenance

Mr Gascoigne
The Time Museum, inventory no.4534
Sotheby’s New York, Masterpieces from the Time Museum, 13th October 2004, lot 633, sold for $33,000
John C Taylor Collection, inventory no.131

Literature

Anthony Randall, The Time Museum Catalogue of Marine Chronometers, inventory no.4534

Escapement

Harrison’s ‘H4’ type verge with miniature diamond pallets

Exhibited

1990s, The Time Museum, Rockford, Illinois, USA Inventory no.4534;
2012, York, Fairfax House, Keeping Time Exhibition

Although there are several recorded watchmakers of this time named William Harrison, as this example contains his father’s prized escapement, it follows that it would have been made by or for John Harrison’s son. In apparent confirmation, the watch also possesses attributes seen in John Harrison’s own watch made by Jefferys to his specifications, as well as the so-called ‘portrait’ watch by John Harrison’s son-in-law, Thomas Barton.

John Harrison (1693-1776) is remembered particularly for the extraordinary sea clocks that he made to solve the problem of finding longitude at sea. His early clocks had movements that were made of wood and which incorporated a number of unique features, which were later used in his sea clocks. His skill with wood was inherited from his father Henry Harrison (1665-1728) who was also a joiner. The family moved to the remote village of Barrow-upon-Humber in North Lincolnshire in 1697, and John Harrison continued to live and work there until the age of 44. John must have had an early fascination with horology as he had completed his first clock by 1713 and no doubt had experimented before this. In 1718, John Harrison married Elizabeth Barret at Barrow-upon-Humber church, but after her early death, he married again to Elizabeth Scott, at the same church in 1726 and William Harrison, was born in Barrow in 1728.

Harrison’s quest to solve the longitude problem has been thoroughly told before but, in short, by 1730 he had designed his first marine clock and visited London seeking financial assistance, where he was referred to the country’s foremost clockmaker, George Graham, who must have been impressed by Harrison’s ideas, as he loaned him money to build a model of his ‘Sea clock’, H1. He finally moved his family to the city in 1737 and spent the following 39 years there, producing the celebrated timekeepers H2, H3, H4 and H5. By the time of the sea trials of H4, John Harrison was 68 years old and becoming frail, so his son William undertook to ensure the watch was properly cared for and wound regularly during the required sea trial voyages. H4 was fitted with maintaining power to keep the watch running properly whilst being wound and this new invention was first used in the experimental watch, made by Graham’s workman, John Jefferys. The friction was reduced in H4 by using diamond pallets, of similar form to those on the modified verge balance in this 1797 watch, by his son William. It was H4, with high frequency balance, Harrison’s maintaining power and principle of the bi-metallic strip, which was of fundamental influence to the subsequent development of the marine chronometer.

But it was H5, made when Harrison was in his 70s, which is credited for finally gaining him the recognition as the man who found Longitude. John Harrison was then aged 79, and had spent nearly 40 years working to solve the problem. His battle to obtain full recognition from the Board of Longitude caused Harrison to seek the help of George III. On 31st January 1771, Harrison’s son William was received and interviewed by the King, who is recorded to have remarked …these people have been cruelly treated…And By God Harrison, I will see you righted!

The king subsequently arranged an independent trial for H5, Harrison’s last timekeeper. H5 was reported to have performed the trial superbly during 10 weeks of daily observation, between May and July 1772. However, the board of Longitude refused to recognise the king’s trial. Next George III helped the Harrisons appeal directly to the Prime Minister and to Parliament and finally, on 21st June 1773, an Act of Parliament was accepted that recognised Harrison’s achievement.

John Harrison died at the age of eighty-two in 1776, and was buried in St John’s churchyard, Hampstead. William Harrison died in 1815 and was interred in his father’s tomb, which was restored by the Clockmakers’ Company in 1879, and the south face has the inscription:

And to his Son, WILLIAM HARRISON, FRS. He was the custodian of his father’s prize-winning watch H4 during the vital official trials at sea to Jamaica in 1761, and to Barbados in 1764. He also actively helped his father in the long and difficult negotiations with the Board of Longitude and Parliament when claiming the £20,000 prize. For many years he was a Prominent Governor of the Foundling Hospital, teaching music to the children, and was appointed High Sheriff of Monmouthshire in 1791.

The Board of Longitude was finally abolished by Act of Parliament in 1828, never having awarded ‘The Longitude Prize’ to anyone.

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Product Description

Although there are several recorded watchmakers of this time named William Harrison, as this example contains his father’s prized escapement, it follows that it would have been made by or for John Harrison’s son. In apparent confirmation, the watch also possesses attributes seen in John Harrison’s own watch made by Jefferys to his specifications, as well as the so-called ‘portrait’ watch by John Harrison’s son-in-law, Thomas Barton.

John Harrison (1693-1776) is remembered particularly for the extraordinary sea clocks that he made to solve the problem of finding longitude at sea. His early clocks had movements that were made of wood and which incorporated a number of unique features, which were later used in his sea clocks. His skill with wood was inherited from his father Henry Harrison (1665-1728) who was also a joiner. The family moved to the remote village of Barrow-upon-Humber in North Lincolnshire in 1697, and John Harrison continued to live and work there until the age of 44. John must have had an early fascination with horology as he had completed his first clock by 1713 and no doubt had experimented before this. In 1718, John Harrison married Elizabeth Barret at Barrow-upon-Humber church, but after her early death, he married again to Elizabeth Scott, at the same church in 1726 and William Harrison, was born in Barrow in 1728.

Harrison’s quest to solve the longitude problem has been thoroughly told before but, in short, by 1730 he had designed his first marine clock and visited London seeking financial assistance, where he was referred to the country’s foremost clockmaker, George Graham, who must have been impressed by Harrison’s ideas, as he loaned him money to build a model of his ‘Sea clock’, H1. He finally moved his family to the city in 1737 and spent the following 39 years there, producing the celebrated timekeepers H2, H3, H4 and H5. By the time of the sea trials of H4, John Harrison was 68 years old and becoming frail, so his son William undertook to ensure the watch was properly cared for and wound regularly during the required sea trial voyages. H4 was fitted with maintaining power to keep the watch running properly whilst being wound and this new invention was first used in the experimental watch, made by Graham’s workman, John Jefferys. The friction was reduced in H4 by using diamond pallets, of similar form to those on the modified verge balance in this 1797 watch, by his son William. It was H4, with high frequency balance, Harrison’s maintaining power and principle of the bi-metallic strip, which was of fundamental influence to the subsequent development of the marine chronometer.

But it was H5, made when Harrison was in his 70s, which is credited for finally gaining him the recognition as the man who found Longitude. John Harrison was then aged 79, and had spent nearly 40 years working to solve the problem. His battle to obtain full recognition from the Board of Longitude caused Harrison to seek the help of George III. On 31st January 1771, Harrison’s son William was received and interviewed by the King, who is recorded to have remarked …these people have been cruelly treated…And By God Harrison, I will see you righted!

The king subsequently arranged an independent trial for H5, Harrison’s last timekeeper. H5 was reported to have performed the trial superbly during 10 weeks of daily observation, between May and July 1772. However, the board of Longitude refused to recognise the king’s trial. Next George III helped the Harrisons appeal directly to the Prime Minister and to Parliament and finally, on 21st June 1773, an Act of Parliament was accepted that recognised Harrison’s achievement.

John Harrison died at the age of eighty-two in 1776, and was buried in St John’s churchyard, Hampstead. William Harrison died in 1815 and was interred in his father’s tomb, which was restored by the Clockmakers’ Company in 1879, and the south face has the inscription:

And to his Son, WILLIAM HARRISON, FRS. He was the custodian of his father’s prize-winning watch H4 during the vital official trials at sea to Jamaica in 1761, and to Barbados in 1764. He also actively helped his father in the long and difficult negotiations with the Board of Longitude and Parliament when claiming the £20,000 prize. For many years he was a Prominent Governor of the Foundling Hospital, teaching music to the children, and was appointed High Sheriff of Monmouthshire in 1791.

The Board of Longitude was finally abolished by Act of Parliament in 1828, never having awarded ‘The Longitude Prize’ to anyone.

Additional information

Dimensions 5827373 cm