DENT 'Chronometer Maker to the Queen' London. No 1690


A fine and interesting small 2-day box chronometer with 24-hour dial, circa 1845.

More details

Well figured 3-piece plain mahogany box, the typically bold enamel plaque in the middle section bearing the makers name and number 1690, the bowl and original key stamped with the same number and the lid retaining the original Edward J Dent trade label. The brass furniture retaining most of the original lacquer, the original bezel with domed, convex glass, not the common later replacement bezel (a Royal Navy adaptation) with exaggerated sight ring for holding a flat glass. Fullplate fusee movement. Spring-detent escapement of dovetail form, as originally devised by Robert Pennington. 8-turn blued-steel helical balance-spring acting with an Earnshaw-type compensation balance having wedge-shaped weights. Silvered dial with state-of-wind indication and offset seconds, to which has been added a slim silvered brass chapter showing 1-24 hours, the motion work being professionally altered. Original gold hands. Box just under 16 cm. 

Edward John Dent, one time partner of John Roger Arnold, quickly became one of London's greatest and best known chronometer makers, publishing numerous tracts on the subject. See also the book on E J Dent by Vaudrey Mercer and the book on the Arnold and Dent firms by Hans Staeger. 

This and another chronometer by Dent, No 1759, were used by Captain Henry Toynbee on his ship 'Gloriana' during his trip from Calcutta to the Cape in 1854, the rating of which, by use of lunars, was written up by him and published in 1856. Toynbee was renowned as an expert navigator during his time as a Commander of ships of the Blackwall Frigate class and his understanding of the use of and re-rating of a chronometer using the Lunar method was exceptional.

Toynbee, the Master Mariner, was also a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical and the Royal Geographical Societies, becoming Marine Superintendent of the Meteorological Office in 1867 (till 1888), following on from the suicide of its founder and first Superintendent, Admiral Robert Fitzroy in 1865. Being Merchant rather Royal Navy, it is most likely that Toynbee owned this chronometer and that it accompanied him when he moved to the Met Office. It is while there that the conversion to 24 hour display may have been made.

The box a bit dull, not having been re-polished in recent times, but it has no real faults to speak of. The movement is also in very good if uncleaned condition, the original detent surviving undamaged. 

NB: Chronometers sadly suffer much needless over-restoration, being 'shit-shined' as Charles Allix used to call such work. Because of this examples now rather unusual untouched survival, I am offering the chronometer for sale as it stands. It can of course be properly serviced for the buyer if wanted. The dial silvering has tarnished somewhat and I can have this re-silvered if wanted, and the box can be lightly cleaned and polished, keeping the original surface, but I know many collectors would prefer it as it is.