Robert GARDNER, 20 Lloyd Square, London. No 5/3910


A fine 2-day Royal Navy box chronometer with rare 'micrometric' balance, circa 1891.

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Nicely figured 3-tier plain mahogany box, the ivory plaque on the middle section blank. Fullplate fusee movement retaining most of its original spotting. Spring-detent escapement in fine condition retaining its original Kullberg 'reverse-detent' with gold passing-spring. 10-turn blued-steel helical balance-spring acting with Gardner's very rare compound acting compensation balance (I know of no other). Silvered dial with state-of-wind indication and offset seconds, original blued-steel hands, both dial and hands engraved with the government Broad Arrow. Box 18.5 cm. Together with a copy of its service record in the Royal Navy.

Robert Gardner (1851-1931), one of the most interesting chronometer makers of his day, and certainly one of the best read and informed on the subject of chronometer making and horology in general. His library, catalogued and sold by his son Malcolm in the early 1930's, led to the establishment of the Malcolm Gardner business that formed firm and lasting friendships with Courtney Ilbert and many other horologists. For a portrait and more information about Robert Gardner, Kullberg reverse-detents and a Frodsham micrometric balance, see the recent National Maritime Museum chronometer catalogue by J Betts.

Robert spent his apprenticeship partly in Glasgow (learning clockmaking) and then London, after which he travelled extensively in Switzerland, France and America in order to learn about watchmaking. Originally based at Bearsden, near Glasgow, his last move was to 20 Lloyd Square London in 1886 where set himself up as a watch and chronometer maker, eventually concentrating exclusively on chronometers of the highest class and finish. See his obituary in the February 1932 issue of the Horological Journal, as well as the Gardner letterhead on my website, giving details of his appointments and some of the specialities he offered. 

No 5/3910 came 12th in the 1891 Greenwich Chronometer Trials with a Mark of 27 (the lower the better at this time), and was purchased by the Admiralty in 1892. It served aboard the Gunboat HMS Cockchafer and then HMS Imperieuse, HMS Forte, HMS Talbot and HMS Attentive, four different Cruisers, with spells at Portsmouth, Plymouth, Devonport, Rosyth, Sheerness and Malta. Remaining in service until 1942, it then spent a short time on the Canadian National Railways before being transferred to the Naval Observatory, Washington.

NB: Gardner 2-day chronometer No 5/3931 is in the collection of the NMM and is described in the new Betts' catalogue, page 517. With a Loseby-type balance, its Trial Number was 32.1

The box has just been lightly cleaned and polished and has no real faults to speak of. Movement and dial both in  good original condition, with just a few minor age spots, the original detent in perfect condition as is the wonderful balance. Recently fully serviced and guaranteed. NB: This chronometer is in the United Kingdom and will need specialist shipping and handling. Please enquire as to likely costs.