James PENNINGTON, St Michael's Alley, Cornhill, London. No 202


£ 3,450.00

2-day box chronometer with rare (unique?) balance affix, circa 1840.

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Small fullplate fusee movement retaining most of its original hand spotting (squiggling). Spring-detent escapement with Earnshaw-type footed detent. Standard form of compensation balance with circular weights, but with the addition of an adjustable brass 'check' as invented by this member of the Pennington dynasty. 8-turn blued-steel helical spring with Arnold's terminal curves. Silvered dial with state-of-wind at 12, blued-steel hands. Dial 9 cm diameter. Now housed in a two-part blackened brass carrying canister holding the original brass, now blackened, bowl.

James Pennington (1814-1891), son of Robert Pennington junior who looks to have been the main instigator of the family's move away from watch into chronometer manufacture around 1800. This family became what I firmly believe were the most important London chronometer manufacturers in the first half of the 19th century, still not fully recognised as such because most of their work was retailed by others; Arnold, Dent, Barwise, etc. In particular, their work sold by Barraud has always attracted admiration for its quality of design and manufacture, but few authors have placed the credit where it is rightly due. 

NB: This form of balance pre-dates that devised by Poole and is recorded in a letter written by James to the Astronomer Royal, George Biddell Airy, in 1843. Previously unrecorded, this is the only known example and the movement survives in the state it was entered for the 1842-3 Greenwich Trials. See also the article 'The Penningtons and their Balances' by Vaudrey Mercer that appeared in the Spring 1981 issue of Antiquarian Horology.

Serviced and working correctly, but the chronometer and its carrying case has not been over-cleaned, the sad fate of many such, and often important, working machines.