Saturday 8th May 2021 – Simon Davidson ‘Maritime Chronometers: Their use on long voyages from 1770 – 1820 by the East India Company & the Royal Navy.’ This was a change to the program. Technical issues prevented Owen Gilchrist from giving his talk on IWC Watches. This is now rescheduled for May 2022
Aside from a long career in the pharmaceutical industry, Simon has had a 25 year research interest in Marine Chronometers and their practical history and employment. He has published four papers in this sphere of interest. His interest in horology started at a young age when pocket money was used to start collecting, his interest and collection only growing with age and knowledge.
Marine chronometers are a fascinating field. They were the pinnacle of technology in their day. They could also save your life. The story of John Harrison, the H4 tested in 1765, and the 1714 longitude prize are well known. Less well known is what happened next. Simon took us through their adoption by the East India Company in the period 1770 – 1792. East India Ship captains not only had to know how to navigate using one but were required to provide their own prior to commission. This is in contrast to the Royal Navy who only issued them by default to their captains in 1820 onwards. Thus clockmakers had a much closer relationship with East India Co. captains than with the Navy.
We were also taken through the design of dials in that period and how they evolved. Plus some pointers on how to spot the quality of the movement and common modifications. Simons’ collection of chronometers has been well researched. One made by Charles Young in 1811 has the original logs which show how the rate of the chronometer varied. This chronometer could easily have been lost when in 1825 the HEICS Dunira was stuck and demasted by a typhoon in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Another by Thomas Earnshaw 1805 served on many Royal Navy ships over its one hundred year service life. The voyages ranged from coastal surveys to Anti-Slavery patrols to transatlantic cable laying. All of which relied, to a great extent, on its accuracy.
This report only scratches the surface of what we learned in the talk and the Q&A that followed. The branch extends its great thanks to Simon for giving us an excellent talk. With particular thanks for agreeing to talk at such short notice as our intended speaker had to reschedule.
Richard Thomson, Secretary Scottish Branch
10 April 2021 – Colin Graham. ‘Online Selling – Stay Safe, Make Money & Keep Horology Alive’
In April we had a presentation by Colin Graham BHI Scotland Branch ‘Online Selling – Stay Safe, Make Money & Keep Horology Alive’
Colin has a long history of using the internet and believes that he was probably the first Internet user in his town of Selkirk. What is certain is that he has more experience than other branch members of trading on the web. Both with his website www.colinswatches.com and a much used eBay store selling horological related items. We were keen to learn how to emulate him safely.
He started by asking the question of how to address the loss of skills we see in horology. True the web can be a great source for knowledge and the BHI run some excellent distance learning courses but there still is a need for hands on training and one to one instruction. He pointed out that some, once common parts, are now just unobtainable. (This is not just restricted to horology. As a kid I made flying models from Balsa wood, tissue & dope. Later I made ham radios. Now these pastimes still exist but only by buying the latest premade drone or transceiver. It’s all about buying product with no skills required to create.)
He discussed the four online majors he has used. Catawiki, Etsy, Amazon and eBay. The last two needed no introduction but hopefully I’m not alone in never hearing of Catawiki before. As a seller it was explained that you need to get the pricing correct and not to forget postage, and the fees that all the platforms charge for their service. As a buyer he explained the ways to pay safely and not have any nasty surprises. He illustrated his safety talk by showing examples of fakes and how to spot them. He also helped translate some of the descriptions used which should ring alarm bells about the quality of the item and its provenance.
I took away at least two bits of sage advice: When selling know your subject. It will let you get the right price and good feedback from the buyer. Also never buy anything after the third Gin n’ Tonic in an evening!
The branch extends its great thanks to Colin for giving us an excellent contribution to this years events.
Richard Thomson, Secretary Scottish Branch.
13 March 2021 – speaker Dr Zen Chowaniec “A little Horological Dentistry”
As could be guessed from the title Zens focus was on gear teeth and how to repair them. He had previously given a presentation on his repairs to a Junghans 3 train bracket clock in early 2020. Sadly this clock experienced more gear issues and was returned by the customer as “Not Working”. Even more stressing was that the new issue was, in part, a failure of some of the previous repair work. This was to do with the rather unusual winding arrangement used in these clocks.
He presented a forensic diagnosis of the issues and what had caused the original and new failures. There is a design issue with the original clock and other examples have displayed the same issues. Rather than the normal click arrangement using a sawtooth shaped ratchet the going train uses a click pushed into a gear wheel. Fig 1 vs Fig 2. The stresses in this design are not well handled by the tooth shape. To make matters worse the number of teeth used on each gear ensured that the wear was not spread evenly over all the teeth.
Repairs were carried out by cutting new gears. This was complicated by the originals not being either Cycloidal or Involute but something in-between. Zen explained the differences in tooth shape and how he calculated the design of the new gears by calculating the Module or the Diametral Pitch. (Metric Vs Imperial systems) Once designed he was able to cut new gears by combining his mill drill and a dividing head. I fear that his description hid a great deal of exacting work that would challenge most others. He extended his thanks to Archie McQuater and Brian Cathcart for advice and encouragement and recommended Malcolm Wilds book “Wheel and Pinion Cutting in Horology”
The branch extends its great thanks to Zen for giving us another excellent contribution to this years events.
Richard Thomson, Secretary Scottish Branch.
Fig 1 Conventional Ratchet Arrangement
Fig 2 Junghans Click
13 February 2021 – speaker Tomek Borkowy. ‘It’s All About Watches’
This month we had a presentation by Tomek Borkowy ‘It’s all about Watches’.
The title came from the Polish watch festival. This festival celebrates the rebirth of the Polish watch industry after the dark days in 1983 when the Polish watchmaking school was closed. The festival has had 4 editions. The last in Sept 2020 had to be virtual for the obvious reasons.
Firstly a little background. Tomek is an actor and producer / theatre director. Despite appearing in Taggart, Lovejoy, Dr Who and more in this country he is probably better known in his native Poland where he appeared in a TV series ‘Dom’ which ran over 20 years. He left Poland and adopted Edinburgh as his home town in the early 80s. Being a famous son of Poland he was invited to the first Festival as a guest and is now an ambassador for the event.
He presented a series of images that he had taken when attending the events and talked about the well known to the west brands, Omega, Longines, Victorinox that attended, and also the home grown products Balticus (now for sale in the UK) Czasownia, Polpora which are certainly less well known but of a very high standard.
Indeed there are some very high end producers now making bespoke timepieces retailing for 10s of thousands dollars. As Poland is an East meets West place the festival also attracted some top Russian brands. Sturmanskie not only brought their Pilot Chronograph with a picture of a cosmonaut on the back they brought the real life cosmonaut ( Mirosław Hermaszewski) to pose with it and sign autographs. The picture shows Hermaszewski left and our speaker right.
It is always nice to meet members and find out a little about them. Tomek briefly mentioned his own design of wrist watches and the sourcing of cases for them. This could easily form a presentation in its own right some day.
The branch extends its great thanks to Tomek for giving us a taste of what we have missed in the way of live events this past year.
9 January 2021 – Bring and Discuss
This month we had a virtual bring and discuss. 4 presenters stepped forward to provide an interesting afternoon. It was our best attended and longest meeting in this new era of isolation.
1. Zen Chowaniec “Two Marine Chronometers from the 1980s”
Zen showed us two marine chronometers that he had collected at auctions. The first was a quartz movement which looked fairly typical of 1980s zero jewel quartz movements complete with wall mounting hook and single ‘C’ cell power. It was cased to look like a regular Marine chronometer and was supplied as conforming to the relevant standards of accuracy. The second, dated 1982, provided a striking contrast. It was a Russian ‘Pilot’ (Poljot) brand made in the same group as Sekonda watches the First Moscow Watch Factory (1st MWF Kirova). The mechanism was an epic gold plated brass one with chronometer escapement and chain fuse.
2. John Mason “Questions on French Clock repairs”
John joined us for the first time from his home in Aberdeenshire. He has been busy restoring some French clocks and was keen to get some advice on working with these mechanisms. Well ask a group of experts for an opinion and it gets quite lively. The subjects covered ranged from just how lose should the beat adjustment be to how long will ammonia cleaning solution last. I’m the last to know, or take sides, but feel safe in saying that if ammonia is used then do it in a well ventilated space.
3. And from Germany, Thomas Meine. ‘Magnetism and watches and how to solve it’
Thomas gave us a presentation on how magnetism affects quartz and mechanical watch types. I did not know that quartz watches can stop if subjected to 1000 Gauss. (Gauss is the cgs unit of measurement of a magnetic field. The Earth’s magnetic field measures about 0.5 gauss, a small iron magnet has a field of about 100 gauss, a small neodymium-iron-boron (NIB) magnet has a field of about 2,000 gauss) Mechanical watches can be badly affected by much lower field strengths. For example by sitting beside a bookshelf loudspeaker. The primary weakness is the hairspring that can be made to stick together and effectively shorten making the watch run fast. Some advice was given on selecting a demagnetiser. As ever you get what you pay for and caution was expressed at using the lower priced units (£5 from China) as these can do more harm than good. Note: An ‘antimagnetic’ watch is only protected to 60.3 gauss. DIN8309. However some luxury brands can be much much higher.
4. Last but not least Kenneth Russell “Brass Screwdrivers”
Ken joined us for the first time and showed us the brass screwdrivers he had made for working on clocks. Typical steel precision screwdrivers had been modified by replacing the steel blades with hand filed brass inserts. These will cause a lot less distress to blued steel screws. Thus retaining the original beauty and rust proofing that the blueing provides.
My great thanks to all those that presented and to those that turned up to listen and ask the questions and debate the answers.
12 December 2020 – speaker Lyndsay McGill, Curator, Renaissance & Early Modern History, Department of Scottish History & Archaeology, National Museum of Scotland. ‘Andrew Purdoune: An Early Scottish Maker of Lantern Clocks’
This month we had the pleasure of welcoming Lyndsay McGill, Curator, Renaissance & Early Modern History, Department of Scottish History & Archaeology, National Museum of Scotland. To give us a virtual lecture on ‘Andrew Purdoune: An Early Scottish Maker of Lantern Clocks’
Andrew Purdoune was a Glasgow based Clockmaker in the mid 17th Century. Lyndsay took us through the research that she had carried out, in 2018, after discovering a clock of his in the National Museum of Scotland collection. It posed an intriguing question. Was Andrew Purdoune the First Scottish clockmaker?
She gave us a brief overview of father and son Humphry and Richard Mills work and that of John Alexander. All clockmakers of that early period. Were this lantern clock of Andrews made in London? An analysis of the engraving on the dial showed strong similarities to that of, a most definitive Scottish item, a Silver Quaich design of the period. With references to the ‘Tulip Mania’ of the 1630s. Tulips, then as now, coming from Holland. Indeed Andrew was shown to have travelled to the low countries to study the latest in clock technology. Christiaan Huygens, of course, invented the pendulum clock there in 1656.
For me the talk was packed full of references to things partly forgotten and old Scots texts that were a delight to have deciphered for us. I spent some time afterwards just looking up who Hammermen were (and are) Who was a cordiner (cordwainer) and why they should not be confused with a cobbler. Even the fee of £5 for looking after the Glasgow Tolbooth clock for a year, (According to the National archives around £550 in todays terms.) was fascinating. The branch extends the greatest thanks to Lyndsay for her time and rounding off this year on a high.
14 November 2020 – Bring and Discuss
This month we had a virtual bring and discuss. 3 presenters stepped forward to provide an interesting afternoon.
1. Peter Mehta “A novel repair technique during lockdown”
Peter talked about restoring a wall clock that had been so badly water damaged that many would have binned the remains. The clock had lost most of its octagonal wooden moulding around the dial. An artist acquaintance had been able to reconstruct this using ‘DAS’ modelling clay and remarkable wood like staining to recreate the missing pieces. He also talked about his use of the new type of UV curing glues to repair the rating nut thread that had sheared off.
2. Zen Chowaniec “Three Repair Projects”
a. Reinstatement of Calendar Wheel on a French Ormolu Two Train Mantel Clock
b. Repairs to a Twin Fusee Verge Bracket Clock
c. New Barrel Arbor Hooks for HAC Arts & Crafts Period Mantel Clock.
Zen showed a considerable amount of skill in different techniques to affect these repairs. The first two also required a good understanding of how the items were supposed to operate to diagnose the repairs required. There followed a lively discussion on the relative methods of blackening hands in preference to the ‘bluing’ technique that is hard to make even on old hands. Dipping hot hands in old engine oil and chemical blackening both had good support from the group.
3. A new friend of the branch from Germany, Thomas Meine.
One of the benefits of a virtual meeting was that we were able to be joined by Thomas from his home in Frankfurt. Thomas collects watches of all types and has written a couple of books on the subject and another on radioactive dials. He wanted to ask the group about one of his watches ‘made’ in Inverness by Fehrenbach & Boch. in 1868 (Fig 1.)
The feeling was that it was probably made in London as it has London hallmarks and had been engraved for the retailer. The spelling of the second name could be an error. If any HJ reader can recognise the movement or know more about the retailer please get in touch. Lastly he talked about an adjustable table for adjusting the beat in clocks. An idea now taken up by the Bavarian clockmakers school.
10 October 2020 – speaker Ashley Strachan. ‘A Tale of Four Repeating Pocket Watches’
Ashley gave our last ‘in person’ presentation back in March just as the world was changing. Some members were unable to attend as a result so he graciously agreed to give his talk again this season. This time it was in full virtual mode. Not content with his previous presentation he did a complete rewrite and covered his subject from a totally different angle.
We were treated to a potted history of how repeaters originated and of the different types. I noted that in 1687 King James II ran a competition. There were two entrants Tompion and Barlow. Barlow won with his single button design to trigger the striking. This did remind me of the recently announced “Earthshot Prize”
Ashley then described in detail his 4 watches, their origins and faults on acquisition. The oldest is a 1720’s Bordier a Geneva – Quarter Repeater – Silver pair case with champlevé dial, retailed by Kaltenbrunner, Prague. This is shown in Fig 1.
His second oldest is a 1760’s Jean Antoine Lepine – Quarter Repeater – Gilt case with diamonds and rubies and enamel dial. This is shown in Fig 2.
This was followed by a 1824 Robert Bryson Qtr. Repeat “Pendant Gong” and last, but by no means least, an 1830 Lepine Qtr. Repeat “Slider Gong”
He admitted that he did have an eye to their investment potential but took daily pleasure from seeing them and was sympathetically restoring them to a running order as time allows. He paid tribute to the assistance given by another member Jurgen Tubbecke in tackling some of the trickier repairs.
He concluded his presentation by talking about a 5th watch bought off a well known auction site and the issue of it not turning up. It was good to know that the full refund operation kicked in so rapidly and prevented a very bad day indeed.
Thank you Ashley for starting our season with such a high standard of talk.”
The 2020/21 programme of events began with the Branch AGM followed by a Bring and Discuss session. For the programme for the coming year see under the EVENTS tab
Minutes of 2020 AGM (Draft)
The Annual General Meeting of the BHI Scotland Branch was held virtually on Saturday 12th September 2020 at 2.00pm. 18 Branch members attended.
- Minutes of Branch AGM 12th January 2019
- Matters arising
- Chairman’s Report
- Secretary’s Report
- Treasurer’s Report
- Election of Committee
- Approval of Minutes, Reports and Elections
Alastair Walker, Tomek Borkowy
2) Minutes of Branch AGM 12th January 2019
Approval of minutes under item i) of the agenda.
3) Matters Arising – None
4) Chairman’s Report (Matthew Richards)
This meeting marks our first AGM at its new time in September. Although it’s been an interesting journey from the January 2019 AGM I feel that the Branch remains in good shape.
Our initial meetings of 2019 were of their usual high standard, but unfortunately we were soon into COVID and had to cancel the meetings in April and May 2020. To protect our members, and because of the uncertainty around the future, we decided that at least the first few meetings of this new season would be held virtually. This was at Richard Thomson’s suggestion and I welcome him to the committee and also thank him for recommending Jitsi, the meeting platform we are using for our virtual meetings.
We still don’t know how COVID will evolve, but until the Museum of Edinburgh reopens and it is safe to hold meetings in person we will continue to hold them virtually. I hope that members find them easy to access, but please let us know of any problems. Thanks to the entire committee for their work and dedication.
At the last AGM I took over from Ashley and would like to thank him. He was a great Chairman and remains a very welcome visitor to the Branch whether attending or giving one of his always fascinating talks.
I’d also like to extend thanks to all our loyal members, without whom the Branch would not exist. Your support, particularly in these challenging times, is much appreciated.
Lastly, I’m sad to remind members that Zen is stepping down as Secretary after spending huge amounts of his time on Branch matters over the last six years. We were incredibly lucky to have him as secretary and he has done an outstanding job in all aspects of the role.
He will be hugely missed. My heartfelt thanks go to him for all of the work that he has put in over the years and for ensuring a seamless transfer to Mark Baird and Richard Thomson.
How Mark and Richard share the work may well evolve in future but initially Mark will deal with membership matters whilst Richard will deal with meetings and speakers. Thanks to both of you for taking on these roles.
Approval of Chairman’s Report under item i) of the agenda.
5) Secretary’s Report (Zen Chowaniec)
Branch membership stands at 70 (6 Fellows, 6 Members, 58 Associates) with 22 Friends. Since the last AGM our membership has grown by six (Associates) and seven Friends (six of whom were recruited at the Edinburgh Antiques, Vintage and Collectors Fair in May 2019. Two members resigned from the BHI but retained their contact with the Branch as Friends. Sadly, there were five deaths in this period, including Bill Borthwick, Frank Briglmen, Colin Campbell, Ian Hair and John Redfern.
The Branch’s 2019/20 programme comprised 10 events including, for the first time, a Christmas lunch in December. The April and May meetings had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Details of our 2020/21 programme are shown
In January 2020 the Canons’ Gait informed us that the function room the Branch had been using for its meetings since 2012 would no longer be available to us from March onwards. After reviewing several alternatives the Museum of Edinburgh was chosen as the new venue. Located at 142 Canongate, EH8 8DD, a short walk from the old venue down the Royal Mile, it retains good visitor access by public or private transport and offers better facilities for our speakers, but now at a cost of £75 + VAT (£90) per meeting (the Canons’ Gait was free). We continue to use the Canons’ Gait for lunch for the time being.
The forced cancellation of our April and May events due to the coronavirus pandemic led the Branch Committee to explore the possibility of holding Branch meetings virtually. This was found to work very well and in consequence all future meetings will be held virtually until such time as we can return safely to the Museum of Edinburgh.
Although the social aspect of our meetings is important the great advantage of holding them virtually is that, for the first time, everyone in the Branch should be able to take part irrespective of their location.
We now have a ‘Webmaster’ (Peter Mehta) to update the data on the Branch’s website. Mark Baird has undertaken to revamp the site including removal of the historical (and confusing) reference to ‘East of Scotland’ in the domain name. It is proposed to change the web hosting company from GoDaddy to WordPress as the latter includes regular maintenance of the website software by the provider (hitherto a source of some difficulty for the Branch).
Approval of Secretary’s Report under item i) of the agenda.
6) Treasurer’s Report (Frank DiCarlo)
Summary of Accounts for 2019:
- Branch financial status remains healthy but diminishing year on year.
- Overall Balance is £4,516.96 when all commitments are paid.
– Change in year was minus £283.04, this was dominated by Speakers fees.
- Main income was meeting subs at £364
- Main outgoings were:
– Speakers fees (£293)
– Domain name for website (£131)
– Secretary Expenses
- Accounts for 2018 and 2019 were Reviewed and Approved by Colin Graham of “colinswatches”.
- 2020 was a short year with only three meetings and a finishing balance of £4,380.25. Volunteer to review Accounts requested.
Note: At present, the main financial concerns for the future are:-
– likely rental costs for meeting place.
– external (online) Speaker costs, with no income from Subs.
Approval of Treasurer’s Report under item i) of the agenda.
7) Election of Committee
Zen Chowaniec (Branch Secretary) and Bill Lamond stood down from the Committee.
Election of New BHI Scotland Branch Secretary
Richard Thomson was elected unopposed as Branch Secretary. Membership matters will be devolved to Mark Baird.
Election of Rest of Committee
Mathew Richards (Chairman), Mark Baird (Vice-Chairman and Membership Secretary), Frank DiCarlo (Treasurer) and Paul Wood agreed to remain on the Committee for another year.
Peter Mehta (Webmaster) is an ex-officio member of the Branch Committee and agreed to continue in that role.
Approval of elections under item i) of the agenda.
9) Approval of Minutes, Reports and Elections
In a departure from previous practice approval of the 2019 AGM Minutes, 2020 AGM Reports and elections to the Branch Committee was undertaken collectively at the end of the meeting. Approved by Duncan Massie, seconded by Peter Mehta.
Zen Chowaniec, Retiring Branch Secretary