A rare early 19th century eight day marine chronometer
This chronometer was one of the four precision timekeepers taken aboard HMS Providence in 1794. The purpose of the expedition was to tour the northern Pacific and take astronomical observations, under the direction of Commander William Robert Broughton. A journal was kept by John Crosby, late of the Royal Observatory.
Crosby took receipt of Box Timekeeper number 56 on 9th October 1794, together with two pocket chronometers and another chronometer by Thomas Earnshaw. It is stated that they were carried aboard and made fast to the Bulk Head of Captain Broughtons Cabin, the ship being under way for St. Helens. All four instruments had been rated at Greenwich Observatory just three days beforehand. The current lot was 54 seconds fast of meantime and gained 2 seconds a day. The Earnshaw chronometer, number 248, was 1 minute 47 seconds fast and gained 5 seconds per day.
An entry dated June 15th 1796 reads Delivered to the Governor of Monterey, Don Diego Barica the two timekeepers No 2 and No 56 being the property of the late Governor of St. Blass. Unfortunately, we cannot say for certain quite how the chronometers came to be traded between the two Governors, nor what happened to the chronometers immediately afterwards. At some time however, number 56 changed ownership once again.
The Will of the Spanish Commander of the Fleet, D. Thomas de Ugarte written in Montevideo in 1804 records that Arnold chronometer number 56 was one of his most treasured possessions. De Ugarte, in common with other Spanish commanders of the time, had had to purchase his own chronometer and when he died he bequeathed what he described as his excellent chronometer to King Fernando VII of Spain. It was a token of appreciation for the kindness and generosity that the King had shown towards de Ugarte throughout his career. Under the Kings direction, the chronometer was put to use within the Navy until at least the 1830s.
Several points concerning the current condition of the chronometer point towards it having spent some time in France during the 19th century; the silvering of the dial is typically French, as is the long hinge to the case.