Speaking of Chronometers

I recently came across a reference to the many Swiss watches that were employed by the US Navy.  The US Naval Observatory at Washington held open trials and those that scored well were purchased for military use.  It appears they were not as jingoistic as many other countries!  It was mentioned that Vacheron & Constantin broke the record with top score in the trials of October 1921 to March 1922.  In fact, V&C took the top three places in the category of Torpedo Boat Watch yes.

By way of explanation; the ship's chronometer was the main watch on large ships, carefully stored and protected from sudden shocks in a large gimbaled wooden box.  These proved to be completely unsuitable to the new class of small, fast torpedo boats that were developed at the turn of the 20th century.  For these, the portable lever deck watches (chronometre de bord or HS2 under the British system) were pressed into service, while being subjected to the same rigorous timing standards as the big marine chronometers.  They were still required to perform the same navigation duties, after all.  And it was found they did very well indeed.

The 1922 Annual Report of the United States Naval Observatory provides confirmation of this amazing feat:

Speaking of Chronometers

Here we find that V&C Nr. 361624 took first place with some outstanding results.  This watch had a very accomplished history; already having achieved Bulletins in trials at Geneva for 1915, 18 and 19.  It was also submitted for trials at Washington again in 1924, following it's stellar performance here in 1921-22.

2nd place was captured by 374604.  This watch followed a slightly different route, with it's first Bulletin achieved in 1917 at Geneva, then Kew the following year, and finally arriving at Washington for these trials.  

3rd place nr. 379510 debuted in Geneva in 1918 and again in 1920, then Kew for 1920-21, before arriving at the US Naval Observatory.  I just happened to have a copy of the Kew results as published by this Swiss journal, 22nd down the list.  Note the differing references to integral and Guillaume balances.

Speaking of Chronometers

quite an interesting find and amazing results! Didn't think the navy would hold
05/21/2014 - 10:58

observatory trials...but makes sens

V&C's Observatory feats are quite remarkable
05/21/2014 - 17:30

I am much indebted to the information on this subject presented by Jaquet and Chapuis in Technique and History of the Swiss Watch, published in 1953.

Just in terms of First Place finishes, V&C scored top honors at Kew in 1909, 1915-16, and 1916-17.  Those split-year results occured when the trials ran through the New Year.  LOL, by 1925 fully half of the watches appearing at Kew/Teddington were Swiss!

In Geneva, their home ground and the location they consistently competed at, V&C obtained First Place in their category with record scores in 1925, 1933, 1934, 1943, 1947, 1948, 1950 and 1951.  Whew!  Of course, we know some of these found their way into the Graves collection wink.

The regleurs responsible for these results are superstars and VC today can only benefit by giving them more profile IMHO.  I'm speaking of Charles Batifolier, Edmond Olivier, and in particular Helene Jaccard.

Fascinating stuff, dean!
05/21/2014 - 18:32

Thank you for sharing this very interesting information.  I tell you, this is just fueling my desire for a V&C chronometer.  yes

By the way, I am not quite sure I follow why you included the second image from the Journal Suisse d'Horologerie, or was it just to show additiona results from Kew from the same time period?

Keep up the great work, Dean!



Robert, look down the left column
05/21/2014 - 18:42

about halfway, just below the Movado entry, and you'll find our 3rd place watch...confirming it's attendance at Kew before Washington.  Cheers smiley

Got it! Thanks
05/21/2014 - 20:34

Thanks for explaining.  Gosh, these old chronomters got around!  wink



Recent VC Chronometre auction results
05/23/2014 - 05:24

Today, actually.  I threw a bid in on the deck watch but missed out crying.  Still, both were well-priced and I hope they show up here!

Recent auction results

So, you were one of those bidding against me!
05/24/2014 - 04:31

Hey Pal,  thanks for increasing the price on me! angry.   I think you have to get me a coffee at the next SIHH or W&W event that I see you at - then I'll consider the matter settled. angellaugh

I picked up the Deck Watch.  Actually, I really wanted the Dennison Wood & Brass Box, that I can now use for either of my Chronometer Watches.  smiley  I was on a long flight back to BJ when the auction was being held, so I got the great news of getting it when I landed.  (I was waiting to reply to this post, as I wanted to see if I would actually get this watch.)

When I looked at this watch, it was that interesting vernier micro-regulator that caught my eye, as I'm sure it caught your's too.  The movement was made in the 1920s, but cased up in the 1940s for the British Admiralty as an HS2.  I will contact the Kew Observatory to see what I can find out about it.  The movement may have appeared at the Geneva Observatory as well.

Here are pictures from the auction site.  I will not be able to inspect the watch and take my own pictures for a few months (the next time I go back to the US).

So, you were one of those bidding against me!


So, you were one of those bidding against me!


So, you were one of those bidding against me!


So, you were one of those bidding against me!


So, you were one of those bidding against me!

Congrats Dan
05/24/2014 - 04:51

PM sent re Observatory info.  Enjoy your catch :-)

congrats Dan :-)
05/27/2014 - 11:21