Pocket watch in a silver case

A pocket watch with lever escapement in a silver case from the 1845 Northwest Passage Expedition led by Sir John Franklin. The movement of this watch cannot be accessed, being rusted into its case, but is almost certainly a 30-hour duration, single train, gilt brass, four pillar fusee movement with ratchet tooth, lever escarpment and plain balance with flat spiral balance spring. An aperture in the gilt metal cap reveals the endstone in a screwed setting. The flat enamel dial has Roman hour numerals, a minute circle below the hour hand spindle, and subsidiary seconds dial with Arabic ten seconds numerals and seconds circle. The front is signed ‘A MYRES LONDON’ possibly relating to Abraham Myres, who worked at 70 Leman Street, London between 1839 and 1857. It is also stamped ‘CBH’, referring to Cornelius Brook Holliday, a case maker at 21 Queen Street, Percival Street, Clerkenwell. It has an engine turned case back with central reserve and milled decoration to the band, with a plain silver pendent and bow. The pendant has illegible stamp marks.

The watch was found by Lieutenant William R. Hobson’s sledge team on 24 May 1859 at a place where a ship’s boat was discovered on the coast of Erebus Bay, King William Island, as part of the search expedition led by Captain F. L. McClintock. Hobson refers to finding ‘One of the chronometers, the three watches, … were found in the stern sheets.’ [Stenton, ‘Arctic’ v.69, No. 4, p.517]. McClintock visited the site on 30 May and records ‘Five watches’ [McClintock, ‘Voyage of the Fox’ (1859), page 291].

The newspapers that covered the Royal United Services Museum display of Franklin relics described it as ‘…a small silver watch, maker’s name, “A. Myres, London”…’ [e.g. Belfast Newsletter, 19 October 1859].

The Myres watch was displayed at the Royal Naval Museum, Greenwich, ‘Case 17. Nos. 8, 9 and 10. Silver watches’. The item, based on the shape, rust patterns, and label, is shown in ‘Stereoscopic slides of the relics of Sir John Franklin’s Expedition’ photographed by Lieutenant Cheyne RN, at the United Services Museum, Whitehall, No.8. The label below it states ‘SILVER WATCH / maker’s name / A MYRES LONDON’. (Top right to the left of the two spoons and two forks). The two other watches were described in the draft 1913 RNM,G, catalogue as a silver hunting watch and a silver watch with a leopard’s crest – confirmed by McClintock’s handwritten list in his notebook [NMM, MCL/21].

Object Details

ID: JEW0030
Collection: Decorative art
Type: Watch
Display location: Not on display
Creator: A. Myers; Holliday, Cornelius Brook
Events: Arctic Exploration: Franklin's Last Expedition, 1845-1848
Date made: 1838-1839
People: Franklin, John
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Overall: 73 x 53 x 16 mm
Parts: Pocket watch in a silver case

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