Larcum Kendall, London, c.1771 ‘K2’

One-day marine timekeeper ZAA0078

Following the successful production by Larcum Kendall of a replica of H4, the Board of Longitude sought Kendall’s opinion as to whether he might be able to simplify Harrison’s design and produce a timekeeper which was of significantly lower cost. Kendall agreed, and this timekeeper, known today as ‘K2’ was the result. It is built on precisely the same scale as K1 and H4, and is in a very similar silver case, but has significant simplifications in the movements and dial.

Case The timekeeper has a glazed carrying box which probably dates from the late nineteenth century. Of lapped dovetail construction, the mahogany box measures 110mm high, 167mm wide and 179mm deep, front to back. The lid, which is glazed and has an ogee bead retaining the glass, is on nickel-plated stop-hinges, mounted on the left hand side of the box and opens to just over 90°. The lock, on the right hand side of the box, originally had a narrow escutcheon (probably in brass) now missing. There are holes in the sides which suggest the box had a handle which could be swung up for carrying. Holes on the sides near the base of the box were probably for fixing the box down in some way. The underside of the box is covered in green baize. The inside of the box is built up to form a support in the shape of K2’s case, and is covered in red velvet, now quite worn in places. In the upper corners of the box, on either side of the box of the timekeeper, are two lacquered brass plates, covering cavities formed in 1957 when two parts of the movement were replaced, and the originals were to be preserved with the timekeeper. On the left, the plate reads: ORIGINAL / LOWER / PALLET STONE, and on the right: ORIGINAL / CROWN-WHEEL and the removed parts are now stored underneath. In the lower left corner, located in a socket, is a straight brass key with a knurled knob, for hand setting. A cavity in the lower right is for a winding key, no longer present. There is however a straight, Rhodium-plated brass key, intended for mean-time adjustments.

The timekeeper itself has large silver pair-cases, virtually identical to those of K1. Overall, the timekeeper in its pair cases, measures 165mms high, 128mms wide and 51 mms deep, and weighs 1343gm. Both cases are fully Rhodium-plated (date of plating uncertain). The outer case has a seven-knuckle joint, and is hallmarked in the back for London and the date letter Q for 1771/72, the case maker’s mark being incuse (directly stamped, without a cameo) PM. The outer case is lined with purple velvet. The inner case, which is hallmarked precisely as the outer, retains the movement on a nine-knuckle joint (three on the movement brass edge). A narrow silver bezel, mounted on the same joint and containing a convex glass, covers the dial. The back of the inner case is heavily engraved: PRESENTED TO / The United Service Institution, / BY / Rear Admiral Sir Thomas Herbert K.C.B., M.P. / This Timekeeper belonged to Captain Cook, R.N. / and was taken by him to the Pacific in 1776. / It was again taken to the Pacific by Captn. Bligh in the Bounty, 1787. / It was taken by the Mutineers to Pitcairn’s Island, / and was Sold, 1808 by Adams to a Citizen of the United States / who Sold it at Chili, where / it was purchased by / Sir Thomas Herbert. With the bezel of the inner case swung up, the movement can then also be swung out of the case, on its joint. As with K1, this is achieved by pushing in a small bolt, projecting out from under the brass edge at the 30 minutes position, and lifting the movement up at that end.

Dial & Hands The 103.5mm Ø white enamel dial, of regulator layout, is of exceptionally fine quality. The outer perimeter is marked with the minute circle and with small Arabic five-minute figures, the upper area of the dial is signed: LARCUM KENDALL / LONDON. Below the dial centre are two subsidiary dials, with hours shown on the right, with roman numerals, and for seconds indication on the left with Arabic five-seconds figures. As with H4 and K1, the dial is ostensibly flat, but is very slightly domed towards the centre. There are three polished steel, domed-headed shoulder screws securing the dial within the centre area, at the 10, 30 and 50 minutes positions. There is a fine crack running about 6mm on either side of the lower screw hole. There are no perceptible marks on the plain white counter-enamel of the dial. Polished and blued, steel poker hands with a fine polished and blued-steel pointer seconds hand with a counter poised tail.

Movement The full plate, fusee movement has six finely shaped, turned baluster pillars, the potence plate pinned on. The plain potence plate is engraved: Larcum Kendall / 1771 London and the balance is supported under a highly engraved balance bridge with a six-spoked, round, open table. The bevelled edge of the table is engraved with an amplitude scale, marked in arabic, in tens of degrees from 0 to 180. Under the balance bridge is an engraved brass edge, having two upstanding brass pins and a small steel upstanding pointer, by which to align the pin on the balance at the position of rest of the balance. Adjacent to the balance is a steel arm which is the balance brake. Actuated by the fusee chain, the brake is designed to stop the timekeeper just before the timekeeper winds right down, preventing damage to the delicate escapement parts. The general level of finish of the brass-work is very high with all brass movement parts highly polished. Exposed areas of the brass movement parts are now dull owing to years of exposure when the movement was on open display. There is a hole in the pillar plate opposite the pivot hole of the compensation curb mounted in the potence plate, perhaps to provide access for lubricating the lower pivot of the curb.

The unsigned blued-steel mainspring is in a resting barrel. The barrel has a central raised boss, forming a bearing which is mounted in an opening in the potence plate and secured from the upper side by the set-up ratchet, which fixes to it with three dot-marked blued-steel screws, and clamps it to the plate once tightened up. The barrel arbor has small diameter pivots and runs between the pillar plate and a pivot hole in the set up ratchet. It is mounted inside the brass chain barrel which completely encloses the resting barrel when in place in the movement. The set-up ratchet has one single dot, for set-up position. The fusee has Harrison’s maintaining power, the maintaining ratchet mounted on the underside of the fusee, on the same principle as in H4, and making the construction rather complicated. Two steel maintaining power clicks are mounted on posts under the fusee, between the plates. The brass ratchet within the fusee is in annular form and there are two fusee clicks mounted on low, raised segmental blocks on the maintaining ratchet, which project through segmental openings in the great wheel. The feet for the return springs for those clicks are mounted on the maintaining ratchet in a similar way. The maintaining spring is mounted on the inside of the great wheel, round a large central brass boss. The brass fusee collet which holds the assembly together is dot-marked for correct pin entry. The steel cap on top of the fusee is fixed with four dot-marked steel screws. The fusee has a brass pipe secured with two screws and one steady pin.

Four-wheel train plus great wheel, without remontoir. The third wheel is mounted under a bridge on the dial side of the pillar plate, the fourth wheel pinion projecting through the pillar plate and run on a cock under the dial. All the wheels except the escape wheel are fixed with three screws. The friction work on the cannon pinion is provided by a small steel boat spring under the pinion, tensioned when the pinion is colleted and pinned on.

Escapement, Balance & Spring and Jewelling The escapement is of Harrison’s modified verge type, identical to that in H4 and K1 (see the entry for H4 for a description) except that the pallets are not in diamond but in ruby.

The hardened and highly polished steel balance has three narrow, bevelled arms. There is a steel banking pin on the upper surface of the periphery, and two downward-pointing projections under the balance bridge, limiting the maximum balance amplitude to 140°.

There is a Harrison-type, three-turn blued steel spiral balance spring, of tapered form, with a long, somewhat straighter tail, embraced by the steel curb pins of the pivoted compensation curb. The tail of the balance spring, beyond the curb pins but before the stud, acts against a further brass pin, mounted on an adjustable piece fixed to an intermediate plate on the potence plate. This pin, which acts in the same way as Harrison’s cycloid pin in H4, is intended to make similar isochronal adjustments.

The compensation curb is controlled by a spiral bimetallic compensator, and the complete compensation assembly is mounted in a circular carriage mounted on the potence plate. A sink turned in the upper surface of the potence plate has an undercut wall, into which a brass split ring, with an undercut outer edge, is sprung, so that it is a friction fit round the inside of the sink. The carriage carrying the compensation is fixed to the split ring, and can thus rotate, in order to adjust the timekeeper for meantime. The carriage has a deep cup-like projection under its centre, the bottom of which has a pivot hole for the extended arbor of the compensation curb. The cup-like projection projects through an opening in the potence plate into the space between the plates. The upper pivot of the compensation curb is supported under a cock on the carriage, the pivot hole being bushed with a white metal, probably a high-tin bronze. The amount the compensation carriage rotates is controlled by a horizontal steel endless screw, mounted in bearings on the plate and meshing with a segment of teeth cut into the edge of the carriage.

The upper balance pivot has a rose-cut diamond endstone in a polished steel setting, and the remainder of the jewelling, which is in pink (probably ruby) stones, extends to the balance and escape wheel pivots, the upper contrate wheel pivot, and both pivots of the third wheel, all with endstones, and the lower fourth wheel pivot hole. The endstones in the followers for the escape wheel pivots are captive and sealed for life within the brass dovetail settings for the jewel holes.

History In May 1770 the Board of Longitude prevailed upon Larcum Kendall to attempt to create a less expensive version of H4. Kendall had refused the Board’s request to help train watchmakers to manufacture copies of H4, and it was then recorded: The Board having taken the same into consideration & Being desirous of trying whether watch-machines to keep true time at sea cannot be made in a much less expensive manner than those with all Mr Harrison’s improvements, and having discoursed with the said Mr Kendall thereupon, Resolved to try the experiment, and Mr Kendall, being willing to undertake it, was engaged with to make a new watch machine, leaving out such expensive parts, and making such other alterations from that made by Mr Harrison as he shall judge necessary in order to reduce the price, in hopes by that means to make such watch machines come within the reach of purchase for general use. Nearly two years passed, and in March 1772 the resulting watch was presented to the Board. The cost was £200, but Kendall told the Board that with the experience of its making now under his belt, he would be able to make others for half that price. After tests at the Observatory, the timekeeper was issued to Capt. Constantine Phipps in 1773 for his voyage in Racehorse to the North Pole (on which Horatio Nelson took part as a young midshipman) and was then passed on for use on the North American Station by Captain George Vancouver (1774-1777). In February 1779 K2 was used in the observation of a comet with the equatorial sector in the eastern terrace observatory at the Royal Observatory. It was then issued to Rear Admiral Robert Digby (1781-1784) after which, for the following two years (1785-1786), it was with Captain Edward Thompson on Grampus for a voyage to Africa.

It was then that K2 was issued to William Bligh in 1789 for his voyage to the pacific in the Bounty to collect breadfruit. When the notorious mutiny occurred, in 1789, the watch was taken to Pitcairn Island. It was finally bought from the last of the mutineers by Mayhew Folger Captain of the whaler Topaz, who discovered the remaining mutineer there in February 1808. However, on the subsequent voyage towards Valparaiso, Folger and his crew called at the island of Juan Fernandez and the Spanish Governor confiscated the timekeeper and kept Folger and his crew in jail until the arrival of the new Governor, some months later, who freed them. The timekeeper then turned up in Concepcion and was bought, apparently for three Doubloons, by a Chilean muleteer by the name of Castillo. Castillo kept the timekeeper until his death in 1840. It was then sold by his family, by arrangement with Alexander Caldcleugh (1795-1858) of Valparaiso, to Captain (later Admiral) Sir Thomas Herbert (1793-1861), of HMS Calliope for 50 Guineas. Herbert then had the timekeeper repaired and cleaned by one Mr Mouat, a watchmaker in Valparaiso. Mouat recorded that the lower pallet of the escapement was worn and the thread on the compensation carriage had been stripped by forcing the endless screw. After rating the timekeeper, which appears to have performed well over the following few weeks, was taken by Herbert with him to China in Calliope. On his return to England Herbert presented the timekeeper, on behalf of the Admiralty, to the Royal United Service Institution’s museum in about 1843, at which time the engraved citation was probably added to the inner case. It is listed in their catalogue [FN: Official Catalogue of the Royal United Service Museum, RUSI, London 1924. P.29] as museum No.347.

In 1957 the timekeeper was repaired and put into working order, courtesy of the manufacturers Smiths Clocks and Watches, by Peter Amis in their workshops in Clerkenwell, London. The lower pallet of the escapement was replaced with a specially made ruby one, and the stripped thread on the compensation carriage was re-cut. A new escape wheel was also made as the teeth on the original had been significantly worn. The original removed parts were returned and are now preserved in the carrying box which K2 is now associated with. The silver case also required some repairs and these were carried out at the same time by the well-known watchcase maker A.T. Oliver of Clerkenwell. K2 was then transferred to the collections of the NMM in October 1963, on the closure of the RUSI museum. In 1964 the timekeeper was overhauled in the Chronometer workshops at Herstmonceux by R Bowie. It is not known when the silver cases of K2 were Rhodium plated, to match H4 and K1, but this was almost certainly carried out at the Herstmonceux chronometer workshops, and was probably done during this overhaul in 1964.

The timekeeper was cleaned again in 1972 by Roger Shergold, and then in 1976 by Robin Thatcher and Roger Stevenson. It was then cleaned another time in 1984 by Jonathan Betts at the NMM (Royal Observatory). The timekeeper was exhibited in the NMM special exhibition Mutiny on the Bounty in 1989. It was exhibited again in the special U.S. touring exhibition The Great Age of Sail, which took place in San Diego Museum of Art, CA., during February to October 1992; the Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, VA., between November 1992 to January 1993; and the Peabody Museum of Salem, MA., from February to August 1993.

Humphrey Quill: ‘Relic of a Famous Mutiny’, Country Life, November 6 1958, pp.1068-1070

Peter Amis: ‘The Bounty Timekeeper’, H.J., V.99, No.1191, December 1957, pp.759-770.

Walter Hayes: The Captain from Nantucket…The William Clements Library, Michigan, 1996.

Object Details

ID: ZAA0078
Collection: Timekeeping
Type: Marine timekeeper
Display location: Display - Pacific Encounters Gallery
Creator: Kendall, Larcum
Vessels: Bounty (purchased 1787)
Date made: 1771
Exhibition: Time and Longitude; Ships, Clocks & Stars: The Quest for Longitude
People: Bligh, William; Royal United Service Institution
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Royal United Service Institution Collection
Measurements: Overall: 165 x 125 x 50 mm
Parts: K2

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