Research on Harrison's second timekeeper H2 is underway

Marine timekeeper (ZAA0035) Repro ID: D6784_1For the last few weeks, H2 has been in the horology conservation workshop at the Royal Observatory undergoing research. The work, which is part of the continuing research for a full published catalogue of the NMM's collection of marine chronometers, involves the complete dismantling of the timekeeper. Every part is being studied, measured and photographed, the intention being to take a fresh look at Harrison's work on his longitude machines.

Last year H1 was dismantled and studied, and some interesting comparisons can now be made about Harrison's early work. It has always been believed that the simple portrayal of Harrison as a lone craftsman, was too simplistic, and we know that H1 was constructed with the help of Harrison's brother James, and almost certainly with advice and supplies from George Graham's contacts in London.

Harrison is known to have had help in his construction of H2, which was made in London, and the current study confirms this, with a much more professional feel to the materials and the finishing of this timekeeper; if H1 is a reminiscent of a fascinating 'country clock', then H2 has all the trappings of a 'scientific instrument'.

There is no doubt Harrison had help in construction, but this doesn't diminish the status of this extraordinary timekeeper, which teems with interesting 'Harrisonian' designs and construction features.

The timekeeper is now completely dismantled and before reassembly can begin there is full photography and measurement for CAD drawings to be done. Analysis is also planned on both the special alloys and the wood used in the timekeeper. It has always been said that the latter is lignum vitae, but as far as is known this has never been positively proved before.

Further updates will follow before the timekeeper returns to exhibition in the Longitude Gallery, now estimated to be sometime in late July.