What’s It Worth? Maritime Clocks And Timekeepers

Christiaan Huygens, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, and John Harrison are all credited with making the first “ships’ chronometers” to be used for navigation at sea, and Ulysse Nardin is credited with almost perfecting them, making them from the late 1800s until 1975, and similar watches for the wrist.

Ships’ clocks remain very popular among collectors, although all one needs to navigate today (if one were to do so with the stars and a timepiece), is a $10 quartz watch.

We recently bought a terrific collection of maritime and seafaring clocks from two sources, an astute New York collector and a retiring jeweler in Missouri. Many are crude and keep poor time, but others, like the Nardin, continue to be terrific timekeepers despite being close to 100 years old.

Most popular are those in gimbaled boxes. These enable the piece to swing freely on the open seas, since “the rate of a mechanical marine chronometer is sensitive to its orientation.” So marine chronometer clocks were typically mounted on these gimbals (an invention that has its roots in the Chinese Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD) to “isolate them from the rocking motions of ships at sea.”

Pictured is one we acquired, along with its more modern wrist version, which is available in our stores. We love maritime, pilots’ and military watches and clocks of any kind and are always buying.

Three former sothebys.com associates and five GIA graduates on staff. Call or email us if you want to deal with Tampa Bay’s leading expert on fine watches and vintage timepieces.

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St. Petersburg: 1131 4th St. N. 727.898.4377.
Tampa: Hyde Park Village. 1607 W. Swann Ave. 813.875.3935.
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