Wales and Marches Horological Society Spring meeting was held on the 8th April 2017, at the Cardiff Model Engineering Society's club room www.cardiffmes.com due to our usual venue at St Fagans National History Museum being renovated. Cardiff Model Engineering Society have a excellent meeting room fully fitted out with high-standard AV equipment, and they made every effort to ensure we had a good meeting.
Around twenty-eight members attended the meeting along with a guest from the AHS.
David Boettcher from Cheshire, spoke on the
"Evolution of the Waterproof Watch".
His talk was well received by our members and
a good number of questions were asked.
David explained how his interest in watches was kindled by his grandparents wristwatches, which he remembered from childhood but he only discovered when he inherited that they were Rolex watches from 1917/18. This led to an interest in Rolex and encountering the story that the Rolex Oyster was the first waterproof watch. Observing that some earlier watches had waterproof features resulted in a quest to discover the true history of the waterproof watch. The earliest he found was a watch exhibited at the Great Exhibition in 1851, suspended in a globe filled with water and surrounded by gold and silver fish. The story then evolved though watches supplied to the Royal Geographical Society for the use of travellers, including Captain Scott, to the invention of the screw down crown in America in the 1880s, and various other more or less practical designs. In the 1890s the first really useable design appeared with the patent of François Borgel. Although sometimes regarded as of limited water resistance, a Borgel watch spent three days in the Modder River during the Boer War (1899-1902) and was eventually returned to London in 1915, still working despite the fact that its steel case was rusted solid. Borgel wristwatches were the choice of many officers heading to the front during the Great War, but two more waterproof wristwatches were created during the War, the Submarine, at the behest of two British submarine commanders, and the Aquatic retailed by Harrods, each one tested for 14 days under water and with a three year guarantee. In the early 1920s another design of waterproof wristwatch was created almost simultaneously in America and Switzerland by encasing the watch in a second outer case. David then described the tribulations of the design of the Rolex Oyster and its eventual launch in 1926. The first watch that had its water resistance tested was the 1932 Omega Marine, which was lowered to a depth of 73 metres in Lake Geneva and subsequently certified by the Swiss Laboratory for Horology as being able to withstand a depth of water of 135 metres. The Omega Marine was the first "dive" watch and was used by Dr William Beebe, the American explorer, and Commander Yves Le Prieur, the inventor of the aqualung. David then discussed why it was that the Rolex Oyster is thought by some to be the first waterproof watch when there had been many predecessors. The power of marketing and branding was discussed, and David reminded the audience that even the Roman's had a saying about this: caveat emptor, or don't believe everything you are told.
Andrew King our second speaker talking on “George Harrison, Winner
or Loser”. Andrew is a professional clockmaker and an expert on
Harrison. Andrew’s talk was delivered in a very engaging way,
and without the use of computer, and was immensely enjoyed
by our members with a good number of questions being asked.
Much has been written about John Harrison but how many have closely studied the famous Longitude Act of 1714 to be able to understand the challenge that Harrison was to face in his life’s quest to produce a successful Marine Timekeeper? 2014 was the 300th anniversary of the Act and Andrew King, the well known authority of Harrison’s life, was invited by the British Museum to give the annual Dingwall-Beloe lecture in commemoration of the Act that changed Harrison’s life. On the 8th April Andrew contributed to our day of presentations by giving us un updated version of this lecture. Interpreting Acts of Parliament produces surprises and here it was described to us how much discretionary powers were entrusted to the Commissioners appointed to adjudicate on any proposals for a ‘Method’ for the ‘Discovery of Longitude at Sea’. When the Act passed into law in July 1714, within a very short space of time a plethora of pamphlets appeared written by a multitude of ever hopeful applicants most of whom produced poorly thought out ideas and often difficult to understand in a wild quest to gain something of the maximum Reward on offer of £20,000, several millions in our terms today. A further problem for Harrison was that the Commissioners: politicians, academics, and Admirals from the Royal Navy had no concept of mechanical timekeepers. Even when Harrison produced his ‘Magnus Opus’ H4 in 1760 which went on to perform in tests well within any requirements of the 1714 Act, the prejudice against watches in general was a severe handicap. Despite this the Commissioners financial support of Harrison, through all the years that were taken in producing a succession of timekeepers, was remarkable. However, in the end the argument of Harrison producing just a single successfully tested timekeeper, whilst meeting all requirements in concept did not, in the opinion of the Commissioners, provide the answer for the broader issue of the combined Naval and mercantile fleets. The important factor remains that John Harrison most definitely invented and proved the viability of Marine Timekeepers as was soon to be proved by those who were quick to follow in his footsteps. Therefore, it is true to say that whilst Harrison struggled with his personal battle he unquestionable won the longer term war. So, is Harrison a winner? Most definitely Yes!
Our final speaker - one of our members Spiridion Azzopardi spoke on “Iviron Monastery Tower Clock Restoration”.
I was not present for Spiridion’s talk but I have been told by our members that it was extremely interesting and enjoyable, again our members enthusiasm was shown by the number of questions asked.
“During my first visit to Mount Athos seventeen years ago I visited the monastery of Iviron. My interest in horology led me to visit the bell-tower over the main church in the hope of finding a tower clock. There were a few external indicators to suggest the possibility of a clock and, although there was no clock dial to be seen, there was a small hole in the wall at an appropriate position that would accommodate a clock hand.
Little did I know then that seventeen years later I would be undertaking the restoration of this clock”
The talk was based on the experiences in restoring an early verge and foliot tower clock that was still in service during the last century. The restoration was carried out with limited resources, removal of rust was done by electrolysis using a battery charger, baking soda and water. Some of the many repairs that were applied to the clock centuries ago were retained as a reference of medieval repairs practices. The clock bore many scares of aging and prolonged service unlike the Salisbury clock. It seems that broken or worn parts were repaired in a crude fashion using the technology of the day rather, than making new.
The long service of the clock was tracked by passing travellers who visited the monastery, some centuries apart and commented on the clock in their diaries.
Athelstan Riley, during his travels to Mount Athos in the 1887 visited Iviron and commented on the condition and accuracy of the clock. This confirms that this verge and foliot time piece was still in daily use near the end of the 19th century.