Alfred Campiche, Geneva, Switzerland, c. 1900, serial #2, 6.25"h x
7.25"diameter excluding dome and base. Electrically impulsed helical spring balance
wheel. With original dome and base 12.5"h x 9.5"diameter. An unusual electric master clock whose design is horizontally oriented in
the manner of a marine chronometer. Movement plates spotted and entire works
gilt. First-generation experimental model made for a later production
chronometer marketed by
Paul Ditisheim. This example was the earliest use of
electricity in connection with a marine chronometer.
Campiche made a very small number of chronometers of this
first-generation prototype, probably fewer than 6. There are currently
that are known to exist all with serial numbers less than 6.
Click on the picture to go to a page for more detail.
The movement is of full plate construction in several tiers. The blued
free sprung 28 coil helical spring on the lower tier, with terminal curve is
of the helical free sprung type and the split, bimetallic compensated
balance wheel is exceptionally large. The balance beating seconds but with
a coup perdu arrangement advancing the escape wheel at two second intervals.
There is a large solenoid coil that is mounted between the plates which
attracts a pivoted armature when it is energized. The armature operates a
system of levers to give impulse to the large balance through a brass piece
attached to the balance. Mounted on the end of the balance staff, a disc
with a spring loaded pallet gathers the teeth of a wheel which carries the
seconds hand and turns once a minute. This wheel also carries a metal pin
arranged to brush a pair of contacts at the appropriate moment which
energizes the coil. Another set of contacts can be used to operate a slave
dial. Movement gilded and fully jeweled (except motion works); plates
The English patent for an electro-mechanical movement based on this test
model was awarded to
February 11, 1904, #3449. Campiche and Paul Ditisheim collaborated over the design of this
unusual timepiece. Most likely it was a developmental model which was used as the design
basis for a
marine chronometer made by
Ditisheim. It appears that a few of these were made as test beds for the final design of
Ditisheim's chronometer. Only two movements of this type are known to have survived. The
other nearly identical movement is numbered 5, with frosted, non-gilded movement plates. It was in an advertisement for dealer
Raffety Huber, London in September 1983 issue of Antiquarian
Horology, and was last seen at
November 24, 1998, Lot #417.
(1) The Marine Chronometer in the Age of
Electricity, David Reed, Antiquarian Horology,
September 2015, pp.343-360.
Provenance: Sotheby's, New York, October 14, 2004; Lot #843. Formerly from The
Time Museum, Rockford, Illinois, USA. Inventory No. 3536. Literature: The Time
Museum Catalog of Chronometers, Anthony G. Randall, U.S.A. 1991, catalog #49 pp.
136-7, figs. 83a & b. Author's note, the example described is the later
production model of the chronometer and is similar in design and size to a
standard box marine chronometer and is signed Ditisheim on the dial, No. 2,
but is not the same size as the extant prototype example. Since the catalog
was printed in 1991 it is likely the museum acquired the author's example
after the catalog was printed.