Everipedia Logo
Everipedia is now IQ.wiki - Join the IQ Brainlist and our Discord for early access to editing on the new platform and to participate in the beta testing.
Hamilton Marine Chronometer Model 21

Hamilton Marine Chronometer Model 21

During World War II, production of consumer watches was stopped, with all watches manufactured being shipped to troops.

More than one million watches were sent overseas.

[1]The company was extremely successful in producing marine chronometers and deck watches in large numbers to fill the needs of the United States Navy, and other Allied navies as well.


The Model 21 Hamilton was built first and had a chain drive fusee, followed by the Model 22.

The model 21 was powered by a fusee is a cone-shaped pulley with a helical groove around it, wound with a cord or chain which is attached to the mainspring barrel.

Fusees were used from the 15th century to the early 20th century to improve timekeeping by equalizing the uneven pull of the mainspring as it ran down.

Gawaine Baillie stated of the fusee, "Perhaps no problem in mechanics has ever been solved so simply and so perfectly."

When WWII began, the US Navy had 394 ships of all types and by the war’s end she had 6,768, many of which required chronometers, two or more for larger ships, one of more for smaller ones and navigational watches for vessels like patrol boats.

The Hamilton Watch Company of Lancaster, Pa.

was, among others, invited to commit to manufacture of the necessary chronometers and expressed interest in a letter of 2nd July, 1940.

[2] The Company was then provided with two Swiss Ulysse Nardin chronometers to examine.

E W Drescher said he thought Hamilton could make the instruments provided that certain design modifications could be made to allow mass production and the first order was placed on 16 May 1941.

This accounts for the “1941” that appears on the face of the chronometer.

It is not the date of manufacture but of the design.

The first deliveries began on 27 February 1942 and 58 had been delivered by the year’s end, rapidly increasing thereafter, so that 8902 had been delivered by the end of the war.

In most respects, the Model 21 chronometer closely followed the Ulysse Nardin design, except for a revolutionary balance design and the use of a pre-formed Elinvar-type balance spring, to obviate the time consuming and somewhat intuitive spring adjustments previously necessary.


Thus it came about that the escapement design is that of Nardin and uses a slightly more complex detent than that of the standard Earnshaw spring detent used by practically every other maker.

The escapement is the part that communicates with the movement and lets it run down in equal steps while the movement gives up energy via the escapement to keep the balance wheel oscillating.

A plan view is shown in Figure 1 and a perspective view in Figure 2, and you may find it helpful to refer back and forth between the two diagrams while reading the explanation.

In Figure 2, modified from a figure in the official overhaul manual, the horn of the detent obscures some details of the discharge jewel and so in the inset, the horn has been displaced so this can be seen.

Figure 1: Plan view of escapement (After Rawlings)

The escape wheel, driven by the movement, rotates in clockwise steps.

The impulse and discharge rollers and their attached jewels are mounted on the balance staff, below the balance wheel and they are shown rotating anticlockwise.

In both diagrams the discharge jewel is pressing on the end of the passing spring which in turn is pressing on the horn of the detent.

Upon further anti-clockwise rotation, the detent will move its attached locking jewel out of engagement with tooth A of the escape wheel, leaving it free to rotate.

Meanwhile, the discharge jewel slips free of the passing spring, allowing the locking stone to fall into the path of tooth B, ready to lock the escape wheel again, and the rollers continue their anti-clockwise rotation.

Tooth C catches up with the impulse jewel, delivering some energy to the balance wheel to keep it going, and then tooth B arrives at the locking jewel and the rotation of the escape wheel is arrested.

The balance wheel and the rollers eventually reach the end of their anti-clockwise rotation and return, clockwise, but this time the discharge jewel simply lifts the delicate passing spring off the horn of the detent and continues past to complete the clockwise rotation before returning to recommence the cycle.

Thus, when listening to a chronometer going, one hears a loud tick as an escape wheel tooth is locked against the locking jewel and a much softer tick as the passing spring drops back on to the horn of the detent.

Unlocking, impulse and locking occur only once per full oscillation back and forth of the balance wheel and for the rest of the time the it is free of interference or detached.

Figure 2: Perspective diagram of escapement

The structure of the detent is most easily seen in Figure 2 and a photograph of an isolated detent is shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Model 21 detent.


A foot is attached to a support block with a screw and washer.

Two guide pins engage in a groove in the support block and allow only longitudinal movement when the depth adjustment screw is turned.

This adjustment determines how deeply the passing spring engages with the discharge jewel, which in turn determines for how long the locking jewel is lifted out of the path of the escape wheel teeth.

If it is out of engagement for too long, locking on the next tooth may fail and the chronometer is said to trip.

It will then go twice as fast as it should.

[2]The support block allows the detent to be removed from the chronometer and replaced without disturbing its adjustment in relation to the rest of the escapement.

The detent spring in the Hamilton Model 21 is in two parts, unlike most chronometers which have a simple leaf spring, typically about 0.04 mm thick by 2 mm wide.

Having two parts cannot be to allow a thicker spring to be used, as the stiffness of a spring varies directly as its breadth and as the cube of its thickness.

Possibly it was felt that the increased effective breadth resisted torsional forces better.

In any case, the spring must be stiff enough to resist buckling as the escape wheel tooth locks on the locking jewel while being weak enough so as not to interfere significantly with the balance wheel when unlocking.

The slender and flexible passing spring is mounted on a Z-shaped bracket.

However, it must not be so flexible that it cannot cause unlocking, nor should it be so strong that on resuming its seat on the horn of the detent the percussion causes the locking jewel to release a tooth.

The lock adjusting screw determines the position of the stop button which in turn determines how deeply the locking jewel engages with the escape wheel teeth.

It must be deep enough to lock despite any shake in the escape wheel bearings.

Depth of the passing spring and lock, and the angular position of the discharge jewel in relation to the impulse jewel are interdependent; if any one is disturbed, the others may need to be adjusted to regain an efficient action of the escapement.


The official Manual for Overhaul, Repair and Handling of Hamilton Ship Chronometer explains in detail how to carry out adjustments for the Model 21 and Appendix 1 of my The Mariner’s Chronometer does so for chronometers in general.

Without a clear understanding of the action of the escapement and the effects of individual adjustments, one is best advised to leave well alone, and if the instrument has fallen out of adjustment through wear or accident, expert help and wide experience may well be required to put it right.

Obsolescence, why the Model 22 Hamilton was created.

The fusee was a good mainspring compensator, [2]but it was also expensive, difficult to adjust, and had other disadvantages:

  • It was bulky and tall, and made pocket watches unfashionably thick. [11]

  • If the mainspring broke and had to be replaced, a frequent occurrence with early mainsprings, the fusee had to be readjusted to the new spring.

  • If the fusee chain broke, the force of the mainspring sent the end whipping about the inside of the clock, causing damage.

A marine chronometer is a timepiece that is precise and accurate enough to be used as a portable time standard; it can therefore be used to determine longitude by means of celestial navigation.

When first developed in the 18th century, it was a major technical achievement, as accurate knowledge of the time over a long sea voyage is necessary for navigation, lacking electronic or communications aids.

The first true chronometer was the life work of one man, John Harrison, spanning 31 years of persistent experimentation and testing that revolutionized naval (and later aerial) navigation and enabling the Age of Discovery and Colonialism to accelerate.

The term chronometer was coined from the Greek words chronos (meaning time) and meter (meaning counter) in 1714 by Jeremy Thacker, an early competitor for the prize set by the Longitude Act in the same year.

[1] It has recently become more commonly used to describe watches tested and certified to meet certain precision standards.

Timepieces made in Switzerlandmay display the word "chronometer" only if certified by the COSC (Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute).


Citation Linkrubylane.comhttps://www.rubylane.com/item/1475848-L15023/Vintage-1941-Hamilton-Model-21-Chronometer During World War II, production of consumer watches was stopped, with all watches manufactured being shipped to troops.More than one million watches were sent overseas.The company was extremely successful in producing marine chronometers and deck watches in large numbers to fill the needs of the United States Navy, and other Allied navies as well.The Model 21 Hamilton was built first and had a chain drive fusee, followed by the Model 22.
Dec 16, 2017, 3:40 PM
Citation Linkyoutube.comhttps://www.youtube.com/ video Hamilton Marine Chronometer Model 21
Dec 17, 2017, 9:06 PM
Citation Linkchronometerbook.comhttps://chronometerbook.com/ Hamilton Model 21 Escapement
Dec 17, 2017, 9:08 PM
Citation Linkywqaugeunhowzrcj.public.blob.vercel-storage.comhttps://www.youtube.com/ video Hamilton Marine Chronometer Model 21
Dec 17, 2017, 9:06 PM