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Was John Harrison a Watchmaker or Clockmaker?

I know, another stupid question Confused Big Grin

Mike Nardick
Posts: 267 | Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania U.S.A. | Registered: November 19, 2002
IHC President
Life Member
Picture of Lindell V. Riddle

It's an absolutely great question! John Harrison did it all, trained as a carpenter, he was first known for building amazing tall case and eventually tower clocks with self-oiling wooden movements. Everything he did he figured out for himself, he was truly the self-taught genius of Horology.

He is known in legend as "The Lone Genius" who figured out the problem of precise calculation of Longitude which opened up the world to safe travel and exploration. His entirely hand-made Chronometers are fantastic and precise works of art. He literally invented the maritime watch.

His story is told in a book, "Longitude" by Dava Sobel, published by Walker and Company of New York. The PBS series NOVA did a treatment titled "Lost at Sea-The Search for Longitude" you will find described at...


A full transcript is on line to read at...


There was also a 4-hour "A&E" presentation with a similar title. The most information available on-line is from the British National Maritime Museum at...


There is a tremendous archive available there. I could not begin to do John Harrison or his remarkable accomplishments justice with my humble words. His life is one of heroic proportions, a legend for the ages. You will find everything about him and his work to be truly fascinating.

When Tom Chaudoir was helping putting this Discussion Site together, it was Tom's idea to name an area for the man who literally dedicated his entire life to the perfection of time-keeping abilities and devices. Once you fully understand the story of John Harrison, you will understand why we grown men who study Horology today have a lump in our throats and tears in our eyes when we contemplate the life and lore of this great man.

I hope this gets you and others started on an amazing voyage of discovery.



Posts: 10553 | Location: Northeastern Ohio in the USA | Registered: November 19, 2002
IHC Member 163
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I was given a copy of Longitude by a long time friend and retired professor here at UTSI, and recommend it to anyone who is involved in the study and/or love of horology. It's a must read, and takes only an evening to go through. Absolutely amazing tale of a master craftsman, and his patience in dealing with injustice. Regards. Mark Cross
Posts: 3825 | Location: Estill Springs, Tennessee, USA | Registered: December 02, 2002
Who can you say would be on the same scale as John Harrison Today?

Is there one person in Horology that anyone could pick?

Posts: 267 | Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania U.S.A. | Registered: November 19, 2002
I cant think of anyone

NAWCC 157316
IHC 155
Posts: 39 | Location: Calgary, Alberta Canada | Registered: November 23, 2002
Yah, I'll give it a shot. Maybe not on the same level, but as John Harrison moved horology into the future "WE" are doing the same. How about that.
Mike, Enough of the stupid question thing. There is no such thing, for one thing. And for another, I just bought a book and I have never read one in my life. No kidding. So hows that for stupid? I didnt think so. smile

Aaron Bereiter
NAWCC# 156432
Very Proud IHC Charter #55
Posts: 945 | Location: Geneva, Illinois in the U.S.A. | Registered: November 19, 2002
Picture of Andy Krietzer
Here is another link (with attached additional links) on John Harrison:


Andy. cool
Posts: 1190 | Location: Indiana in the U.S.A. | Registered: November 25, 2002
IHC President
Life Member
Picture of Lindell V. Riddle

Thanks for the additional information! There is sure a lot available about John Harrison and his amazing accomplishments. Imagine, 227 years after his death he is today so much larger than life.


Posts: 10553 | Location: Northeastern Ohio in the USA | Registered: November 19, 2002
Picture of Tom Seymour
I remember watching the TV presentation of John Harrison's life. It was excellent. Most of those programs are recycled after a bit. It would be a good one to be on the lookout for.

NAWCC #41293
Internet Horology Chapter #104
Interim Exec. V.P. of IHC
Posts: 2537 | Location: Mount Angel, Oregon in the U.S.A. | Registered: November 19, 2002
The TV series "Longitude" is available on DVD and is highly recommended. It is directed by Charles Sturridge and stars Micheal Gambon and Jeremy Irons
Posts: 27 | Location: Warrington, in the United Kingdom | Registered: December 08, 2002
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