Thursday, 20 July 2017

George Margetts (1748-1804)

I wrote an extensive article last year on George Margetts. His life and work are intriguing – with technical/craft skills contradictions, biographical uncertainties, business vicissitudes, possible deceptions, but, nevertheless, endeavour across a range of horological and scientific disciplines.

Margetts’s output includes decorative, multi-function watches, Marine Chronometers, clocks and watches with astronomical functions, calculating instruments and published writing based on complex arithmetical calculations.

Here is an example of an extant verge:

© Trustees of the British Museum

Astronomical, gold-consular cased verge.  Diameter – 55.2mm.

The dial shows the positions of the sun and the moon in the zodiac throughout the year, the stars visible each night, the age of the moon and the times of high tide at various ports around Great Britain. The whole dial rotates clockwise once per day, together with the solar and lunar indicators, but over the course of a year both solar and lunar hands regress at different rates to show the position of the sun and moon in the zodiac. Effectively, the dial rotates once in a sidereal day - 23 hours, 56 minutes, 4 seconds - and the solar and lunar hands rotate once in a solar and lunar day.  In the collection of The British Museum 

The article includes a table with details/illustrations of 27 extant horological pieces attributed to Margetts.

Margetts’s story involves innovation contrasting with the more mundane.  His ultimate potential seems to have been unfulfilled and I wonder if his lack of success stemmed from technical shortcomings, lack of commercial focus or a paucity of ability to present himself and his ideas effectively - for example in his dealings with the Board of Longitude.  But, whatever might have been possible, there can be no denying that his Astronomical Watches were very expertly designed, are nicely evocative of his period and remain aesthetically triumphant.

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