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British Industrial History

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John Arnold

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Chronometer No. 176, made before 1787. Used by Capt George Vancouver. On display at Vancouver Maritime Museum

John Arnold (1735/6–1799), watch and chronometer maker

1735/6 Born the son of John Arnold (1702–1776), clockmaker, of Bodmin, Cornwall.

Apprenticed to his father and probably worked briefly for his uncle William Arnold, a gunsmith.

1755 Went to the Netherlands to improve his knowledge of clockmaking; he learnt German.

c. 1757 Returned to England and apparently earned a living as an itinerant mechanic.

Repaired a repeating watch for William McGuire of St Albans, who lent Arnold the money to set himself up in business in Westminster.

1762 Opened his first shop at Devereux Court, Strand

1767 Started manufacturing marine timekeepers, as recently developed by John Harrison.

1769 Moved to St James's Street. He and his wife, Margaret, had a son, John Roger Arnold

1771 Moved to 2 Adam Street, Adelphi.

1772 Supplied 3 timekeepers for James Cook's second voyage but these did not perform well

He simplified the design and considerably reduced the price. Also made regulator clocks for observatory use and domestic clocks and watches.

1775 Gained patent for the helical spring

1782 Gained patent for terminal curves; this patent included a form of spring detent escapement, though it seems likely that this design was taken from an earlier version by Thomas Earnshaw that has been described to Arnold the previous year

1783 Took a shop at 102 Cornhill, in the City of London.

Arnold and his supporter the hydrographer Alexander Dalrymple coined the term "chronometer"

c.1783 Took his son as an apprentice and into partnership, trading as John Arnold and Son,

1796 After his retirement, his son continued the business at the Cornhill shop.

1799 Arnold died at Well Hall on 25 August.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  • Biography of John Arnold, ODNB [1]