Chronometer (What I learned and a question)

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magicman
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Chronometer (What I learned and a question)

Post by magicman »

Hello there

After looking at the Superlative Chronometer C63 Homage postage on the NCWOTD thread, And whilst wearing my only chronometer (Lympstone) I decided to look up the word.
An English word, from 1714 it's still used on the COSC tested watches.

So I just wanted to see the origin of the word and now I know.
But my question is, why is English the language of the watch world when the watch world is centred around Switzerland ?
I know it's a very popular language, but is there another reason, that a Swiss Made timepiece will in most cases have exclusively English text.

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Re: Chronometer (What I learned and a question)

Post by Amor Vincit Omnia »

That’s a great question, Steve, so let’s see if I can put a linguist’s spin on it.

If you look at 19th-century French and Swiss pocket watches in particular, you will notice that a lot of the movement and dial signing is actually in French. French was the language of culture in Europe, and it was the normal and recognised second language throughout the continent.

The globalisation of English was very much a 20th century phenomenon. Although the British Empire was waning, the rise of the USA as a global power throughout the rapidly developing technological era cemented the place of English. Rock ‘n’ roll, movies, you name it: the so-called American dream was something that the rather depressed world post WWII wanted, aspired to and imitated.

Go to an airport virtually anywhere in the world. Look up at the signage and departure boards. Whatever the local language, you are almost certain to see English as the second language. When I go to Greece or Cyprus the signs are in Greek, English and sometimes Russian. German, Dutch and Scandinavian visitors, to name a few, are expected to be able to read English. It is without question the language of travel (don’t airline pilots use it as a matter of course when communicating with ATC?) and the language of global communication.

As a linguist I would rather it were not so; compared to our Dutch friends we are absolutely rotten linguists because we don’t need to bother or try. If I took you to any café in Leyden you would almost certainly find a person who could speak to you in English. Go to a café in Norwich and try speaking Dutch.

Back to chronometer. It was actually the French speaking people (French or Swiss, I’m not sure) who I believe coined the word chronomètre to describe the small maritime clocks being developed after Harrison paved the way.

Incidentally, the French are the worst people for confusing chronometer with chronograph. The number of times I have heard a French person say “Je vais chronométrer” meaning “I’ll time it!” :lol:
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Re: Chronometer (What I learned and a question)

Post by H0rati0 »

I'll add a little to Steve's explanation.

In the 17-18th century when watches became widespread, for the well to do anyway, it was actually the English and French that dominated the watch world. The Swiss were making piece parts in snowed in huts and a good chunk of this output went into faking well known English and French makers. To this day you'll find Swiss fakes of Roskell, Breguet etc 18th century pocket watches.
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Re: Chronometer (What I learned and a question)

Post by magicman »

Thanks AVO

Great reply.
In that respect, I guess us English speakers have a charmed existence, when it comes to not having to learn a second language to cope with travel etc.
Good for me as I really struggled with French at school. That said my English isn't always great.
I visited a Pub in Collier Row, Essex last week, and some of the language in there was unfathomable and certainly unrepeatable.

Regards Steve
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Re: Chronometer (What I learned and a question)

Post by Amor Vincit Omnia »

magicman wrote: Fri Apr 30, 2021 9:41 am In that respect, I guess us English speakers have a charmed existence, when it comes to not having to learn a second language to cope with travel etc.
Indeed, it can be a little frustrating at times. Being a frequent visitor to Greece and Cyprus and learning Greek; I really can’t cope with going to countries frequently and relying on the local people to use English. Part of my psyche, I’m afraid.

I have a passion for Mediterranean coffee (what we generally call Turkish coffee, though in Greece it’s referred to as Greek coffee and in Cyprus, as Cyprus coffee). When I ask in what I know to be perfectly correct Greek for one of these coffees, I almost invariably get a quizzical look at the following question in English:

“You want Cyprus coffee, with little sugar, no milk, yes?”

Bugs the **** out of me! :lol:
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Re: Chronometer (What I learned and a question)

Post by Laird »

Interesting that the likes of Waltham, Illinois, Hamilton et al in the late 19th C great American Pocket Watch Manufacturing Boom (before the early 20th C diaspora to Switzerland) ... settled on a 'Rail Road Standard' for accurate Timepiece nomenclature ....
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Re: Chronometer (What I learned and a question)

Post by H0rati0 »

Laird wrote: Fri Apr 30, 2021 10:02 am ... settled on a 'Railway Standard' for accurate Timepiece nomenclature ....
And they are amazingly accurate. I have a 1913 Hamilton 992 and it easily runs a second or so per WEEK. All-mechanical wristwatches cannot really compete due to positional variation.
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Re: Chronometer (What I learned and a question)

Post by Laird »

Thanks @H0rati0 - totally agree - my little 16s Sangamo (illinois) and a big 18s Waltham '845' both to RailRoad standard 6 position verified - are in the same league as your Hamilton !
H0rati0 wrote: Fri Apr 30, 2021 10:27 am
Laird wrote: Fri Apr 30, 2021 10:02 am ... settled on a 'Railway Standard' for accurate Timepiece nomenclature ....
And they are amazingly accurate. I have a 1913 Hamilton 992 and it easily runs a second or so per WEEK. All-mechanical wristwatches cannot really compete due to positional variation.
|C70s|C7 BB, IRR, BRG, RC, Hornet, Valjoux|C3 GT|C4 Phoenix|C40 SpeedHawk|C5 BoB, Aviator|C8 Pilots*3, UTC & AD|C60 316L Y, O, B, GMT, DD Valjoux|C65 316LE,Classic LE, DT LE, 2VEV|C1 WT|C9 Pulse, JH2, AMGT, SSH21|C11 HRDC & Makaira|
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Re: Chronometer (What I learned and a question)

Post by H0rati0 »

Laird wrote: Fri Apr 30, 2021 5:15 pm Thanks @H0rati0 - totally agree - my little 16s Sangamo (illinois) and a big 18s Waltham '845' both to RailRoad standard 6 position verified - are in the same league as your Hamilton !
Amazing to realise that they knocked these out in the tens or even hundreds of thousands and yet 100 or so years later they are still running like those classic trains!
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