Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    Benjamin F. Meek, Frankfort Kentucky, Exceedingly Rare American Detent Chronometer, circa 1852
    This highly important American horological masterpiece has never before been offered for public sale. The history and associated intrigue of this "one only" chronometer has been well documented over the years in NAWCC bulletin publications dating from October 1957, February 1960, October and December of 1964 and in the collectors "bible" by Marvin E. Whitney "The Ship's Chronometer". Mr. Whitney refers to Benjamin meek as "a mechanical genius whose talents are virtually unlimited". Benjamin Meek and his older brother, Jonathan are renowned as the finest early American precision fishing reel makers. They were pioneers in spiral gearing techniques and the jewelling of pivot bearings in their revolutionary reels. A silver Kentucky reel made by the Meek brothers recently realized nearly $16,000 at auction. One is also reported to have been made and presented to President Grover Cleveland. Amongst the large volume of provenance associated with this chronometer there is an interesting quote from a letter by Mr. Clarence Gayle a reel manufacturer colleague of Meek. Dated Sept. 11, 1942 Mr. Gayle states " I recollect very distinctly the chronometer that you refer to as Mr. Meek had it in his jewelry shop all of the time. It was a custom back in those days for every watchmaker or jeweler to make himself a regulator and often a chronometer as evidence of his skill and ability as a fine workman." It is precisely for this reason that the chronometer presented here is not numbered. It was a single entity made by a highly skilled horologist and craftsman as his personal statement. Mass production for public sale was never to be, making this a single, one-of-a kind work of art.

    The chronometer is signed "Benj. F. Meek Frankfort KY. 1852. The gilding is fantastic and the balance bridge is engraved "chronometer." Leaf and petal engravings appear on the balance bridge foot and a complimenting bridge on the opposite side. The plates are supported by impressive baluster pillars and the top plate is skeletonized to show the entire train, barrel, balance and detent escapement. Clear sapphire jewels in screw down settings are present as well as a diamond endstone on the balance. A going barrel, helical hairspring and a cut expansion balance are also features of this horological masterpiece. The silver dial is classic in design with black enameled Roman hour numerals, Arabic numerals at the five-minute positions, a black dot seconds ring on the perimeter and a black minute ring. The hands are blue steel open spades for the hours and minutes and a large blue seconds hand which has a circular gold center. A beveled edge glass crystal covers the dial and glass also covers the back. The case measures 5 3/4 inches by 2 1/8 inches. A gilt winding key is included.

    Condition Report*: Type: Benjamin F. Meek Frankfort, KY rare early American chronometer, circa 1852
    Signed: Benj. F. Meek Frankfort, KY 1852
    Model: detent chronometer
    Dial: silver, Roman hours, Arabic five minutes
    Hands; blue steel open spades, blue center seconds
    Metal: gilt, brass
    Case Info: beveled glass front, flat glass back
    Case Width: 5 3/4 inches
    Thickness: 2 1/4 inches
    Crystal: glass
    Watch Movement: skeltonized, detent escapement, helical hairspring, bi-metallic cut expansion balance, going barrel, clear sapphire jewels
    Circa: 1852
    Condition: case very good, movement extremely nice, working, dial good, very minor oxidation spots on minute hand
    Notes: Museum quality ! This is the first public offering of this exceedingly rare timepiece !
    *Heritage Auctions strongly encourages in-person inspection of items by the bidder. Statements by Heritage regarding the condition of objects are for guidance only and should not be relied upon as statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty, or assumption of liability by Heritage. All lots offered are sold "AS IS".

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2008
    20th Tuesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,620

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $9) per lot.

    Sold on May 20, 2008 for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
    Track Item

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976 receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search