Thomas Mercer is a British horology company founded in 1858 by Thomas Mercer, a chronometer maker in Clerkenwell Road, London, who moved the company to St Albans in 1874. The company was specialised in the manufacturing of Marine chronometers. Its master piece creations include Thomas Mercer chronometer No.8306, winner of the 1911 Greenwich Trials, and honoured by being bought by the Astronomer Royal for the Greenwich Observatory on behalf of the Admiralty. For 130 years, Thomas Mercer was the undisputed leader in marine chronometers, with a reputation built on innovation, craftsmanship and accuracy.
In 2012 Thomas Mercer brand was re-launched with a new generation of Marine chronometers where Design, Innovation, Engineering Excellence, 30+ years of management team expertise and a fifth generation of the Mercer family on the board are the key to the future success of this brand and its exceptional timepieces.
Re-launched at the beginning of 2012, the Thomas Mercer brand is embracing the future of marine navigation. Guided by an experienced new management team and supported by the fifth generation of the Mercer family, Thomas Mercer have developed a unique ovalising balance system and a new generation of marine chronometer to mark the company’s rebirth. Innovation, mechanical perfection and craftsmanship, are qualities synonymous with these exquisite objets d’art.
Handcrafted precision and artistry were at one time the only way to achieve a work of engineering excellence in maritime navigation. In the modern age we sometimes have to look back to appreciate icons like Thomas Mercer who, by founding his company in 1858, embarked on a pioneering track of creating what were considered to be the finest and most reliable marine chronometers in the world.
It’s no surprise that these magnificent timepieces received international acclaim, numerous horological awards, were required by the British Admiralty, and became revered in maritime history. The safe and trusted navigation of the Thomas Mercer marine chronometer was founded in science, skill, detail and British seafaring reliability.
Origins of the marine chronometer
The marine chronometer was developed in the 18th Century to help determine longitudes at sea. Following a long succession of transoceanic voyages ending in tragedy for British ships, the British Government announced that a reward was to be offered to the person who could find a simple and practical method for the precise determination of a ship’s longitude.
The solution was found by John Harrison, who spent over 30 years developing and refining his Marine Timekeeper. In 1761 he finally succeeded in creating a chronometer which was accurate to less than half a degree and the Board of Longitude awarded Harrison the prize.
The Greenwich Trials
After awarding the Longitude Prize, The Royal Observatory, Greenwich, was responsible for testing, rating and certificating the chronometers to be issued to the British Royal Navy. Chronometers were ‘rated’ for accuracy at the annual trials in Greenwich – success was often lucratively rewarded with contracts from private and public sectors. Thomas’ son Frank Mercer, born 1882, won the Greenwich Trials first prize in 1911 with the Mercer 8306.
Founding of the company
Thomas Mercer was born in 1822 in St Helens, Lancashire, the centre of British watch-making. After working for his Grandfather – a movement maker – from an early age, Thomas moved to London and began working for John Fletcher, an eminent chronometer maker of the time. Thomas Mercer Chronometers was founded in 1858, and his commercial success was accompanied by increasing participation in the British Horological Institute. By the time of his death in 1900, the company was making 170 two-day and 8-day instruments a year.
The world’s leading chronometer maker
The generations that succeeded Thomas Mercer achieved an unprecedented level of success, and the company produced over 31,000 chronometers (approximately 20,000 more than the second leading maker). As well as producing chronometers under the Thomas Mercer brand name, the company also made chronometers for over 370 other makers – several of which were also successful at the Greenwich Trials. At the top end of the Mercer production was several clocks and chronometers made for the Royal Family, including the marine chronometers that equipped the Cunard Queen Mary.
The Legend of Thomas Mercer
Thomas Mercer marine chronometers are revered in British maritime history and are most famously linked to Shackleton’s trans-Antarctic expedition (1914-1916), better known as the ‘Endurance Expedition’. The expedition was ultimately unsuccessful after Shackleton’s ship, Endurance, became trapped in the ice and was destroyed. All of the men survived their ordeal of spending 22 months in the Antarctic however, after Shackleton managed to lead his crew to safety – using his Thomas Mercer chronometer (now on permanent display at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich) during the open boat trip on the James Caird.
Thomas Mercer played an active role in the restoration of H1 and H3; the clocks that John Harrison invented in the 18th century to win the Longitude Prize and that can be considered as the ancestors of the modern marine chronometer. Both clocks are now exhibited in Flamsteed House at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. The importance of the Mercer family to the British Admiralty was illustrated during WWI, when Thomas’ son, Frank, returned from duty in Egypt to lead the chronometer industry, at the request of the Admiralty.
Thomas Mercer remains fully immersed in Britain’s maritime heritage and continues the British tradition of engineering and design excellence. At the helm is an exceptional management team with over 30 years at the forefront of prestigious clock making. Through a combination of respect for the brand’s acclaimed heritage and a passion for the creation of marine chronometers that fulfil the needs and desires of today’s yachtsman, the management team is leading Thomas Mercer with a clear and uncompromising vision.
Key to this vision is the involvement of the Mercer family and a fifth generation member of the Mercer family holds a position on the Board. Exciting possibilities lie ahead for the brand, underpinned by a passion and commitment to continue Thomas Mercer’s legacy and to be renowned as the makers of the world’s finest marine chronometers.
In April 2012, Thomas Mercer unveiled its new calibre, the TM0801. This Spring Détente Escapement formed of helical spring and ovalising balance, represents the commitment to combining innovation with heritage and authenticity. The real heart of the timepiece, in its par excellence form, is the Spring Détente. Aspiring to the theoretically perfect balance, the mechanism revives a challenging but fascinating art form, and delivers the best results in terms of isochronism. Thomas Mercer also introduced the Ovalising Balance, a solution featuring a bar which does not expand or contract with changes in temperature and which forces the balance into an oval shape. This, coupled with an uncut rim which makes centrifugal errors practically disappear, leads to a great reduction in residual and ‘middle temperature’ errors.
Thomas Mercer signed a partnership with the world-renowned super yacht designer, Andrew Winch in 2012. The fusion of Thomas Mercer’s brand leadership and heritage with the extraordinary creativity of Andrew Winch Designs wrote a new page in the history of the timepiece that enabled adventurers to explore and map the globe. While continuing the tradition of engineering and design excellence, the marine chronometer is now evolving into a revolutionary design object, set to grace the interiors of the world’s finest yachts.
|Thomas Mercer Classis by Andrew Winch Designs|
In 2012, the company introduced Thomas Mercer Classis by Andrew Winch Designs. Inspired by the form of a winch, the Thomas Mercer Classis by Andrew Winch Designs is the result of collaboration between two of the great names in chronometry and yacht design respectively. The fine ebony macassar body, produced by the internationally renowned furniture manufacturers, Linley, also represents British craftsmanship at its very best.
Andrew Winch Designs is an award winning British based design studio, founded in 1986 by the designer Andrew Winch. Their diverse portfolio encompasses yachts, aviation and architecture, each project is entirely unique – reflecting the client’s tastes and lifestyle. What underpins all of their work is quality, attention to detail and the enthusiasm of their team. Working with the leading shipyards and completion centres all over the world, Andrew Winch Designs are recognized internationally for their exquisite designs.
Thomas Mercer (Chronometers) Limited
Richmond upon Thames
Surrey TW9 9ES, United Kingdom
t +44 (0)20 8439 9466
f +44 (0)844 854 2865