Auction Watch: Charles Frodsham Double Impulse ChronometerIn steel, with cyphers.
Online watch auctioneers Loupe This have just listed a Charles Frodsham Double Impulse Chronometer in an online-only sale that runs from now till May 11. Barely a handful have emerged – one was sold at Phillips Perpetual in London in 2021 – but this example is the first to go under the hammer.
The scarcity is of the Double Impulse Chronometer on the secondary market is simply because there are few of them in circulation. Around 50 have been made to date and with about a dozen being produced each year, the wait for an order placed now stands at about eight years. The exceptional demand for the watch is entirely justified, since the Double Impulse Chronometer is arguably the most significant English wristwatch in production today.
Consigned by the original owner, this specimen is quintessential Frodsham. Numbered “010800” and delivered in September 2019, this is one of the first examples made, the 13th in fact, according to Richard Stenning, co-owner of Charles Frodsham. More notably, it is an unusual combination of a stainless steel case and white ceramic dial with double cyphers. According to Mr Stenning, this was the first of only two watches with this configuration made to date.
The cyphers are an option but arguably crucial since they reference the firm’s history and add to the vintage-inspired styling of the dial. Historically found on Frodsham pocket watches – often engraved on the movement but sometimes on the dial – such cyphers indicated Royal Warrants or prizes bestowed upon Frodsham. Now Charles Frodsham reproduces two of the most significant cyphers on the dial of the Double Impulse Chronometer on request.
Double trains and wheels
But of course the centrepiece is the movement with a double-wheel escapement. The movement is made up of two separate barrels, wheel trains, and escapements, which together culminate in a single balance wheel. This construction has an illustrious lineage with historical origins in Abraham-Louis Breguet’s natural escapement and more recent inspiration from the double-wheel escapement invented by George Daniels (with help from Derek Pratt) that’s famously found in the Space Traveller pocket watch.
Charles Frodsham was the first to install the double-wheel escapement in a wristwatch, something Daniels was never able to do (and instead developed the co-axial escapement for wristwatches). The complexities and challenges of miniaturising the double-wheel escapement for a wristwatch were so tremendous it took Charles Frodsham some 16 years to perfect the Double Impulse Chronometer.
One of the primary problems was simply tolerances. “In the double wheel escapement the challenge is furthermore increased by the fact we are basically dealing with two escapements. Whereas in a single detent [escapement] adjustments can be made, in the double wheel escapement these adjustments are no longer possible, as they would affect the second half of the escapement,” explained Philip Whyte, the other co-owner of Charles Frodsham, speaking during the launch of the watch, “This means that the tolerances in manufacture and finishing are much tighter than one would expect.”
Accompanied by its original certificate, the Double Impulse Chronometer is in excellent condition with only minor wear on the case. It has an estimate of US$100,000-200,000.
The online auction is live until 9:00 am Pacific Daylight Time (GMT-7) on May 11. For more, visit Loupethis.com.
This was brought to you in collaboration with Loupe This.
Correction May 5, 2023: The watch is accompanied by its original documents, but not the box as stated in an earlier version of the article.Back to top.