A very good gilt brass Watkin Patent mountaineers or balloonists barometric altimeter, manufactured by J Hicks, London, No 213, scaled to 20,000ft c1887
Watkin Patent extended scale altimeter with finely engraved and silvered 3″ brass dial with tri-concentric altitude and barometric scales, reading indicator set at 6 o’clock, calibrations from 15-31 inches of mercury and from 0-20,000ft (altitude). “Watkin Patent” in an arc above the centre with “Compensated” and serial “No 213,” the lower dial signed by the maker “J. Hicks, 8, 9, & 10 Hatton Gardens, London.” Fine blued-steel index, very fine telltale with spring anchor to arbour. T
The case with rotating bezel carrying index, set with bevelled glass and having compensation adjustment to rear. The whole barometer contained within its original light tan, claret velvet-lined leather carrying case, finely stitched and of semi-ovoid form, the borders with tooled line, half-moon lid with retaining strap and leather-covered buckle.
The dial unmarked, some points of condensate to glass inner, the case with minor points of oxidation, the rear with gilt finish lacking to centre, some associated wear and age patination.
An extremely rare and significantly interesting aneroid instrument, this Watkin Patent extended scale barometric altimeter remains in ‘as found’ and entirely original condition.
Major (later Colonel) Henry Samuel Spiller Watkin of the Royal Artillery was granted a British patent no. 3425 for a rotary indicator and dial scale on 11 March 1886.
James J. Hicks of London, England was a well-known manufacturer of scientific instruments in the latter half of the 19th century. Born in Ireland in 1837, Hicks apprenticed as an instrument maker with L.P. Casella in London starting in 1852. By 1860 he had risen to a position of foreman with the company. This date also marks the start of Hicks’ many patent filings principally relating to meteorological and clinical thermometers.
In 1861 Hicks started his own company at 8 Hatton Garden, manufacturing a variety of scientific and medical appliances. He married Emma Sarah Robertson, a milliner, in 1862 with whom he had a son and two daughters. By the 1870s, James J. Hicks’ manufactory was perhaps the most important supplier of barometers and thermometers in London at the time. He became the first major manufacturer of clinical thermometers and thermometers applied to meteorology and brewing. His company expanded to occupy 8, 9 and 10 Hatton Garden by 1878 catering to the developing science of meteorology, the growing use of industrial control instruments and to military needs through the manufacture of thermometers, barometers, pressure gauges, anemometers and many other types of apparatus. By the end of his working life, he claimed to have manufactured 13 million clinical thermometers, which he supplied throughout the empire.
In 1911 Hicks’ company was sold to W.F. Stanley & Co., Ltd in London, and he died in 1916. Hicks’ instruments continue to be sought after for their quality and workmanship.
Dimensions: 3¼” diameter x 1½” deep
Stock No: WP0288
Price: Vavasseur Archive - not currently for sale