HMS Beagle was an Admiralty survey ship sent on three major expeditions. The first (1826–1830) was to survey the coast of South America in company with HMS Adventure. The second expedition (1831–1836) was to build on the work of the first in South America and then to go onward to establish a chain of linked reference points encircling the globe. The third expedition (1837–1843) surveyed the coast of Australia. In its own way, Arnold & Son pays tribute to one of the most celebrated ships in the history of exploration by unveiling set of three watches, each featuring an exquisite hand-painted miniature of HMS Beagle.
The Beagle’s second voyage is best known for a five-week stopover in the Galapagos Island, which gave naturalist Charles Darwin the foundations for his theory of evolution, that guaranteed its place in history. On this voyage the ship carried an unprecedented 22 marine chronometers, five of which were by Arnold and associates. The large number of timepieces was necessary because some would inevitably break down on long voyages and the chronometers were essential for the mission of the ship. Further, the rates of all chronometers vary with time. Although this can be allowed for by interpolating between the regular rate checks, there is no guarantee that the changes are linear, and often they are not. Averaging the readings from a large number of chronometers, especially if they are of a variety of types, will tend to cancel out such errors.
The set comprises three timepieces each with a different Arnold & Son in-house movement: the HM, with the ultra-thin A&S1001 movement with over 90 hours of power reserve; the TB, with the self-winding A&S6103 movement with integrated true beat seconds system; and the UTTE, featuring the ultra-thin tourbillon calibre A&S8200 with a one-minute flying tourbillon and over 90 hours of power reserve. The movements are housed in 18-carat white gold, 18-carat rose gold and 18-carat red gold cases, respectively, with black alligator straps.
A feature common to each of the watches is a finely detailed, hand-painted miniature showing HMS Beagle at some stage of its second voyage.
Set against silvery-white and silvery opaline dials, the paintings are based on illustrations of the ship taken from documentation of the voyage. The art of painting miniatures by hand calls for infinite patience and consummate skill. The tiny brushstrokes and texturing gradually build up entire images with an astonishing richness of detail and underscore Arnold & Son’s mastery of the decorative arts.
The magnificent HMS Beagle timepieces are available in a limited edition of just eight sets of three watches each.