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H3940 Box chronometer, serial No 520, brass / wood / steel / glass, made by Thomas Earnshaw, London, England, 1801, used by Captain Matthew Flinders, 1801-1803. Click to enlarge.

Matthew Flinders marine chronometer

Made by Earnshaw, Thomas in England, 1790-1801.

When Matthew Flinders set out in 1801 to circumnavigate Australia, he took with him a collection of five chronometers. The only one to survive the journey was this one. It was made in London by Thomas Earnshaw in early 1801. The escapement and compensating balance wheel which were invented by Earnshaw are incorporated into this chronometer and reflect his skill and precision in workmanship. Flinders expressed his enthusiasm for E520 in his book 'A Voyage to Terra Australis' where he referred to ...


Object No.


Object Statement

Box chronometer, serial No 520, brass / wood / steel / glass, made by Thomas Earnshaw, London, England, 1801, used by Captain Matthew Flinders, 1801-1803

Physical Description

A marine chronometer contained within a cedar wood box with a hinged lid. The chronometer, which can be viewed through a circular glass window in the lid, sits in a brass gimbal ring that is fixed inside the box. The chronometer's mechanism is encased in a circular brass surround. The steel dial or face of the chronometer is marked with Roman numerals from 'I' to 'XII'. There is a smaller subsidiary dial marked from '10' to '60' towards the bottom of the main dial . The small dial has a single second hand. A circular glass cover sits over the face of the chronometer. On either side of the box is a brass drop handle. The interior of the box is lined with green felt. Two keys are associated with the chronometer, one of which can be stored in a compartment in one corner of the box.


Maker's name and serial number on brass back plate, engraved 'Tho"s Earnshaw / [Inv"t et Ferit] N 520'
Place of production and serial number on brass back plate, engraved 'London No 2865'



155 mm


212 mm


212 mm



The chronometer was made by Thomas Earnshaw in London, England in 1801.



The marine chronometer was used for finding longitude by comparing its time with a measurement of the local time at the ship's position. Used by Matthew Flinders (1774-1814) in his circumnavigation of Australia on the HMAS Investigator in 1801-1803.


Credit Line

Purchased 1937

Acquisition Date

10 May 1937

Cite this Object


Matthew Flinders marine chronometer 2019, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 25 February 2020, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Matthew Flinders marine chronometer |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=25 February 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}
This object is currently on display at the Sydney Observatory.

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