Numerous commercial companies were founded in the 17th
and 18th centuries in order to profit from trade expansion between
Europe, the Americas, the Indian continent and China. However, none
was as famous and as powerful as Great Britain's Honourable East
Established very early on, in 1600, it traded predominantly in
spices, silk, cotton, tea and opium. Its power became so great that
it eventually exercised military power and conquered vast
territories, particularly in India, subsequently assuming
administrative functions and organizing civil society.
The strength of the East India Company lay, above all, in its
fabulous ships, known as "Indiamen". Officially, these exceptional
boats were mighty trading ships, capable of transporting many
passengers and large amounts of goods. However, they were also
formidable, heavily armed war machines, able to resist attacks by
pirates, so much so that the Royal Navy called on their services
If the Indiamen had always enjoyed an edge over their
competitors, it was also due to their having experienced sailors
and intrepid captains, who were keenly aware of the opportunities
offered by the marine chronometer. Here are two examples of such
"Possessed of a good chronometer made byArnold(No. 64,) having
great dependence on my instrument, and losing no opportunity of
ascertaining our precise situation each noon by meridional double
altitudes and lunar observations, day and night, I am in hopes that
navigators, failing in my track, will find in it but few errors."
Captain Thomas Butler of the Walpole, on the subject of his voyage
from the Cape of Good Hope to China in 1794.
"It is the most dangerous shoal I ever beheld, and the water is
so very smooth, owing no doubt to its eastern extent, that a ship
might be on the reef presently, and almost with the best look-out.
I have ascertained the longitude of its north-west extreme by a
very goodArnold'stime-keeper, whose rate agrees with our lunar
observations as nearly as possible." Captain Hogan on the Marquis
Cornwallis, during his voyage to the New Hebrides in 1796.
The East India Company was dissolved in 1874. However, the
Indiamen continued to plough the seas with their precious
chronometers on board until the beginning of the 20th century.
Huddart, Joseph, Captain,The Oriental Navigator(London,