By Ed Estlow
on 11.12.13
Photo by Thomas Mercer

Thomas Mercer recently released the limited edition (25 pieces) Thomas Mercer Legacy Shackleton Epic ($139,000) marine chronometer to commemorate the centennial of Shackleton’s 1914-1916 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. Specifically, the Legacy acknowledges what is widely acknowledged as the greatest small-boat journey ever accomplished: the voyage of the 22.5-foot James Caird across 800 nautical miles of the nastiest water on the planet. Shackleton and five others undertook the voyage to save the balance of his 28-man crew after they’d endured nearly a year of being stranded on floating pack ice in the Weddell Sea. In the midst of that adventure, their ship, the Endurance, was crushed by the sea ice and sank.

A clock made the difference for the sailors aboard the James Caird. That clock was, of course, a marine chronometer. Extremely accurate, it was essential gear for navigating the open ocean if you left your GPS at home, or, in Shackleton’s case, if that tool hadn’t been invented yet. In Shackleton’s time, you couldn’t figure out your longitude (position east or west) without it. The timepiece in question was manufactured by British marine chronometer specialists Thomas Mercer. The venerable British company recently teamed with Shackleton Epic (which re-enacted Shackleton’s James Caird voyage early this year) to produce the Legacy — which frankly is much too nice to be sent bobbing about in the Roaring Forties.

The Legacy’s case is hand polished stainless steel coupled with the exotic hardwood Ziricote and nicely designed to show off the rhodium-plated mechanism. It’s all suspended on double gimbals; the mechanism will run for eight days and features a spring detent escapement driven by a mechanical spring with fusee and steel chain system. All those mechanicals ride in seventeen jewels and only tell hours, minutes, and seconds — that, and the story of the greatest small boat journey of all time, right there on the dial. We break it all down for you above.