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Singers patent, Dennison Mk V

Read more about these popular compasses in the article on WWI Pocket watch compasses.


WWII Pocket compass

Intrigued to know what all that compass jargon means.


Singers patent

In my view Singer's Patent was an iconic design of the 1860's.  So who was Singer?


World War 1 prismatic compasses prove very popular at auction, but what were their origins?


Old Italian compass

How compasses were a few hundred years ago

Book Reviews

Books on compasses that are invaluable reference material

Useful Links

And finally some useful links to compass sites around the world.


The WWI pocket watch compass


WWI Pocket Watch Compasses

These are very popular pocket compasses to collect and the fact that they were all identified with a serial number on the lid enhances their uniqueness and collectability.  There are all dry card compasses and there were two main model variations, the Mark V and Mark VI. 

I have only ever seen one compass of this size and style without a Mark V or VI insert.  This was produced by Negretti and Zambra in a Dennison case.  This Negretti and Zambra compass had a more traditional insert comprising a compass rose with a needle with a bar at the North end, see below.  The main types (V & VI) have a dry aluminium card on a jewelled mount.  All compasses of this type include a transit lock, released when the lid opens and operated via a button set in the bow fixing.

Model variations inserts Mark V and VI

The Mark V is a design clearly with itís roots based on the Singers Patent compass rose design.

Singers patent, Dennison Mk V                                     Dennison Mk VI
                                  Negretti and Zambra

 Models Mk V & VI availability


1905 1909 1910 1911 1914









V & VI














Ed Koehn






R J Hopgood






Anglo Swiss Association






L Kamm & Co






F Barker & Son






C Haseler & Son






J Hicks      





Clement Clarke







Short & Mason

V V V V V 









V & VI


F Barton & Co






W F Holmes












Models located to date






Dennison and Stanley appear to be the only supplier who supplied both models (V and VI) in 1917.

The differences in compasses from different suppliers are in whether or not they used a Dennison case, the compass inserts and their method of fixing to the case.  Whilst the compass rose design is standardised as either a Mk V or VI on all the Dennison cased compasses, the inserts can vary either in the material used or the height protruding above the case.  This would seem to indicate that the inserts were added separately and that they came from several sources.  Dennison were primarily known for their expertise in making cases for pocket watches.  All Dennison cased compasses have a clearly defined ridge on the top and bottom that defines the top or bottom from the side of the case.  Dennison cases are also stamped internally in the base. I have been told that the case and insert were manufactured separately and then assembled by a third party.  Dennison cased compass inserts are always a tight push fit, however some non Dennison enclosed compasses have the inserts fixed differently.

For none Dennison cases, i.e. those without a case number, the case details can vary at the bow mounting as can the method of fixing the insert.


Dennison Bow mount




This is an example of the Dennison Bow mount as used on both Mark V and VI compasses.

Non Dennison Bow mount



This is a non Dennison case with a bow mount with castellated edge.  In this compass there is no case number.

  Ed Koehn Geneva Bow mount



A non Dennison case from Ed Koehn of Geneva.  Note the long pin holding the bow in place that is not used on a Dennison case.

Non Dennison caes



This is a non Dennison case with an alternative insert fixing Ė two small holding screws that secure the insert.  The threaded sockets are visible from the front of the compass.

Use of these models before and after WWI.

I have found reference to Mk Vís as early as 1910.  In a catalogue from Henry Hughes & Son Ltd [1] dated 1910 there is picture of a Mark V.  My own records include a Short & Mason Mark V dated 1910, lid number 3220.

The Mk VI insert was still in use in pocket watch style compasses made during WWII.  I have seen one example as late as 1940 by F Barker & Son (1932) Ltd.  The main difference at this stage is in the insert housing, which in some cases was more substantial and finished in black.

Insert Construction

The internal construction of the compass is a magnetised bar with an aluminium card for the rose all mounted on a jewelled brass bearing.  The transit lock is fitted in the case and operates via a small protruding lever that engages with the case release mechanism opposite the bow mounted release.  The crystal is always bevelled at the edge, with the Mark VI having an arrow painted on the underside that should run at 90 degrees to the bow/hinge axis.


Dennison transit lock mechanism



Lid lifter and transit lock release in a Dennison compass case, which is widely copied.

Mk VI compass insert



Mark VI insert showing transit locking mechanism at the front of the photo.  The small brass lever locates at the hinge side.  So that the arrow on the crystal is at 9-3 o'clock when the hinge is at 12 o'clock.

Mk VI needle on compass rose




Reverse side of a Mark VI aluminium compass rose card showing the magnetic needle with it's jewelled bearing.

From records supplied by the British Library there is a record of a catalogue from Henry Hughes & Son Ltd, who were opticians.  This is dated 1910 and lists Hunter Case Compasses in nickel or bronzed cases with Ďbar needle or float card and stopí.  These were sold in three sizes, at 7/6 (37.5p), 8/6 (42.5p), 10/- (50p); it also lists pearl and aluminium cards at 8/6 (42.5p), 10/- (50p), 11/- (55p).  Whilst I have seen compasses in several sizes, I have yet to see one with a pearl card.  Unfortunately there are no details of case size in this catalogue.

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