British Air Ministry Henry Hughes & Son Miniature Sextant 1941

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Henry Hughes & Son Miniature Sextant



An opportunity to own a very fine miniature sextant by Henry Hughes & Son, Ltd.

dated 1941 with Serial No. 28125.  

PRESENTED is another gem of a micro-mini tiny sextant that has a radius of arc of only 3 1/2 inches, but has large size mirrors and shades, full-size micrometer drum, of regular size sextant. The only thing with less performance is the low-powered telescope which is minor. It is the second one we’ve discovered in this remarkably fine condition. The brass frame is finished in midnight black wrinkle enamel which is like new. The scale has a silver inlay that is graduated from – 10 to 120 degrees. The index arm has a quick-release trigger and vernier which reads to 1 arc minute. There are four index shades and three horizon shades. The fittings maintain their original varnish which has a pleasing age patina. Everything is designed to make this instrument perform like a full-size sextant.


Length of index arm 5 3/4″            Width of frame at arc 5″                 Radius of Arc 3 1/2“

Telescope fixed focus 2 X                  Index error Nil                    Side error Nil

Index mirror 46 x 30 mm                           Horizon glass 36 x 30 mm (missing)


The Certificate is present: But these types of instruments had minor manufacturing errors over their usable range which for all practical purposes could be ignored.

There is no maker’s mark, but it carries the serial number 28125 on its arc. Both Heath and Hughes made these instruments for the Air Ministry, and since this one is slightly different from the Heath we recently sold, we will attribute it to Hughes. Both were one of Britain’s Class “A“ sextant makers. Like the Heath, the index arm imprint reads:


Royal Crown  AM                                                                Arc showing Ser. No.                                                            Back of Sextant                                      REF No 6B/177

INSTRUMENT CONDITION:    The instrument is in excellent condition.  The runner eyepiece shows some age, but the rest of the sextant is pristine.  The horizon mirror is missing and the Index mirror is in perfect condition. The varnished handle shows no wear. The index arm is complete and in good working order. The frame and all the machinery are in good working order and nothing is missing.  The case key and a bottle of machine oil are present.   It comes with its original pick to adjust the horizon mirror. All the screws and fittings show their original and have a very nice patina.



Relative Size of Miniature Sextant

AIR MINISTRY DESIGN: The Royal Crown and AM marks indicate this sextant was made for the military which accounts for its exceptional quality. The AM stands for Air Ministry. Marine sextants of this type were used on seaplanes for taking anchor bearings and also other calculations such as amplitudes of the sun and distance off angles when on the water.

PROVENANCE: Acquired in the normal course of business



CASE: The sextant comes housed in a high-quality, varnished, Mahogany square case. The case has a brass handle, hinges, two rotary latches, and a lock.  Its varnish has mellowed with age with a  pleasing patina, and some scratches on the top. The round holder in the case holds a small flask of oil. The lower holders are for a pick that is present and the case key.

All in all, a very rare and exceptional example from one of the best-known English instrument makers.

BRIEF HISTORY OF MAKER: The Henry Hughes’s name, which we believe to be the maker of this instrument, was founded in 1838 in London as a maker of chronographic and scientific instruments. The firm was incorporated as Henry Hughes & Sons Ltd in 1903 and 1923, the company produced its first recording echo sounder. In 1935, a controlling interest in the company was acquired by S. Smith & Son Ltd resulting in the development of marine and aircraft instruments. Following the London office’s destruction in the Blitz of 1941, a collaboration was entered into with Kelvin, Bottomley & Baird Ltd, resulting in the establishment of Marine Instruments Ltd. Following the formal amalgamation of Kelvin, Bottomley & Baird Ltd and Henry Hughes & Sons Ltd in 1947 to form Kelvin & Hughes Ltd, Marine Instruments Ltd acted as regional agents in the UK for Kelvin & Hughes Ltd who were essentially now a part of Smith’s Industries Ltd founded in 1944 as the successors of S. Smith & Son Ltd. The “HUSUN” trademark was in use starting in the 1920s. Hughes and Heath made many sextants to the same design, this being one of them. The three-ring sextants are more recognizable, one under the Heath Hezzenitth brand, and the other under the Hughes, Husan brand. Both are likely the most numerous ever produced, and can still be found in great quantity today.

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