Born in 1719, Kendall spent the earlier part of his career apprenticed in London to the fine watchmaker John Jeffreys before setting up his own business in 1742 at No. 6 Furnival’s Inn Court, in London. In 1765 Larcum Kendall was appointed to the Board of Longitude as a watchmaking expert and in that same year he was then commissioned to make a marine chronometer, later known as the K1. It was completed in 1769 and was put to test by Captain James Cook during his famous second voyage on HMS Resolution.

Captain Cook is one of the most famous naval explorers in history and is best remembered for three famous voyages of discovery.

First voyage: in 1766 he was engaged by the Royal Society to sail to the Pacific Ocean. The expedition left England in 1768 and returned in 1771. During this voyage the lunar distance method and the newly published Nautical Almanac had been used to find the longitudes at sea. Second voyage: Captain Cook was asked to circumnavigate the globe as far south as possible.
He commanded HMS Resolution, his ship having a companion called HMS Adventure. The ships left Plymouth in July 1772 and returned July 1775. Captain Cook successfully employed Larcum Kendall’s K1 chronometer, and was able to calculate his longitudinal position.

Upon his return from this voyage he Cook wrote to the Secretary of the Admiralty (and wrote in his ship’s logbook), that “Mr Kendall’s watch has exceeded the expectations of its most zealous advocates”. He pointed out that, thanks to the accuracy of the K1 he had been able to make accurate charts of the South Sea Islands for the first time. Captain Cook called the K1 “my trusted friend” and had such faith in the accuracy and reliability of the device that he took it with him on his third and final voyage.

The K1 is now displayed at the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich, London.