Skip to content

Map measure of the month: HB Curvimètre ‘Model No. 54M’

HB curvimètre model 54M
HB curvimètre model 54M

“Pour la mesure rapide et précise des longueurs, de lignes droites ou courbes- sur PLANS et DESSINS”

Fore-runners to the HB model 54M map measure were those produced by Henri Chatelain (HC) and Fritz Chatelain (FC). The successor to the HC/FC name was F. Baudet who, after Henri’s death on 1 June 1921, took over the company from 1921/2, retaining the Chatelain name. In 1925 the address was 10 Rue de Belzunce, Paris (the address for the Henri Chatelain company since 1887). The Chatelain/Baudet company was subsequently taken over by Henri Burnat (H B) in c1940. The company address was then 69 Rue d’Hauteville, Paris. The Baudet-Burnat company produced quite a number of products aimed at the outdoors enthusiast- pedometers, altimeters, compasses and map measurers. Their trademark was adapted from that earlier used by Chatelain. It combined the intials of both manufacturer identities- H and B above, each side of an impression of a map measurer (curvimetre), with the additional letters H and C below. The inclusion of a map measure in the trademark design dates from the nineteenth century. From the 1970s the trademark was again altered and the word PARIS replaced the letters H and C as seen on the leaflet below. Improved HB map measurers were being produced into the 1980’s at least and it appears the company ceased trading in 1998. The company trademark found on the plastic case was introduced in this format c1970, as mentioned, the initials HB standing for Henri Burnat.

HB Curvimetre 54M in its plastic case
HB Curvimetre 54M in its plastic case

HB model 54 has two dials, the small dial records millimetres, the large dial records centimetres. One complete revolution of the large dial by the blued needle records a line of one metre in length tracked. The front large dial measures up to 100 centimetres indicated at five centimetre increments with single centimetre divisions between these. While primarily intended for measuring the scale distance on maps, this instrument can likewise be used for measuring any line- ‘sur plans et dessins‘.

The two measuring dials on HB model 54M
The two measuring dials on HB model 54M, one marked for centimetres, the other for millimetres
Small dial on model 54M
Small dial on model 54M even has interim markers for half millimetres. One complete revolution of the small pointer around the small dial (20cm tracked) sees the large needle rotate two points around the large dial
Rear face of model 54M
Rear face of model 54M

Model 54M is 109mm in length. The slim 60mm handle has gentle corrugations to provide a little grip and unscrews, so could be produced by the company as an alternative short-handled version. The case measures 35mm across it’s width with a 32mm diameter front dial face. The measure is double-sided with a glass face on the reverse. This rear face features no more than a scale conversion listing. The scale is the same as that found on other HB models. The measure weighs 45g.

A small leaflet is included in the box. One side simply states the HB models available- 54, 55, 56, 57 and 620. The manufacturer’s advertising informs us-“autres modèles similaires pour mesures anglaises“- translating as ‘other similar models for English measurement’. The instruction leaflet is just 73mm x 34mm but while instructions on how to use the measure are minimal, they are sufficient for most to follow.

‘set the needles and totalisers to zero by turning the wheel or by pressing the push-button depending on the model

[there is no push button on model 54]

hold the curvimetre vertically and follow with the wheel, always in the same direction, the line to be measured’

One side of small instructional leaflet included with the measure
One side of small instructional leaflet included with the measure
Second side of instructional leaflet informs on how to use the map measure
Second side of instructional leaflet informs us how to use the map measure

The measure itself does not carry the trademark of the manufacturing company though my model 54MA, the ‘English’ variant shown below, does have the company logo stamped on the reverse of the case. ‘MADE IN FRANCE’ is shown at the bottom of the large dial.

Dating from the 1970s, the very great majority of these HB models came supplied in a yellow plastic box with transparent plastic lid. A yellow strip of foam was originally supplied in the base for each model of map measure to rest on. This foam has not lasted the years and almost all have turned to dust over the decades. Model numbers are stamped on one end of the base and the company logo is shown on the lid along with the words- ‘MADE IN FRANCE‘, ‘CURVIMETRE‘ and ‘MAP-MEASURER‘.

The make or model number appear nowhere on the measure itself. For these you need to look at the plastic case it is supplied in. Model number ‘54 M‘ is stamped at one end of the yellow plastic base
The two faces of modesl 54M (left) and 54MA (right)
The two faces of models 54M (left) and 54MA (right)

54M is the metric version of imperial model 54 MA (mesures anglaises). A similar ‘English’ model can be seen here where Three Points of the Compass looks at HB model 52MA. The main difference between 52 and 54 is that model 54 has a second and much smaller dial beneath the large dial that is capable of recording very short distances tracked. The small dial on model 54MA records sixteenths of an inch while the dial on model 54M, looked at here, indicates single millimetres tracked. One complete revolution of the pointer round the small dial indicates 20mm tracked.

Components are entirely metal and glass with paper dials. It is intuitive and comfortable to use and hold in the hand. Held firmly to a map, the small, toothed, brass tracking wheel revolves smoothly, internal cogged gearing transfers movement to both needles, tracking the distance covered.

Most of the various French measures in the HB range had dials measuring in centimetres. It would have been a relatively simple manufacturing task for a paper ‘inch’ dial to be inserted and the internal gearing arranged such to permit the imperial measurement of 54MA instead. A simpler method, that Chatelain and Burnat adopted, is to change the diameter of the little tracking wheel, which will alter the distance travelled by the needle. The large dial face on the HB instrument lacks the small screws found on some other similar measures, however the smaller dial below it does have two screws securing it to the case.

The two dials on model 54M
The two dials on model 54M

The quality of this measure, while good, is definitely a step down from the lovely predecessor measures from manufacturers Henri Chatelain and Fritz Chatelain. That said, despite being over fifty years old, my HB model 54M map measurer still works faultlessly today.

Three Points of the Compass has looked at a few more Map Measurers in detail. Links to these can be found here.

2 replies »

    • As a second-hand survivor they are commonly found in good condition and the plastic case (often cracked) is often present. Anything from five to twenty pounds would be reasonable. Above that, too much. A sensible price for one of the better measurers


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow Three Points of the Compass on

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 305 other subscribers


%d bloggers like this: