Oxted & District History Society - Talk
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Oxted & District History Society

David Thomson, a watch and clockmaker and Curator of the Department of Horology at the British Museum, gave an illustrated lecture to the Oxted & District History Society on ‘Watches in England: The Early Years’.

Watches originated from small table clocks with a loop to hang on a chain round the neck.  Nicholas Kratzer came to England from Southern Germany to look after Henry VIII’s clocks and watches.  The first watches date from about 1510.  They were status symbols and not very accurate, with simple dials, one hand and iron mechanisms.  Elizabeth I’s jewel inventory from the 1580s lists several watches, none of which survive.  Watches often appear in portraits as a sign of wealth and mortality.  Only 50 watches exist today from the late 16th Century and are mainly in museums.  One, found in a treasure hoard in the City of London, is set in a Colombian emerald.

A group of watchmakers fled to England from Philip II’s persecution of Protestants in the Netherlands and were based in Blackfriars.  There were also English watchmakers, based in the City of London, and some friction between the two.  From 1610, watches became smaller and were hung from the waist.  Cruciform and other shaped cases were made from the 1630s.  From 1675 two-handed watches with balance springs were perfected by Christian Huygens.

At the next meeting of the Oxted & District History Society at 8 pm on Tuesday, 15 November, at the United Reformed Church, Bluehouse Lane, David Waller will give a lecture on ‘The Magnificent Mrs Tennant’’.                      


Watches in England: The Early Years a talk by David Thompson