On Display

Bain electric clock, c 1850.

Alexander Bain was a pioneer of electrical horology and the first person to produce electric clocks commercially. This is an example of one of his later designs with a magnetised pendulum which swings into coils attached to the side of the case. A sl

 
Early German watch and watch movement, 16th century.

The watch movement shown on the left dates from the first half of the 16th century and is made mainly of steel. Because the balance has no spring it does not have a natural frequency of vibration and the timekeeping depends on the driving force. With

 
Pocket sand glass, c 1500.

Sandglasses are used to measure out a precise amount of time by the regular flow of sand (or other granular material of uniform size) through a small hole. They were probably invented in the 12th or 13th century and were used to regulate the length o

 
Longines 'Ultraquartz' quartz analogue wristwatch, 1969-70.

Early quartz crystal watch but one which operates on an entirely different principle. The frequency of the quartz crystal is not divided down electronically but is used to control and correct the vibrations of an arm by means of a cybernetic circuit.

 
Two pillar clocks, Japanese, 17th and 19th century.

Japanese pillar clock with single foliot balance and iron movement (weight missing)

 
Haagsche Klokje pendulum clock by Soloman Coster, Dutch, c. 1657

This is one of the first pendulum clocks ever made. The words ‘met privilege’ on the plaque show Coster was licensed by Christaan Huygens to use his pendulum idea, the biggest advance in the history of timekeeping.

 
House clock by Thomas Knifton at the Cross Keys, Lothbury, c. 1650

The lantern or ‘birdcage’ clock was the earliest type of clock to be made in any numbers in England.

 
Four-way sand glass, Italian, 17th century.

This set of four sand glasses is mounted in a pivoted brass frame so that it can be inverted as required. They measure intervals of a quarter, half, three-quarters and one hour, and are of a type formerly used by preachers for timing their sermons.

 
Pendulum clock by Ahasuerus Fromanteel, c. 1665

The Fromanteel family produced the first pendulum clocks in England, following the visit of Fromanteel’s son John to Holland.

 
Atmos II self-winding clock by Jaeger-LeCoultre, 1930s

This clock has a bellows filled with ethyl chloride gas which expands and contracts with changes of temperature and atmospheric pressure, so it never needs to be wound.

 
Balance spring pocket watch in silver case, 1675-1679.

An exquisite watch by the master maker Thomas Tompion showing an early example of the balance spring mechanism.

 
Pocket shepherd's sundial, French, 19th century.

Crude sundials of this type were used in the Pyrenees as cheap alternatives to watches until well into the 20th century.They indicate time from the sun's altitude, which is also dependent on the latitude and the season of the year. This instrument i

 
Bracket clock, Dutch, c 1675.

An early example of a pendulum clock made by Johannes van Ceulen of The Hague, Netherlands. Van Ceulen made clocks for Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695) and this clock follows Huygens' design. The pendulum is suspended between curved 'cheeks', so that i

 
Bracket clock, French, c 1680.

An early example of a pendulum clock made by Isaac Thuret (d. 1706), clockmaker to King Louis XIV (1638-1715) of France. The first commercial pendulum clocks were made in the Netherlands in 1657, under a licence or 'privilege' according to the design

 
Bulova 'Accutron' wristwatch, c 1962.

When the Accutron was introduced in 1960 it was described as the first electronic watch but it also had another revolutionary feature, the time keeping was controlled by a tuning fork. The tuning fork vibrated 360 times per second and the vibrations

 
Astronomical watch by George Margetts, London, no. 3043, c. 1780

This highly complex, top-quality watch shows much detailed astronomical information, including the phase of the Moon and the position of Sun in the zodiac.

 
Rolex 'Oyster Perpetual' wristwatch, 1931.

This is an example of the first really practical and long lasting self-winding wristwatch which was introduced by Rolex in 1931. A small movement of the wrist causes a semicircular weight to rotate and wind the mainspring. This keeps the spring at op

 
Hamilton electric wristwatch, 1957.

Launched by the Hamilton Watch Company of Pennsylvania, USA on 3 January 1957, this was the world's first commercial electric watch. A significant advance in the development of electric timekeeping, it took more than ten years to develop. Among the m