Time is precious. Before mechanical clocks, people used sundials, water clocks and sandglasses to keep track of time.
But once clockwork was invented, it spread with remarkable speed. Accurate timekeeping was highly prized, attracting the finest craftsmen.
Clock and watchmakers pioneered precision in manufacture and an understanding of materials that underpinned engineering. Early craftsmen, labouring in small domestic workshops, learned to subdivide production into separate specialised tasks – inventing mass production before the factory system.
Today, digital timekeepers are embedded in countless everyday gadgets, but clocks and watches are still objects of desire. ‘It runs like clockwork’ remains a byword for mechanical perfection.
From sand-glasses to sundials, water clocks to the wristwatches that we take for granted today, this rich collection of more than 500 timepieces illustrates the ingenuity and skills of their makers.