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World’s oldest clock collection finds a new home at the Science Museum

From Friday 23 October 2015, the public will be able to see the world’s oldest clock and watch collection at its new home in the Science Museum. 

Moving from Guildhall, London, the Clockmakers’ Museum, founded in 1814, will take up permanent residence at the Science Museum and is free to visit.

This remarkable Collection was assembled by the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, a famous London Livery Company founded in 1631, and includes, amongst other items, some 600 watches, 80 clocks and 25 marine timekeepers. Spanning the period from the 15th century to the present day, the Collection tells the story of ‘the Clockmakers of London’ and charts their history through the years.

The new gallery will allow the Science Museum’s three million plus visitors a year to enjoy one of the best horological collections in Britain—from the first mechanical clocks and marine chronometers used at sea to the traditional wrist watch.

Key pieces in the Collection include:

  • a year duration longcase clock by Daniel Quare, London (c. 1647–1724)
  • a star-form watch by David Ramsay, the first Master of the Clockmakers’ Company
  • the 5th marine timekeeper completed in 1770 by John Harrison; who secured the famous Longitude Prize of 1714 for devising a way of establishing the East-West position of a ship at sea
  • a timekeeper used for navigation (1791–94) by Capt. George Vancouver on his voyage around the North American island that bears his name
  • a watch used to carry accurate time from Greenwich Observatory around London
  • a wristwatch watch worn by Sir Edmund Hillary when he conquered Everest in 1953

In addition to the Clockmakers’ Museum, the Science Museum also houses the Measuring Time gallery which displays beautiful handmade clocks, watches and sundials from different eras as well as early electrical clocks. It includes the third oldest clock in the world, dating from 1392 (on loan from Wells Cathedral) as well as a 1500-year-old Byzantine sundial-calendar, the second oldest geared mechanism known to have survived.

Ian Blatchford, Director, Science Museum, said:

“The Science Museum is the perfect place to house the Clockmakers’ Museum because time is a core scientific concept. Our three million plus visitors a year will love this amazing collection.”

Philip Whyte, Master of the Clockmakers’ Company, said:

“We are delighted to see the Clockmakers’ Collection housed at the Science Museum. The new partnership between the Clockmakers and the Science Museum means our 140-year-old collection will remain on show for the public’s enjoyment and inspiration.” 

The partnership between the Science Museum and the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers has been made possible by a grant from the DCMS/Wolfson Museum & Galleries Improvement Fund.

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said:

"I am delighted that the DCMS and Wolfson Foundation grant has been able to fund such an exciting exhibition. This Government is committed to supporting the best of England's museums and making them accessible to all. In its new home at the Science Museum, the Clockmakers Museum will now be able to be enjoyed by the general public and provide a unique insight into Britain's history."

Notes to editors

#clockmakers

www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/clocks

Science Museum, Exhibition Road, London, SW7 2DD. Open daily 10.00 to 18.00, except 24-26 December. www.sciencemuseum.org.uk / 0870 870 4868

For more information, please contact Rosie Wilson in the Science Museum Press Office on rosie.wilson@sciencemuseum.ac.uk or 020 7942 4364.

About the Science Museum

As the home of human ingenuity, the Science Museum’s world-class collection forms an enduring record of scientific, technological and medical achievements from across the globe. Welcoming over 3 million visitors a year, the Museum aims to make sense of the science that shapes our lives, inspiring visitors with iconic objects, award-winning exhibitions and incredible stories of scientific achievement.

About the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers Collection

The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers was founded by a Royal Charter of King Charles I in 1631. In 1814 the Court of the Company established the Clockmakers’ Collection, which is now the oldest collection of clocks and watches in the world. The Collection contains more than 600 English and European watches, 80 clocks and 25 marine timekeepers, together with a number of rare horological portraits. The majority of items in the Collection date from between c.1600 and c.1850, but also includes the best of modern British work.

Perhaps the most important group within the Collection is the marine timekeepers, illustrating the importance of horology in the science of navigation. Examples include a marine timekeeper by Henry Sully (1724), a silver deck watch by Thomas Earnshaw (used by Captain George Vancouver in the discovery by Europeans of the Island now bearing his name) and the celebrated 5th marine timekeeper made by John Harrison and completed in 1770.