The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers Museum – London, England - Atlas Obscura
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London, England

The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers Museum

The oldest dedicated collection of watches and clocks in the world. 

The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers Museum was founded in 1813, making it the oldest such collection in the world. The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers is over three centuries old, having been granted their charter as one of the city’s livery companies by Charles I in 1631.

At any given time, about 600 rare examples of timepieces are on display for the public, including exquisite examples of the craft through the ages. The two most well known items in their collection are rightly famous.

The first is an extraordinary, large silver pocket watch crafted in the shape of a skull. It was for a time thought to be the memento-mori pocket watch once carried by Mary Queen of Scots, but it has since been shown to be a more recent, but no less beautiful creation, dating to the mid 19th century. According to the museum catalog, the “An article published in 1840 stated that this watch was given by the Queen to her Maid of Honor at the time of her execution, it has recently been shown that the watch is not 16th century, but was made in the late 18th century as part of the ‘Romantic Revival’.”

The other item is perhaps one of the most significant single objects in the history of navigation and geography, let alone clock making: John Harrison’s fifth marine chronometer, dating to 1770, and which finally solved the centuries long problem of determining longitude accurately at sea. In addition to Harrison’s manuscripts and other objects acquired in 1877, the museum added the chronometer to its collection in 1891. The rest of Harrison’s instruments are on display at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich.

The Company’s library is now part of the Guildhall Library, and contains an extensive collection of manuscripts, documents and books related to watch and clock making.

Know Before You Go

It is now housed on the second floor of The Science Museum in London.