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Drum Watch

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Drum Watch

Date: 1575-1600
Medium: Gilt brass
76.2 x 63.5 x 28.6 mm
Credit Line: Proctor Collection, Thomas R. Proctor Watch Collection
Object number: PC. 387
Label Text
For most of the sixteenth century, drum watches--quasi-timekeepers whose main function was to serve as a piece of jewelry--were fashionable and the most common form of watch. This watch is the earliest timepiece in the Museum's collection. It is one of 300 collected in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by brothers Thomas (1844-1920) and Frederick (1856-1929) Proctor, two of the Institute's founders. Their collection of antique European watches spans the sixteenth through the early twentieth centuries. The Proctor Watch Collection is known for its aesthetic brilliance and examples of exquisite craftsmanship.
Text Entries

Drum watches, quasi-timekeepers whose main function was as a piece of jewelry, were both fashionable and the most common form of watch for most of the sixteenth century. They were made out of gold, silver, and gilt brass, examples of the last having survived to the current day in greatest number. Watches made from precious metals during this early period have since been melted down.

On this watch, the earliest in the Institute’s collection, the case is pierced in heart-shaped arabesque patterns that allowed the viewer to see the time without opening the protecting lid. The lid is hinged at the XII chapter. The reverse is pierced in a pattern that depicts an urn filled with vines and flowers and surrounded by a band with a running scroll. The decoration is similar to silver book covers from the period.(1) The dial, a later replacement to the watch, is engraved with husks and Roman numerals. The pendant has a loose-fitting ring.  


1. A silver book cover with pierced and engraved birds, flowers, cherubs, and scrollwork is illustrated in Hugh Tait. ed.. The Art of the Jeweller: A Catalogue of the Hull Grundy Gift to the British Museum, vol. 2, Plates (London: British Museum Publications, Ltd., 1984), 104. fig. 398. Since publication of this book, questions have surfaced concerning the authenticity of the silver book cover.