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Astronomical Watch

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Astronomical Watch

Date: c. 1650
Medium: Silver, gilt metal
63.5 x 50.8 x 25.4 mm
Markings: Movement: "Gio Batta Mascaron[e]"
Credit Line: Proctor Collection, Frederick T. Proctor Watch Collection
Object number: PC. 1023.3
Label Text
Around 1600, with probable influences from refinements in astronomical measurement and navigational improvements, watches were sometimes equipped with peripheral functions. The dial on this watch has indicators for hours, days of the week, phases of the moon, and signs of the zodiac.

Text Entries

Until the end of the sixteenth century clocks rather than watches often provided astronomical information- the movements of the earth, moon, and planets- and sidereal time- the time of rotation of the earth as measured from a “clock star,” a distant star that, compared to the sun, appears to be “fixed” in space. Around 1600, probably because so much effort was devoted to improving navigation by refining astronomical measurements, watches were sometimes also equipped with indications for the days of the week and months of the year.

The Institute’s watch shows astronomical and astrological phases.(1) The dial has indications for hours, days of the week, age and aspect of the moon, and signs of the Zodiac, all on a ground of leafy scrolls inhabited by two musicians. The watch is made of silver with an applied gilt metal bezel. The band is decorated with pierced silver leafy foliage and a hunter and dog pursuing a leopard. In another vignette the tables have been turned: a lion is about to chase another hunter and his dog.

1. The maker of this watch, Gio Batta Mascarone, has been credited with creating a padlock-shaped watch about 1655. G. H. Baillie, C. Clutton, and C.A. Ilbert, Britten’s Old Clocks and Watches and Their Makers, 7th ed. (NewYork: Bonanza Books, 1956), 433.