Great-Grandfather’s Gold Watch

Isn’t it exciting when you find something you have only read about? My PA and I did just that when we visited the London Clockmakers’ Museum and found my Great Grandfather’s gold watch.

At the time the little museum, started in 1841, was housed next to Guildhall, where the Clockmakers’ Guild met. Last October the collection was given a new home at the Science Museum in Kensington. The following is from the Science Museum’s website:

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.

Stanley Watkins’father, Sylvester, was a watch maker, as was his father before him. Alexander Watkins made a gold watch for the 1851 Great Exhibition and it is displayed in its red silk-lined box in the Museum. It took us quite a time to find it as there were hundreds of beautiful time pieces on display, but what a thrill when we did.

Alex Watkins watch

This photo is of another watch by Alexander Watkins which I discovered on the National Association of Watch & Clock Collectors website. The shop was at 67 Strand as inscribed on the back. And there are three  of Alexander’s watches in the British Museum.

Alexander’s eldest son William Augustus was also a talented watchmaker who owned 67 Strand. Unfortunately I don’t think my Grandpa Sylvester Watkins was a very good business man, and he finally joined Stan in New York where he died.



10 thoughts on “Great-Grandfather’s Gold Watch

  1. What illustrious forbears you have! Strangely enough, we have just been watching the film of ‘Longitude’, about John Harrison, the 18th century clockmaker who developed the first marine clock, saving many lives at sea. I will definitely visit the Science Museum to see its watch collection. I was fascinated by the horological collection at Greenwich (I think in the Astronomer’s House) which included Harrison’s clocks, and some wonderful planospheric astrolabes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Are you aware that Alexander Watkins invented the first self winding watch mechanism? It was an integral key that folded over when the case at the back of the watch was closed. Up to that point the key was a separate tool that could easily be mislaid.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “Are you aware that Alexander Watkins invented the first self winding watch mechanism?”
    Actually no. The first self-winding watch was probably made by Abam Louis Perrelet about 1776.


    1. Hi Richard, are you a relative of mine? Alexander was my father’s grandfather.
      I think AW’s invention was a winding key that was integrated into the watch case, not a separate key on a fob. Does that make sense?


  4. Hi Barbwit, I’m researching something related to watches and found these for you. I haven’t read all your blog so apologies if you are already aware of some or all of this info but thought I’d send it quickly just in case:

    Your Great Grandfathers 1895 original patent documents

    Your Dad’s original Patent Applications:

    If you click “Original Documents” on the left of the page they are scans of the original patent application document pages.

    Also the Dulwich society has a piece on your dad

    All the best,

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for your reply Barbara and good luck with all your searches too. A small world indeed! If you’ve never been before, the Edinburgh Festival is a great time to visit and I’m sure you’ll really enjoy yourselves.
        Thought you would be aware of the Dulwich piece but added it, just in case! You really should have been credited with writing it, terrible decorum!
        Anyway, back to work for me and nothing but, blue skies, to you!
        Keith 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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