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Fakes, Forgeries and the Birth of Mass Production in the European Watch Industry, 1750-1820, by Dr. Rebecca Struthers

  • HSNY at the General Society Library 20 West 44th Street New York, NY, 10036 United States (map)

Dr. Rebecca Struthers FBHI FRSA Ph.D., Birmingham, UK

Historically, the term "Dutch forgery" has referred to watches manufactured in the latter part of the eighteenth century, purporting to have been made in London and yet created with Dutch physical characteristics. It has long been believed that these watches were not made in London, hence the application of "forgery", with the general assumption amongst antiquarian horologists being that Geneva was their true city of origin. At the October meeting of the Horological Society of New York, Rebecca Struthers will lecture on her thesis research concerning the aforementioned watches.

These "Dutch forgery" watches were not of a high quality, made no scientific contribution to our understanding of time and accuracy and as such, they have largely been condemned to the dark corners of horological research. They have been dismissed as fakes and forgeries regarded as holding little relevance to the course of horological history, and yet, as this study innovatively claims, they represent the birth of mass production in the watch industry. Over the course of the timeframe covered (1750-1820), they play an integral role in the commercialisation of the watch which shifted from an immensely valuable object of desire to a more attainable accessory. They started the journey towards making portable timekeepers accessible to all in the developed world, and yet their remarkable story has never been the subject of a detailed published study.

At its heart, this research contains the most thorough physical examination of surviving examples of these watches conducted to date. Carried out by Struthers, these examinations benefit from the unique insight of a practicing watchmaker in the twenty-first century, studying and interpreting the work of their predecessors. This evidence helps to distinguish these watches from others made during the same period, and, along with documentary evidence, leads to a new understanding of where they were made and also their dissemination and their destination markets.

Rebecca Struthers

About Rebecca Struthers
Rebecca Struthers (Ph.D., Birmingham City University, UK) is a watchmaker and researcher of antiquarian horology focusing on the role of the watch in eighteenth-century material culture and the evolving social interpretation of luxury. Around her research, Struthers, together with her husband Craig, co-founded their own design studio and horological workshops in 2012: Struthers London. The pair specialize in the design and creation of watches using heritage manufacturing techniques.