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1FMechanical Timepieces

Introduction of this section
Next, we describe the birth and development of mechanical timepieces. The first mechanical clock is thought to have been made at a monastery in northern Italy around 1300 A.D, to help the monks adhere to their strict daily routine, built around seven sessions of prayer. Larger tower clocks driven by heavy weights were soon used across Europe to allow all to share the same idea of time. Subsequently, the inventions of mainsprings, pendulums and balance springs gradually enabled the manufacture of smaller, more accurate and more portable clocks and watches.

Quarter Repeater Marionette Pocket Watch

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Telling time with sound and motion
The invention of the balance spring to replace the pendulum allowed watchmakers to produce compact and mobile pocket watches from the end of the 17th century onwards. This Quarter Repeater Marionette Pocket Watch was made in France during the Restoration period about 200 years ago. It has a quarter repeater function and is decorated with marionettes, handcrafted in gold. When the crown is pressed, it chimes quarterly and two puppets, one on each side and each with a different tone, strike the bells with hammers. This was surely one of the most complicated and valuable pocket watches of its age and demonstrates how such timepieces were specially commissioned by wealthy owners keen to show off their taste and power as a status symbol.

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