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Who Was Christopher Pinchbeck - Watch and Clock Maker?

BY: Pat Edwards | Category: Others | Submitted: 2010-10-26 09:55:28
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Article Summary: "Christopher Pinchbeck I lived from 1670 until 1732. It is thought that he spent time in Europe, studying with clockmakers who were already creating complex musical and astronomical timepieces, before returning to England to introduce these new ideas to a London eager for novel mechanical entertainments..."

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In the world of clock and watchmaking there were, in fact, two Christopher Pinchbecks: the father and the son.

Christopher Pinchbeck I was born in 1670, and died in London in 1732. So far very little is known about his early life, although some say he was born in the Lincolnshire village of that name. It was not until he was about 46, however, that the first known evidence of his clocks appeared, in a 1716 advertisement in the 'Daily Courant', published in London. It is interesting to speculate that he may have spent time in continental Europe, where the automata he specialised in were much more prevalent at that time, before returning to London to promote these clocks. He became famous for astronomical and musical clocks of great complexity: he certainly charged astronomical prices, asking 700 guineas for such a piece in the 1716 advertisement!

For some years Christopher lived and worked in St John's Lane, Clerkenwell, and there is now a plaque to his memory at number 33. His eldest children, Christopher (II) and Edward, who succeeded him in business, were probably born here. He moved to Fleet Street in 1721, where he remained until his death, being buried in the same street at St Dunstan's in the West.

In 1717 he advertised an astronomico-musical clock, describing it as "the most Wonderful Piece of Art in Europe". Not only did it play jigs, minuets... and opera tunes on the organ, flute or flagelet, it also emulated an aviary of birds 'to such wonderful Perfection that it's not to be distinguished from Nature itself'. This clock is now in a private collection in America.

Today, Christopher Pinchbeck I is remembered chiefly for his invention of the alloy, resembling gold, that bears his name. However, it was not until after his death in 1732 that the alloy was promoted, by his sons Christopher and Edward.

When Christopher I died, his son Edward continued the business in Fleet Street. His other son Christopher opened another similar, business, a few doors away, moving to nearby Cockspur Street in 1758. An ambitious businessman, he became a friend of George III, as well as Clockmaker by Appointment to His Majesty, and the King commissioned him to make a four-sided astronomical clock. With its case designed by Sir William Chambers, this magnificent clock is now in the Music Room of Buckingham Palace.

Christopher Pinchbeck II referred to himself as a "Toyman and Mechanician". He patented several inventions, including an improved candlestick, a "Nocturnal Remembrancer" and a safety crane, for which he was awarded a gold medal. He became president of the Smeaton Society (then the Society of Engineers) in 1781, was a senior member of the Committee of Mechanics, and an Honorary Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers. A number of his watches and clocks survive.

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