Monday, October 24, 2016

Naughty Watches of the 18th and 19th Centuries

Monday, October 24, 2016
Loretta reports:

At a recent authors event, readers asked about the naughty watch a character buys in my book Lord of Scoundrels: Was this based on research or imagination?

If you Google “erotic watches,” you’ll know I wasn’t making this stuff up. So yes, the idea came from research—done in the days before Google existed, I ought to point out. These days, it would have been easier.

While I was aware of snuff boxes with erotic scenes inside the lid, the pornographic watch was news to me. I was especially intrigued to learn that watchmakers had been creating these devices as early as the late 1700s. This includes Abraham-Louis Breguet, a famous, highly-regarded watchmaker mentioned in Lord of Scoundrels.

Eric Bruton’s The History of Clocks & Watches offers a black and white illustration of a carriage watch, from which I developed the one in my book.
“It shows the time, day, date, and sidereal time, strikes the hours and quarters, and plays tunes on six bells. On the back a human figure in three parts keeps changing and below it some ‘curtains’ can be drawn aside to reveal an animated pornographic scene.” 
The watch was made in London in 1790.

Though it’s not like the watch shown in The History of Clocks and Watches, this one works more or less the same way: an innocent front, with an animated scene on the other side. Googling the subject will bring you quite a few examples, including one on YouTube—but I'll let you search, if you wish. I'm trying to keep this post at least somewhat family-friendly.

Image (not erotic to my knowledge): Chevalier et cachet watch between 1790-1799 (gift of Liz and Peter Moser, 2006), courtesy Walters Art Museum.

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will take you to the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.


Anonymous said...

Interesting piece! I know it's a little off topic but as this is a history blog you might be interested in this piece on why the Russian revolution happened

Liz said...

LOL! This made my Monday much more entertaining! The article in the last link was great and I was surprised by how much artistic effort was put into rendering the, er, "scene." Much of the time such bits of erotica are a bit on the less refined end of the artistic spectrum (crude subjects made with crude skill), but that example was obviously made to be admired in detail. What a perfect accessory for a rake!

Kelly Mann said...

I have just finished listening to Lord of Scoundrels and I thoroughly enjoyed it! I am currently working on my MFA in Costume Design so I listen to audiobooks while I work on my school projects. I was very intrigued with the description of this watch, since I've also painted 18th century portrait miniatures! I had not heard of such a thing but now want to learn more. And I was especially delighted when it was revealed for whom Jessica purchased the watch! Thank you for a wonderful book!

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