Thomas Bell

I was attracted to this early watch because of the Royal cypher for Queen Anne that serves as the fusee stop foot. It dates to circa 1705 shortly after Anne ascended to the throne in 1702. Thomas Bell inherited tools from his uncle, the famous clock & watchmaker Benjamin Bell in 1791. The physicist Robert Hooke records for the first time the existence of a wheel cutting engine in England that he borrowed from Benjamin Bell in 1673/74. Unfortunately, not much is known about his nephew Thomas, and very few of his signed clocks or watches survive. Perhaps he primarily became a supplier to the trade.

Bell’s watch, like many from this period, is very nicely finished. The gilt-brass verge and fusee movement is signed Tho. Bell London with inward facing script. There is no serial number. Intricate, large folate balance table with grotesque mask at the neck and wonderful streamers depicting bird heads. Four divided crested Egyptian pillars. An identical cypher is present on a Charles Gretton watch, circa 1705 (Radage, 436). The silver pair case is unmarked. Inner case has a 7-knuckle hinge, outer has a 5-knuckle hinge.

Royal Cypher for Queen Anne

Benjamin Bell Clockmaker

Additional References and recommended reading:

  • Brian Loomes, Clockmakers of Britain, 1286-1700, Mayfield Books, 2014

  • Philip Priestley, British Watchcase Gold & Silver Marks 1670 to 1970, National Association of Watch & Clock Collectors, 2018

  • Dennis Radage, Warner Meinen, Laila Radage, Charles Gretton, Clock and Watchmaking: Through the Golden Age, Three O’clock Publishing, 2016