Exhibitions/ The Luxury of Time

The Luxury of Time: European Clocks and Watches

At The Met Fifth Avenue
November 16–March 27
Exhibitions are free with Museum admission.

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Exhibition Overview

Time is all around us, displayed on our phones and computers. Today, almost nobody needs to own a watch or a clock to tell the time. Access to the right time is not the luxury it once was. Yet the fascination with clocks and watches persists, and the thriving market for mechanical timekeepers is deeply aware of their history. Clocks and watches have always been about more than just telling time: they have been treasured as objects of desire and wonder, personal items imbued with value that goes beyond pure functionality. As works of art, they represent the marriage of innovation and craftsmanship.

This exhibition explores the relationship between the artistry of the exterior form of European timekeepers and the brilliantly conceived technology that they contain. Drawn from the Museum's distinguished collection of German, French, English, and Swiss horology from the sixteenth through the nineteenth century, the extraordinary objects on view show how clocks and watches were made into lavish furniture or exquisite jewelry.

The creation of timekeepers required that clockmakers work with cabinetmakers, goldsmiths and silversmiths, enamelers, chasers and gilders, engravers, and even those working in sculpture and porcelain. These craftsmen were tasked with accommodating internal mechanisms by producing cases that, in both shape and function, adapted to timekeeping technologies. Their exteriors are often as complicated as the movements they house. Examining the dialogue between inside and out, adornment and ingenuity, The Luxury of Time reveals the complex evolution of European clockmaking and the central place of timekeepers in the history of decorative arts.

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The publication is made possible by Marica and Jan Vilcek.


Exhibition Objects



Clockmaker: Ferdinand Berthoud (French, 1727–1807); Case maker: Balthazar Lieutaud (French, ca. 1720–1780, master 1749). Longcase astronomical regulator (detail), ca. 1768–70. Case: oak veneered with ebony and brass, with gilt-bronze mounts; Dial: white enamel; Movement: gilded brass and steel; Height: 90.5 in. (229.9 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Jack and Belle Linsky Collection, 1982 (1982.60.50)