Maker: Watchmaker: Johann Possdorfer (recorded 1620–24)

Date: ca. 1630–40

Culture: German, Dresden

Medium: Case: rock crystal and gold; Movement: gilded brass and steel, partly blued

Dimensions: 1-1/4 x 7/8 in. (3.2 x 2.2 cm)

Classification: Horology

Credit Line: Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917

Accession Number: 17.190.1525


The association of Possdorffer with the superb Swiss clockmaker Jobst Bürgi (1552–1632) during a period when both worked in Prague for Prince Karl I of Liechtenstein (1569–1627) undoubtedly provided the opportunity for the transmission of the technical secrets of Bürgi's cross-beat escapement from Prague to Dresden. There, Possdorffer made a watch with a cross-beat escapement, which probably made it one of the most accurate portable timekeepers until the invention of the balance spring. The watch is now in the Grünes Gewölbe in Dresden. The Metropolitan Museum's watch has an ordinary verge escapement, and with an enameled dial that registers hours and half hours only, it is remarkable more for its tiny size than for its accuracy. The rock crystal cover is a replacement.

[Clare Vincent, 2009]