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.
Image (not erotic to my knowledge): Chevalier et cachet watch between 1790-1799 (gift of Liz and Peter Moser, 2006), courtesy Walters Art Museum.
A version of this post originally appeared at Two Nerdy History Girls.
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