Hands of Time: A Watchmaker's History (Hardcover)
"A hugely entertaining achievement." –Esquire
“An engaging survey through a period of intellectual history that reveals as much about people who wear watches as the objects on their wrists." – Wall Street Journal
"As impeccably crafted and precisely engineered as any of the watches on which the author has worked so lovingly over the years, this book is a joy to behold and a wonder to enjoy.” –Simon Winchester, author of The Perfectionists and Land
An award-winning watchmaker—one of the few practicing the art in the world today—chronicles the invention of time through the centuries-long story of one of mankind’s most profound technological achievements: the watch.
Timepieces have long accompanied us on our travels, from the depths of the oceans to the summit of Everest, the ice of the arctic to the sands of the deserts, outer space to the surface of the moon. The watch has sculpted the social and economic development of modern society; it is an object that, when disassembled, can give us new insights both into the motivations of inventors and craftsmen of the past, and, into the lives of the people who treasured them.
Hands of Time is a journey through watchmaking history, from the earliest attempts at time-keeping, to the breakthrough in engineering that gave us the first watch, to today – where the timepieces hold cultural and historical significance beyond what its first creators could have imagined. Acclaimed watchmaker Rebecca Struthers uses the most important watches throughout history to explore their attendant paradigm shifts in how we think about time, indeed how we think about our own humanity. From an up-close look at the birth of the fakes and forgeries industry which marked the watch as a valuable commodity, to the watches that helped us navigate trade expeditions, she reveals how these instruments have shaped how we build and then consequently make our way through the world.
A fusion of art and science, history and social commentary, this fascinating work, told in Struthers’s lively voice and illustrated with custom line drawings by her husband and fellow watchmaker Craig, is filled with her personal observations as an expert watchmaker—one of the few remaining at work in the world today. Horology is a vast subject—the “study of time.” This compelling history offers a fresh take, exploring not only these watches within their time, but the role they played in human development and the impact they had on the people who treasured them.
Rebecca Struthers is a watchmaker and historian from Birmingham, England. She cofounded her workshop, Struthers Watchmakers, in 2012, with her husband, Craig. Together they use heritage equipment and traditional artisan techniques to restore antiquarian pieces and craft bespoke watches. In 2017 Rebecca became the first watchmaker in British history to earn a PhD in horology. Rebecca is one of the few remaining horologists in the world making timepieces from scratch. She lives in Staffordshire with Craig; her dog, Archie; cats Isla and Alabama; and Morrissey the mouse.
"Hands of Time is smart, curious, digressive and brisk: an engaging survey through a period of intellectual history that reveals as much about people who wear watches as the objects on their wrists." — Wall Street Journal
"There is a tendency for watch writing to be a closed shop – to get bogged down in the technicalities of watches and watches alone. Hands of Time puts them into cultural and historical context, combines that with the story of Rebecca’s singular career, and assembles the parts against a backdrop of the whole history of time. It’s also a really fun read." — Esquire
"Skillfully moving between the minuscule world of watchmaking and the sweep of history, Hands of Time is an enlightening study of “the closest relationship we had with a machine” before the advent of mobile phones. It charts humanity’s shifting relationship with time, while showing that watches have always connoted more than time-telling." — The Economist
"Full of tales of royal intrigue and social history, it charts the story of watchmaking through the centuries and reflects on how time affects us all."
"Watchmaker and antiquarian horologist Struthers debuts with a vivid history of her craft.... Heartfelt and deeply knowledgeable, this is an elegant tribute to a timeless art form." — Publishers Weekly
"A beautiful story about beautiful things from someone who knows everything there is to know about the field." — Kirkus Reviews
"Each chapter of her exquisitely crafted history explores a pivotal moment in watchmaking from the past 500 years." — Nature
"As impeccably crafted and precisely engineered as any of the watches on which the author has worked so lovingly over the years, this book is a joy to behold and a wonder to enjoy.” — Simon Winchester, author of The Perfectionists and Land
“An intensely personal, finely-tuned meditation on making and time-keeping. This is a beautiful book." — Edmund de Waal, author of The Hare with Amber Eyes
“From 40,000 year old bone etchings, through the first tick-tock and into the nanoscale atomic world of 21st century clocks, Hands of Time is a meticulously written and captivating history. Struthers brings her unique perspective as artisan and engineer to explore both the evolution of mechanisms and the complicated ways in which timekeeping has changed human life: the more we measure this intangible cosmic property, the more precious it becomes.” — Rebecca Wragg Sykes, author of Kindred
“As an engineer I was enthralled by the intricate mechanisms Dr. Struthers brings to life so vividly. But what really struck me is her personal journey in horology, and her fascinating stories of how timepieces affected society and culture, ultimately shaping our modern lives.” — Roma Agrawal, author of How Was That Built?
“As exquisitely-crafted as a Georgian pocket-watch, this fascinating book weaves the threads of personal memoir with the story of a profession that has until now been almost entirely overlooked. Through the lens of watch-making, a new understanding of our world history emerges. Beautifully written and endlessly fascinating, it feels like this was a story waiting to be written.” — Tracy Borman, author of Anne Boleyn & Elizabeth I
“Rebecca Struthers dismantles and reassembles time as she would an antique pocket watch. Beautiful, bewitching and brilliant.” — Lara Maiklem, author of Mudlarking: Lost and Found on the River Thames
"An exquisite book, as beautifully put together as one of the watches whose mechanisms Rebecca describes." — Stephen Fry
“An absolutely gorgeous book about craft, time and history. Hands of Time really captures what it means to be a craftsperson and why it matters. It blew my socks off.” — Jay Blades
"This is a work of staggering complexity and bewildering economy – highly deserving of the time you give it." — Telegraph (UK)
"Every page glitters with details of her experience and the people she has learned from. The book is evidence of a lifelong labor of love, and reading it is time well spent." — The Spectator
"Dr.Struthers serves up a gripping history of timekeeping that starts with the personal, but then embarks upon a journey spanning centuries of modern humanity, examining how timepieces have shaped us – not just in service to our quotidian lives, but politically and economically, too. With a scope that reaches from prehistoric 40,000-year-old bone etchings recording lunar cycles to the Dutch horological “forgeries” of her thesis, it is all addressed with a lightness of touch that has seen Dr. Struthers’ debut scoring “Book of the Week” on BBC Radio 4’." — Mr Porter