Unravelling the myth of the ‘Dutch forgery’

Struthers, Rebecca (2016) Unravelling the myth of the ‘Dutch forgery’. Post-Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.

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Historically, the term ‘Dutch forgery’ has referred to watches manufactured in the latter part of the eighteenth century, purporting to have been made in London and yet created with Dutch physical characteristics. It has long been believed that these watches were not made in London, hence the application of ‘forgery’, with the general assumption amongst antiquarian horologists being that Geneva was their true city of origin. These ‘Dutch forgery’ watches were not of a high quality, made no scientific contribution to our understanding of time and accuracy and as such, they have largely been condemned to the dark corners of horological research. They have been dismissed as fakes and forgeries regarded as holding little relevance to the course of horological history, and yet, as this study innovatively claims, they represent the birth of mass production in the watch industry. Over the course of the timeframe covered (1750-1820), they play an integral role in the commercialisation of the watch which shifted from an immensely valuable object of desire to a more attainable accessory. They started the journey towards making portable timekeepers accessible to all in the developed world, and yet their remarkable story has never been the subject of a detailed published study. At its heart, this thesis contains the most thorough physical examination of surviving examples of these watches conducted to date. Carried out by the author, these examinations benefit from the unique insight of a practising watchmaker in the twenty-first century, studying and interpreting the work of their predecessors. This evidence helps to distinguish these watches from others made during the same period, and, along with documentary evidence, leads to a new understanding of where they were made and also their dissemination and their destination markets.

The opening chapters of this thesis outline the cultural role of forgery in an age of imitation, before exploring the political, socio-economic, technological and cultural influences which gave rise to forgery and imitation in the eighteenth-century European watch industry. It will examine the law to question the nature of forgery within the context of historical material culture, and explore the nature of the watches themselves. As the majority of these ‘Dutch forgeries’ declare London origin, this thesis concentrates on such work but shows that watches were also claiming to have been made in other parts of Europe as well. Although this thesis, therefore, broadens the definition of a ‘Dutch forgery’, it focuses on examples claiming to have been made in London.

Item Type: Thesis (Post-Doctoral)
September 2016UNSPECIFIED
Subjects: CAH25 - design, and creative and performing arts > CAH25-01 - creative arts and design > CAH25-01-05 - others in creative arts and design
Divisions: Doctoral Research College > Doctoral Theses Collection
Depositing User: Doris Riou
Date Deposited: 17 Jul 2020 08:56
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2022 17:20
URI: https://www.open-access.bcu.ac.uk/id/eprint/9554

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