Joshua Lockwood, Charleston

A Stunning 22-Carat Gold Colonial Watch, Likely Owned by a Wealthy Charleston Plantation Landowner.

Research on this important South Carolina slave owner's watch is taking place. Information to share? Please contact me.

Joshua Lockwood advertised his top-of-the line watches as follows; "... the best work is engraved in relieve (sic), with whole slides and filigree borders” (Harris, 283). This description matches the superb quality of the watch pictured. It is additionally cased in 22-carat gold and therefore is an example of one of the most expensive watches that could be bought anywhere at this time, an item that was likely owned by one of Lockwood's ultra-rich plantation landowner customers. It was made in 1763-64, one hundred years before the Civil War.

Joshua Lockwood (1729-1809) was born in Worcestershire, England and likely worked in London before he emigrated to Charleston, South Carolina in 1753 at age 24. He imported clocks, watches and numerous other consumer goods that he initially sold from his shop on Elliott Street before moving three years later to Broad Street where the most prominent merchants and craftsmen were located.

The workmanship of this watch is outstanding. The movement is signed, Joshua Lockwood, Charlestown, and has square baluster pillars, verge escapement and fusee and chain. The asymmetrical balance table is exquisitely pierced and engraved with a filigree surround, and the back plate features elaborately decorated embellishments with a matching filigree design surround. Notice that the 4 blued screws that attach the name plate and applied embellishments are symmetrically positioned and draws the eye to the large, raised rose-colored end-stone at the center of the balance table.

The outer case features a terrific 22-carat chased and engraved repoussé case that is a piece of art. It depicts the Calydonian Boar Hunt, a Greek mythology tale that would have appealed all too well to the plantation elite. The story is about Zeus’ daughter, Artemis, who sends a giant wild boar to terrorize King Oineus’ lands as punishment for being disrespectful. The boar is killed by the King’s son Meleagros who falls in love with the skilled warrior Atalanta during the dangerous hunt. The portrayal on the watch case shows Meleagros on the left with the boar under foot and the beautiful Atalanta seated on the right. Much to the dismay of his two uncles in the background, Meleagros is presenting the prize boar to Atalanta as a token of his affection. The work is signed by the renowned London gold chaser Henry Manly (1698-1774) who immigrated from Augsburg to London in 1728.

The inner pair case is also 22-carat gold and has maker’s initials “IW” for John Watkins or John Wright, and London date letter “H” for 1763-64.

A similar watch in silver can be viewed in the collection of the National Watch & Clock Museum in Columbia, Pennsylvania.

References and recommended reading:

  • Richard Edgcumbe, The Art of the Gold Chaser in Eighteenth-Century London, Oxford University Press, 2001
  • J. Carter Harris, The Clock and Watch Makers American Advertiser, Sussex, UK, Antiquarian Horological Society, 2003
  • St. Michael’s Church. (last visited April 13, 2017)
  • How Much Is That in Today’s Money? (last visited April 12, 2017)
  • Philip Priestley, Early Watch Case Makers of England 1631– 1720, NAWCC Watch & Clock Bulletin Special Order Supplement No. 3, 2000