Nearly three hundred years ago, a revolutionary English engineer was designing and hand-making precision timepieces that were centuries ahead of their time. That man was John Whitehurst.
Born in 1713, the son of a watch- and clock-maker, Whitehurst's contribution to innovation, not just in the world of clocks, but also in engineering and geology, stood him apart from his peers.
Even now, hundreds of years after his death, his timepieces stand proud in historic buildings around the world. Their accuracy remains unquestioned, a living testament to the man who designed them, and the dedicated craftsmen who have kept the name alive to this day.
Whitehurst was a founding member of the Lunar Society, a gathering of some of the greatest thinkers of the 18th Century, and the main intellectual powerhouse of the Industrial Revolution in England.
His friends and collaborators included Benjamin Franklin, the larger-than-life physician Erasmus Darwin, James Watt and Matthew Boulton who pioneered modern production methods from his great Soho Manufactory. Like Whitehurst, these men were leaders in their field.
They were a band of intellectual brothers, pioneers and entrepreneurs who would hold lively dinners and debate everything from philosophy and the arts, to science and commerce. It was these conversations that inspired Whitehurst to craft his beautiful timepieces as he did, such as his unique collaboration with Matthew Boulton, whose Soho works expertly mounted his timepieces to the exacting requirements Whitehurst demanded.
Whitehurst pioneered the method of using a single source material to construct the workings of the timepiece. This helps reduce variations in performance caused by temperature and humidity. So successful is the approach, that it has never been bettered. Which is why we continue to build all Whitehurst timepieces in this way.
This technique may have come about following a challenge he was presented with by the founding father of America, Benjamin Franklin, who asked him to design a clock that used fewer materials, as there was a drastic shortage of raw resources across the Atlantic.
Whitehurst created what was perhaps his most famous piece: the three-wheeled clock. With it ticking gently in the background, Franklin signed the documents that founded the United States of America as we know it today.