NOTES FOR THE HISTORIANS
Graham is an unrepentantly English name for an exquisitely
English watch. If you're interested in the minutiae of watch
making, Graham was the surname of George Graham, born in 1673,
master watchmaker who lived in Fleet Street in London.
London was definitely the place to be if you were interested in
watchmaking in the 17th and 18th centuries. A highly developed
city, it had a business culture, the world's first scientific
society and a navy all of which had pressing time keeping
Like many Brits before and after him, Graham was more interested
in generating lots of ideas than in making money. He created
several inventions but never patented any of them.
For example, he created the first stopwatch. He devised a
mercury pendulum system for making clocks more accurate in very hot
and very cold weather. He also invented the dead-beat escapement
which made clocks more accurate in general and built the master
clock for Greenwich Royal Observatory. The escapement he invented
is today simply known as the Graham Escapement and still used in
high-precision pendulum clocks. It is actually a predecessor to the
Swiss anchor movement almost universally used in wristwatches.
Graham had a pretty open attitude to sharing his innovations. He
often helped fellow horologists like John Harrison and Julien Le
Roy to solve problems, and for this acquired the nickname "honest
George Graham had learnt his trade from Henry Aske and went on
to work for Thomas Tompion. Graham and Tompion moved from being
colleagues to friends, with George marrying Tompion's niece,
Elizabeth. In 1713, after Tompion's death, Graham took over the
London had a business culture, the world's first
scientific society and a navy all of which had pressing time
Graham became a veritable pillar of the scientific and
clockmaking establishment and in 1721, he was elected as a
Fellow of the Royal Society and contributed over twenty
papers to its scientific journal, the Philosophical
Transactions. George Graham became Master of the Clockmakers'
Company in 1722.
Graham died in 1751 and was buried in Westminster Abbey in the
same grave as his mentor and friend, Thomas Tompion. The
inscription of the stone reads:
George Graham of London, watchmaker and F.R.S. whose curious
inventions do honour to ye British genius whose accurate
performance are ye standard of mechanic skill. He died ye XVI of
November MDCCLI in the LXXVIII year of his age.
George Graham's curious inventions are the inspiration
behind our watches.