Introduction to Timepiece Collection
The watches in the Ashmolean Museum collections are largely the result of three major bequests. Firstly that of Bentinck Hawkins, who left an important collection of portrait miniatures, objects of art, and watches. The Bentinck Hawkins collection includes a group of fine large-sized coach watches, and a small group of travelling clocks. J. Francis Mallett ran his father-in-law’s antique dealing business in Bath and London, and also built up his own private collection which he bequeathed in 1947. The bequest consisted of 125 watches, along with medieval ivories, Limoges enamels and porcelain. The Mallet watches are considered to be one of the foremost collections of decorative material of the 17th century to be found in Britain.
Eric Bullivant had been a friend of Mallett’s, and in 1974 his bequest of 120 watches came to the Ashmolean. When these were added to the existing collection, the Ashmolean became home to one of the most important collections of watches to be found outside the national collections in London. Bullivant’s watches enhanced the Museum’s collections by the addition of many fine 18th-century watches.
The Ashmolean’s watch collection shows the history and development of watch design and decoration extremely well, with many important examples dating from the middle of the sixteenth century to those made in the mid-nineteenth century.