Thomas Tompion – the Father of English Clockmaking

Thomas Tompion

Thomas Tompion

On July 25, 1639, English clock maker, watchmaker and mechanician Thomas Tompion was baptized. He is still regarded to this day as the Father of English Clockmaking. Tompion’s work includes some of the most historic and important clocks and watches in the World.

Thomas Tompion was the son of a blacksmith and became an an apprentice of a London clockmaker around 1664. It is believed that to his early patrons belonged the scientist Robert Hooke and he probably opened doors to Royal patronage as well as giving him access to the latest technology. Tompion became famous for his work because of his designs and high product quality. He was an early member of the Clockmakers’ Company of London and became a master in 1704.

Tompion made some of the first watches with balance springs which is probably due to his good relationship with Robert Hooke. The watches had a great potential to work much more accurately and were made for instance for King Charles II, signed with “Robert Hooke invent. 1658. T. Tompion fecit, 1675”. Another form of spring arrangement used by Tompion was a plain spiral with a single balance, similar to the arrangement used by Huygens and Thuret. Tompion’s improved design became the standard pattern in English watches throughout the 17th and 18th centuries.

Tompion became England’s most famous watchmaker and in his workshop, more than 5000 watches and 650 clocks were made and he created a numbering system for his spring and long-case clocks which is thought to be the first time that a serial numbering system was applied to manufactured goods.

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