Watch Papers

Most people know I love ephemera and here is a piece of ephemera specific to a device, the watch. Watch papers were small engravings put into the back of watches so that the owners would know what shop to return it to for repairs as well as continued advertising.

A detail (below) from the Cambridge watch paper of James Peters, with the corinthians quote, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory”, and what is likely death (the scythe), or what might have been the fashionable term then, the recording angel – beside the skeleton as it’s spirit departs from the mortal remains.

Many of the fobs have engraving of the town the company is in; a detail of a church or some local landmark. Many of the papers have cuts in the edges to help them fit into curved cases. Below is another design, a mirror image of the Cambridge watch and looks to have been a popular design on death, likely all engraved by John Woollett. As the spirit departs the soul, lightning cracks breaking a column in two, something you will see in graveyards around 1830-80, meaning a life cut short.

Below is another design by John Woollett – it is a ticket to a funeral of a Mr James Mabbs, c1773.

Funeral ticket: a large pedestal in graveyard with space for inscription, topped by tomb with prostate skeleton representing Death, and Time as a winged old man, holding base of Death’s broken spear, his scythe by his feet.

Back to the watch papers. Some of the early designs are also business cards that are cut down to circles to fit in the cases from the canny watch dealer who wanted to save money with his stationer.