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A view of a Tompion verge watch numbered 0891 dug up in Hexham.

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The verge watch numbered 0891 for c.1694, was discovered buried earlier this year during groundworks in Hexham. It includes a previously unrecorded maker’s mark to the case (WS surmounted by a rudimentary crown) that may be for William Sherwood who was officially freed from his apprenticeship in 1695.

Richard Kennedy, whose partner’s parents had found the watch, took it to the British Horological Institute at Upton Hall in Newark after some brief research. “I’ve no idea how it ended up in the ground, but when I saw it the craftsmanship was obvious. Even though it was very damaged… I thought I should find out a bit more. When I looked up the maker’s name, I realised it wasn’t just any old watch.’

It was initially examined by BHI president Viscount Alan Midleton and later seen by Tompion specialist Jeremy Evans who discusses the new addition to the Tompion oeuvre in the current issue of The Horological Journal.

The watch may not be beyond repair. “Although all the ferrous metal has almost rusted away, the rest of the gilded movement and silver dial are remarkably undamaged,” says Midleton. “Some years ago, a gold example was dug up on the South Downs in very similar condition. I believe that one has been restored to working order.”

The watch in its current state would have a modest value. A similar silver-cased Tompion pocket watch (numbered 2628 for c.1698) was sold by Sotheby’s in 2016 for £19,000.