Turkish numbers on the dials of pocket watches for Ottoman Empire

What hour is it?

Let’ say it better: what kind of numbers are they?

On the dial of this watch you can see Turkish numbers, always featured in the dial of watches made for the Ottoman Emperor from the beginning of 17th century. Initially oval-shaped, then round, they became enclosed with several protective watch-cases.

The Ottoman market was such an important market for watchmaking that towards 1700, close to 180 Genevan watchmakers and other craftsmen lived in Constantinople (Istanbul). This colony was doomed to disappear in the second half of the XVIII century because manufacturers chose to relocate in Europe the watch production, from where they could direct export to the Ottoman Emperor.

In the picture, an Edward Prior, onion pocket watch for the Turkish market, circa 1800, from the Hausmann & Co. antique watches collection. The outer case is in tortoise shell; the second case is in engraved silver, and the final case is in plain silver. Key wound, verge escapement, fully engraved coq. The Prior family is associated with the invention of the quarter repeater mechanism.

Edward Prior, onion pocket watch, circa 1800. Collezione Hausmann & Co.
Edward Prior, onion pocket watch per il mercato turco, circa 1800. Collezione Hausmann & Co.

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