Skull watch, 1780

Hayden sez, "A good one for Halloween - this skull-shaped memento mori clock is historically important and even a little spooky today. The Art of Mourning site is all about death and love in jewelry and art, so there are many examples of the symbols of death throughout history."

Watches and clocks with the memento mori motifs were not uncommon, dating from the mid 17th Century to the 1930s. This early Verge silver skull pivots at the top of the cranium, whereas others pivot from the jaw. There are others created that fold open at the top of the head with enamel and diamonds, but pieces like these are extremely rare and command a high price. Examples exist from Switzerland, France, Germany and England. As written by the Taft Museum:

“The skull and watch are part of the standard subject matter of 17th-century vanitas still lifes. Vanitas is from the Latin for “emptiness” or “untruth,” from which comes the English word “vanity.” Such pictures depict objects that have an underlying moral message—usually about the fleeting nature of physical reality. Therefore, it is not surprising that the skull and watch, two reminders of the passage of time, should merge in a single object. The use of the skeleton hand, however, is unusual.1“

Thomas White Memento Mori Watch, c.1780



  1. Ohhhhh that’s the heart of badass. That’s like “George Washington and the Count of St. Germain having a swordfight in the Illuminati guildhall” levels of badass. I’m unable to take it

Comments are closed.