Critical Essay of 250MC

Time will Tell

Time Will Tell is a body of work that is based on the time and history of watches. It explores the essence of watches from Coventry’s Watchmaking industry, in which there has been a shift on how we value these objects.
“Objects cannot be understood through one moment of their existence” (Edwards, 2012); watches are more than just objects. They are links to our past, our histories and our ancestry. Time leaves an indelible mark that is not always visible but can make the worthless seem invaluable. In this body of work, the aim was to explore the emotional bond, as well as the sentimentality and emotional power that these objects contain.

The main inspiration for this work came from Impact by Paul Smith (Smith, P, 2011), Copper Horses by Chris Harrison (, 2013) and The Commons by David Moore (Moore, 2002). The images were very simplistic. They took a single object and showed it off in different ways. In Copper Horses, the objects were used as an emotional homage to his father. However in Impact, we can see all the tiny details on the bullet, which gives it a powerful identity. Whereas in The Commons Moore looked at the details that were missed in our daily lives.

Harrisons objects were personal and held great affection and Moore looked into a forensic angle, whereas Smiths bullets were emotive and singularly authoritative in their own right. It was these photographers combined with the manufacturing past of Coventry and its historic watch making industry that inspired this body of work to focus on the cities own timepieces.

To contextualise this essay, “during the later 17th century a local trade was beginning to appear” (Stephens 1969) in the Coventry area, until business bloomed in the 19th Century where there was 53 watchmakers deemed worthy to find themselves in West’s Directory of Warwickshire. However in the 1900′s, factories in other countries, such as the USA and Switzerland (Wikipedia, 2014), began to rise and make watches cheaper, quicker, and more efficient. This caused Coventry’s industry to decline and die out.
Similarly though, in the 15th Century the pocket watch was originally an object owned by the wealthy and elite (, n.d.) and was deemed as a social status symbol. However as manufacturing costs were reduced, they became more affordable and were bought by the working class as an essential tool in their work. The ownership of these items came with a sense of pride. Whilst they held a materialistic value at the start, as watches grew in prevalence in the late 20th Century, it shifted from monetary value to sentimental as they were seen as a throw away commodity (, n.d.). This was due to how easily affordable and repairable watches have become in our society today.
What this means is that a bond can’t be established because no meaning is given to the watch. In comparison to older watches that keep a higher sentimental value, they hold memories that can’t be replaced.

As a result, the work had site-specific research, but needed to focus more on why they are sentimental. “Making Histories, Making Memories” by Gaynor Kavanagh investigates the way visitors interact with the objects, how memories can be invoked, and how the ‘dream space’ can be evocative: “The visitor and the nature of his/her engagement with the museum,” (Kavanagh, 1996). Sheldon Annis spoke about the ‘dream space’ (Kavanagh, 1996) in which visitors respond to various things in random ways, yet on a personal level. It could be slips of information, conversations, or memories. The dream space allows a more direct connection with memories and feelings that are stored away. However these memories may not always be ‘true’ because over time, there are slippages in memory due to the different time spaces memories operate in; “cognitive memory claims.” (Connerton, 1989) The person remembers the meaning of a particular thing but not in full.
From this article, it helped put into perspective that the final work should allow the viewer to focus on the object and interpret it in his or her own way.

In the body of work, the focus was on the essence on the watches and was a way of documenting the evidence of how time and history had affected them. The images were taken on plain black backgrounds to avoid any distraction and isolate the watch. The choice both Smith (Smith, P, 2011) and Pyke (Pyke, n.d.) made in how to photograph their images, especially in their background choice, influenced the making of this work. The bland background helps isolate the image from the object so that the markings would be more evident.
With research and collaboration with the Coventry Watch museum, it was established that the watches had a great deal of history in them and had passed through multiple generations in families.

Having looked at the typological approach to the project Water Towers, this body of work was influenced by Bernd and Hilla Becher to show the work as a 3×3 grid. This allows the work to be viewed at a level playing field, as all the images can be viewed at once. Also, the viewer would be able to recognize that the markings on the watches and how each watch has it own essence within it are the main focus.

In conclusion, this body of work has focused on the time and history of watches. The “historically…contingent role” (Schneider and Wright, 2013) of pocket watches has changed from a sentimental to a monetary value over the past twenty years. However this work has looked to re-focus on the sentimental aspect by focusing on the essence held within the watches. Through the images, the viewer can regain forgotten memories and everything that comes with them.

For the body of work to develop in the future, it could contain a wider range of watches not just from Coventry, but other key areas from the UK that were known for their watch making. The body of work could also begin to look more at the individual tools and components that make the watch and the journey of how a watch is made; on why in the past they were more valuable and precious to have owned.
To some, these watches may just be inanimate pieces that hold no value. However to others, certain marks on the watches can say a lot about their lives they have held in the past, even when the memories have faded and died (Dillon, 2004), it can evoke memories to the viewer about how it used to live.


Connerton, P. (1989). How societies remember. Cambridge [England]: Cambridge University Press, pp.20-40.

Dillon, B. (2004). CABINET // Forget Me Not: An Interview with Geoffrey Batchen. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Nov. 2014].

Edwards, E. (2012). Objects of Affect: Photography Beyond the Image article. Annual review of Anthropology, [online] 41, pp.221-234. Available at: [Accessed 1 Nov. 2014].

Kavanagh, G. (1996). Making histories in museums. London: Leicester University Press, pp.1-13.

Moore, D. (2000). Scratches caused by heels: Opposition backbenches, 26 June 2000. [image] Available at: ?imagenum=11 [Accessed 17 Oct. 2014]., (2013). About Copper Horses – Exhibitions – Plan a Visit – National Media Museum. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Nov. 2014]., (n.d.). The History of Pocket watches, antique pocket watches, collectable pocket watches. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 Nov. 2014].

Pyke, S. (n.d.). Soles #1. [image] Available at: [Accessed 2 Nov. 2014

Schneider, A. and Wright, C. (2013). Anthropology and art practice. Bloomsbury Academic, pp.1-21.

Smith, P. (2011). Paul Smith Photography, London UK.. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Nov. 2014].

Stephens W.B (1969), A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 8: The City of Coventry and Borough of Warwick pp. 162-189. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Oct. 2014].

Wikipedia, (2014). History of Coventry. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 Oct. 2014].


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s