In 1999, Winthrop Kellogg Edey bequeathed to The Frick Collection a remarkable collection of twenty-five clocks, fourteen watches, and an extensive reference library relating to the history of time measurement. Over nearly five decades, Edey had purchased a large number of timepieces, many of which he later exchanged or sold to upgrade with artifacts of greater significance. This continual refinement enabled him to assemble a small but exceptionally fine collection, illustrating both the stylistic and the technical development of clocks and watches from about 1500 to 1830. The Art of the Timekeeper featured thirteen clocks and eight watches that illustrate the breadth of Edey's interest in what is arguably the most remarkable period in the history of chronometry. Beginning with some of the earliest spring-driven timekeepers, the exhibition traced the history of clocks and watches through the scientific revolution into the early nineteenth century, showing the impact that the pendulum and the balance spring had not only on precision, but also on the appearance of clocks and watches.
The Art of the Timekeeper was organized by guest curator and museum consultant William J. H. Andrewes, formerly David P. Wheatland Curator, Harvard University, and co-author with Dava Sobel of the bestseller The Illustrated Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time. Many of the featured clocks and watches had not been shown publicly in this country for several decades.