In June 2019 I had the chance to do research in Cambridge, supported by the DAAD-University of Cambridge Research Hub for German Studies with funds from the German Federal Foreign Office (FFO) and the Leibniz Research Alliance Historical Authenticity.
Exploring the material culture of the long eighteenth century, I examined four pocket watches with Ottoman numerals from the collection of the Fitzwilliam Museum. English and continental firms produced large numbers of watches of this type for the markets of the Ottoman Empire. These products, both technical novelties and fashionable accessories, were highly popular among the local multiethnic populations. The pocket watches for the Ottoman market may be classified as examples of popular luxury, expressing the rise of the individual, the growing significance of pleasurable consumption, and the emergence of new forms of socialisation through product use. Furthermore, these watches often combined elements that may be described as “genuine” or “fake”, which suggests that various forms and degrees of authenticity should be considered and problematised. The quantity-produced pocket watch with Ottoman numerals, an artefact incorporating both innovation and fashionability, offers an appropriate starting point for exploring the diffusion and significance of forgery practices outside the domain of high luxury.