From England to Crete and back

On the 26th of January 2021, I presented a paper to the CHORD online seminars:

https://retailhistory.wordpress.com/2020/12/28/2021-seminars/

The full text is now published on the CHORD Blog:

https://retailhistory.wordpress.com/category/conference-blogs/

Abstract

From England to Crete and back:

Exploring the commercial route of an 1814 pocket watch

The Durham University Museum collections include a pocket watch (Object Number DUROM.1962.78) made in or around 1814 by the English manufacturer George Prior. It is a watch with “Ottoman numerals” on the dial, namely numbers used with the Arabic alphabet employed at the time in the Ottoman Empire. This artefact is typical of low- to mid-priced watches for a large and lucrative “Eastern” market; they are nowadays classified as “popular luxury”: presupposing substantial investment on the part of owners, but at the same time accessible to much broader population strata than objects of high-end luxury. Such watches were quantity-produced by primarily England-based makers who took advantage of a complex system of manufacturing, distributed among various cities, as well as of a flexible marketing structure, employing intermediaries and local agents at the points of sale. George Prior was one of the most successful producers of such watches, and was succeeded by his son Edward; it is estimated that both of them sold more than 78000 pieces in the “Ottoman” markets. We will use the Durham collection item and its accompanying documentation as starting points in order to explore the complex retail biographies of these watches. We aim to illuminate a commercial success story that was realised during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries across borders and cultures.