I'm reading Peter Ackroyd's 'London: the biography'. It's a substantial tome, deeply packed with 79 absorbing chapters describing the city's history in very human terms. Chapter 51, 'Where is the well of Clerkenwell?' explains how that area of central London was famous for many reasons over the centuries. Horology was one of its more reputable activities. At the end of the 18th Century almost half the parish - some seven thousand artisans - were involved in making 120,000 watches per year. As Ackroyd tells, Christopher Pinchbeck I lived and worked there until 1721, and today there are plaques commemorating him and seven other clockmakers at Watchmakers' Court, 33 St John's Lane.
Clerkenwell may have been a capital of watchmaking, but watches and clocks were, of course, also being made in many other parts of the city and country.
It's fascinating to think about this hive of industry. Who bought all these watches - and what has happened to them, because only small numbers survive? Of course, each part of every watch was made by hand. Even today, this work is painstaking and eyestraining, so imagine how difficult it was before the invention of electric, or even gas, lighting.
Contrast this ancient industry with the situation today, with a much greater population and fairly universal ownership of watches. Yet there are, perhaps, just a dozen or so watchmaking businesses in the whole of Britain.
It's certainly food for thought.