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The history of master mechanical watchmakers - J & T Windmills

About Joseph & Thomas Windmills

Image of St Martins Le Grand – where master English clockmaker Joseph Windmills was based early in his mechanical clock and watch making career

St Martins Le Grand

Joseph was probably born before the end of 1640/1650; however his origins are unclear. During the earliest years of his clock making, he was based in St Martin's Le Grand. Not far from here he owned a house in Blow Bladder Street, a fairly modest building having only 3 hearths.

In 1699, Joseph Windmills was elected as the youngest Warden of the Company. Meanwhile his son Thomas had completed his apprenticeship and then worked as a journeyman, becoming free of the Clockmaker's company in 1695/1696.

Finest English mechanical clockmaker

Image of the British Museum that displays Joseph Windmills' rarest mechanical watch was made before 1680 and did not feature a balance spring - the innovation that turned mechanical watches from ornaments into functional, accurate timepieces

The British Museum

Image of early Thomas Tompion mechanical watch

Early Thomas Tompion watch

Joseph was considered one of the finest clockmakers in late seventeenth century London, and produced a prolific number of lantern clocks of all sizes and qualities. His earliest known watch was created before 1680 and did not feature a balance spring; this is his rarest watch and is displayed in the British Museum.

The development of the sprung balance by Thomas Tompion turned the watch from an ornament to a functioning, accurate timepiece.

Becoming mechanical watchmaking experts

The exact date of Joseph's partnership with his son Thomas is unknown; however from the numbers of timepieces produced it would appear that the firm became even more prolific with the arrival of Thomas, especially in terms of watch making.

Joseph last attended Court at the Clockmakers' Company on 24th October 1723, which completed an active membership of the Court of more than thirty-two years. After fifty-two years in the trade, he passed away in 1724. Thomas then took over the company working at different times with four partners until his death in 1737. He left no children and was the last of the Windmills' male line.

The story of Joseph & Thomas Windmills

Watch video of the history of the master English clockmakers