Nuremberg eggs

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Pocketwatches evolved from clock-watches, called "Nuremberg eggs", worn on chains around the neck. Example by Peter Henlein, 1510, Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nuremberg

Nuremberg eggs is a term that is erroneously said to have been used for the first "clock-watches" (Taschenuhr), small ornamental spring-driven clocks made by German clockmaker Peter Henlein in the German city of Nuremberg at the beginning of the sixteenth century.[1][2] They were sometimes worn as pendants on clothing, and so are considered the first watches. The name was supposedly given to them because they were round in shape. However, this name is regarded as a myth, resulting from a mistranslation of a sentence in Rabelais by Johann Fischart in 1571.[1] Rabelais used the term Ueurlein "little clocks" and Fischart translated this as Eierlein, "little eggs".[3][1] The first clock-watches, made in Henlein's time, were not round but cylindrical. (One notable exception is the earliest dated watch 1530, known to have been owned by Philipp Melanchthon and now in the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore.) Round egg-shaped necklace watches came into fashion later in the century,[1] which probably accounted for the mistranslation.


  1. ^ a b c d Dohrn-van Rossum, Gerhard; Thomas Dunlap (1996). History of the Hour: Clocks and Modern Temporal Orders. USA: Univ. of Chicago Press. p. 122. ISBN 0-226-15510-2. 
  2. ^ Fanthorpe, Lionel; Patricia Fanthorpe (2007). Mysteries and Secrets of Time. Dundurn Press Ltd. p. 26. ISBN 1550026771. 
  3. ^ Bruton, Eric, The History of Clocks and Watches, 1979, page 109.