Did you know America’s oldest watchmaking guild is still in existence? Founded in 1866, the Horological Society of New York is one of the oldest operating horological associations in the world. Today, it operates as a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the art and science of horology: the study and measurement of time.
The Horological Society has been calling Midtown Manhattan home since 2018, more specifically the General Society Building. Located on “Club Row,” famously named due to a high concentration of clubs on the block (Harvard Club, New York Yacht Club, and the Penn Club, to name a few), HSNY’s monthly lectures by industry leaders take place downstairs in the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen Library — the second-oldest continuously operating library in New York City. The General Society building exudes an authentic “old New York feel” where you might just spot famous actors filming scenes on any given day! The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel was filmed inside the gorgeous hallways and staircases of the building.
The Horological Society houses the original watchmaking bench, tools, and patents of Henry B. Fried (1907-1996), regarded as “the dean of American watchmakers” by The New York Times. Fried authored fourteen books on watchmaking that continue to be in high demand and are used as textbooks in watchmaking institutions. He served as President of the Horological Society in the 1950s and the Henry B. Fried Scholarship for watchmaking students was established in his honor in 2017. You’ll find his desk and other archival materials inside a wood-paneled classroom with historic and modern tools to learn on.
When completed in 2022, the Horological Society’s research library will boast an extensive collection containing a selection of rare and important texts in the field of horology. A resource for watchmaking students and aficionados alike, HSNY will have one of the largest and most comprehensive horological libraries in the world, complemented by a digital cataloging system accessible worldwide.
Since the 1950s, the Horological Society of New York has offered classes to the public, taught by professional watchmakers. In Horology 101, learn about how mechanical watch movement works and the proper usage of watchmaking tools. Horology 102 takes an in-depth look at the gear train, covering terminology, functionality, and theory. Explore the winding and setting works of mechanical watch movement in Horology 103, and in Horology 104, spend time examining what makes a mechanical watch movement tick.
In addition to the classroom, the highlights are the unique clocks on display. There is a rare clock movement by E. Howard & Company that was once on top of the ornate Rupper Tower of the Hell Gate Brewery (once the largest berwery in America) in Yorkville, Manhattan. It’s still in working order and survived to this day with little alteration, giving us a glimpse into the level of workmanship in the 19th century. The clock movement was salvaged before the demolition of the building in 1969 and was taken care of by Conrad Milster, the Chief Engineer of the Pratt Institute, who donated the clock on his retirement.
Other treasures includes an Atmos clock that is powered by changes in the atmosphere. As Horological Society Executive Director Nicholas Manousos tells us, “It’s as close as we can get to a perpetual motion machine. There’s a bellows in the back…and it’s full of gas. It’s this gas that’s sensitive to parametric changes. So just the difference in temperature between night and day is enough for it to move and that’s what gives it power.”
A Tiffany pocket watch on display was rediscovered in a safety deposit box of the Horological Society, decades after being donated to the organization. Everything from the safety deposit box was sold, except for this watch. There is also a traditional grandfather clock with a Westminster chime, a mantel clock from a rare French maker, and more.
Untapped New York will be hosting two tours, on November 5 and December 2, of the Horological Society of New York’s evolution and its 155-year traditions with Executive Director Nicholas Manousos. Tour their watchmaking classroom and get a sneak peek at the archives, all located on Club Row in the heart of Midtown Manhattan. The event is free for Untapped New York Insiders (and get your first month free with code JOINUS).
Tour of Horologial Society of New York
Next, explore the Lost History of the New York Sun Clock and Thermometer!