The Rijksmuseum owes its collection of around 500 pocket watches to bequests and gifts from private individuals. Until late/far into the 18th century, the Netherlands had its own watch production, which initially ranked among the best in Europe. The Rijksmuseum owns several outstanding examples, such as an oval travelling watch with two miniature portraits by the 17th-century Hague clockmaker Salomon Coster, and a watch with a gold case made by the Amsterdam goldsmith Thauvet Beslay.
In addition, the Netherlands was a market for the major international centres in England, Switzerland and France, which were cheaper and had a greater production worked on a larger scale. From these countries, too, the watch collection offers many highlights, including one produced in Paris with enamelled scenes occasioned by the wedding of William II and Mary Stuart in 1641.
A watch functioned not only as a time instrument but also as a piece of jewellery. Both men and women wore it: around one’s neck, attached to a belt or on a vest pocket chain. This is why the same materials and decorative techniques for jewels/pieces of jewellery were often used for watch cases.