British Clocks and Watches in the Ottoman Empire and Topkapı Palace
Keywords: Ottoman Empire, British Clocks, Topkapı Palace, Collection
Ottoman - British relations started officially in 1583 by obtaining capitulations for trading in the Ottoman Empire with low rate of custom charges. Representatives of the trade companies, mainly the Turkey Company members acted as envoys or ambassadors for the arrangements to obtain the privileges. Therefore, they had to find means to approach the Turkish dignitaries, mainly by discovering how to please them. Arı important part of the ceremony held for the audience of the British ambassador was presentation of a packet of valuable gifts mainly containing an automata-clock and rich textiles, a fashion already introduced by other European ambassadors. Dallam's unforgettable organ clock sent by Queen Elizabeth I to Mehmed III was the most famous one of these gifts that created so much sensation in İstanbul as well as in European palaces. Manufacturing of automata-clocks for the decoration of the Ottoman and other eastern palaces became an important industry in the European nations from the beginning of the conquest of İstanbul until the first quarter of the 19th century. The rumours of the beauty of these gifts created a fashion in every part of the Ottoman Empire to use the clocks and watches as an important accessory in the interiors or as a jewel to complement the apparel of the people as the sign of the richness or official rank. The British merchants who tried to organise their trade at the utmost level to gain advantage, managed to establish a large business for the Turkish market by designing special clocks and watches to attract the taste of the Islamic or non-Islamic citizens of the Ottoman Empire. Although the majority of these clocks and watches did not survive, the collection of Topkapı Palace Museum displays the best collection of British clocks and watches of various sizes specially designed for the Sultans and the harem. These masterpieces displayed in the Section of Clocks and Watches of Topkapı Palace are also important to reflect the early appreciation of the western art in the Ottoman palace as well as the history of diplomacy and commerce between the two countries. Therefore, it is aimed to give a brief account of the importance of the clocks and watches among the diplomatic gifts as well as the trading of these luxury commodities in the Ottoman Empire by the British clock makers and merchants.