Pocket watch concealed in a memento mori, 1700-1936
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
The engraved Latin phrase Tempus fugit on this small model means 'time flies'. The object was probably a memento mori, meaning a reminder of death. The tiny silver model of a human skull opens to reveal a pocket watch. This is intricately engraved with multiple skull and crossbones motifs. Such designs were associated with memento mori in the 1800s. The watch is a symbol of escaping time. According to the acqusition records for this object, the watch belonged to Queen Mary (1867-1953), wife of George V. The Queen presented the watch to Henry Wellcome in the 1930s.