BOOKREVIEW: Woodward on Time, by Philip Woodward, 2006

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Fortunat Mueller-Maerki

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Sep 23, 2001
Bookreview by Fortunat Mueller-Maerki

Woodward on Time

Woodward on Time. By Philip Woodward, 1st edition, illustrated, index. Published 2006 by Bill Taylor and the British Horological Institute. 341 pages; Hardcover, 250x195mm. ISBN 978-0-950-96216-3, Order for UKP 45 plus shipping at Lending copies available to NAWCC members at the Library in Columbia, PA.

Horologists who have worked on understanding the exact science behind a clock mechanism are probably familiar with the British engineer and scientist Philip Woodward. His early contributions were in Radar design in wartime England in the 1940s, and subsequently he became a specialist on radar information theory and oscillation theory. In 2005 he won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Royal Society of Engineering. During the last 25 years, during his very busy retirement he also became an exceptional horologist, and a key contributor to the obscure corner of science known as horological science.

Like many of us he became obsessed with thinking on how to improve the performance of a pendulum clock, but unlike most of us he set out to design and build a better clock. After four attempts his final masterpiece, known as W5, is a highly innovative and novel, high performance, free pendulum clock that has become somewhat of a cult item among precision clock fans. This occurred mainly after Woodward in 1995 published “My Own Right Time – An Exploration of Clockwork Design” (Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-856522-4), not only a must read for anyone thinking about designing a clock movement, but the best existing introduction to precision pendulum theory.

Throughout the years Woodward has been a prolific writer and one of the more regular contributors in “Horological Science Newsletter” (published by Chapter 161 of NAWCC) and in the “Horological Journal” (published by the British Horological Institute), as well as some other periodicals. Taken together these many smaller contributions, ranging from short letters to the editor to fully developed scholarly papers, make up a substantial chunk of the newly published horological science knowledge over the last few decades. Unfortunately for horologists who don’t keep fully indexed complete back runs of these publications at hand, this fount of knowledge was quite inaccessible.

Woodward fan Bill Taylor has taken the initiative to publish the 63 Woodward papers and letters on horological science in book format. Tim and Amyra Treffry produced the book and the British Horological Institute is selling it. Organized into 7 groups (plus an Epilogue) these papers, finally assembled form a most useful textbook on horological science, covering the subjects of: 1. Experimental clocks, 2. Escapement theory, 3. Error analysis, 4. Timekeeping stability, 4. Pendulums and their suspensions, 5. The spiral hairspring, 6. W5 for emulation.

Woodward is especially skillful in describing complex mechanics and physics in terms that also a non-engineer can comprehend, although the majority of his papers have a fair share of formula and mathematics. For the scientifically/technically inclined horologist this book must be one of the most important additions to the recent horological literature.

Fortunat Mueller-Maerki (Sussex, NJ), February 24, 2007

John Nagle

Re: REVIEW: Woodward on Time, by Philip Woodward, 2006

I agree. Years ago when his first book was published I wrote a review for the Bulletin. It is so refreshing to see a book about time, timekeeping, and the mechanical end that contains original thought versus the constant rehashing that we often see in the pseudo repair and many of the coffee table books!
He provides thought provoking material that gives a keen insight into many of the more mysterious aspects of timekeeping.
Always a great read!


NAWCC Member
Apr 19, 2019
I am desperately looking for a copy of "Woddward on time", I have been looking for ages without any success. Could anybody help me to find one copy, ideally for sale but I would be happy to pay to borrow it too.
Thanks Pepi


NAWCC Fellow
NAWCC Member
Dec 5, 2014
In case you are not able to locate a copy, as an NAWCC member, you can borrow one from the NAWCC Library and Research Center. It looks like they have 3 copies (click the link below, then if it doesn't populate with Woodward's books, you can click the magnifying glass to search)
Welcome to OPAC | V1.0
The borrowing guidelines are outlined here. This book will require both shipping and insurance since it is valued greater than $100.

Good luck in your search!
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