The Ticking Sound of Abraham Lincoln’s Pocket Watch

Abraham Lincoln's Pocket Watch at the Kentucky Historical Society

Abraham Lincoln’s Pocket Watch at the Kentucky Historical Society

Anyone that has seen a movie created by Steven Spielberg can attest to the attention to detail that characterizes his films. Spielberg’s recent project, “Lincoln,” is no different.

One scene of this historical drama, in particular, features a contemplative President Abraham Lincoln sitting at a desk while staring at his dangling pocket watch. Many viewers may not realize that the sound of the ticking watch heard during that scene is actually an authentic recording from Lincoln’s personal pocket watch. This ticking is the same sound that Lincoln would have constantly heard over 150 years ago.

Listen to the ticking sound of Abraham Lincoln’s pocket watch.

 

The watch, currently located at the Kentucky Historical Society in Frankfort, is one of two Lincoln pocket watches that are known to exist – the other being housed at the Smithsonian. It is a key-wound J. Jacqueson movement enclosed in a yellow gold hunting case, thought to have been purchased at Tiffany & Co. around 1860. Unfortunately, it does not appear that there are any photographs of the movement currently available.

Ben Burtt explains how the sound was recorded and crafted for the film (information about the pocket watch begins at 4:50).

Not everyone was thrilled about the risk involved in winding a pocket watch, considered to be a “national treasure,” after being dormant for so many years. Several experts have identified issues that can arise from the risky move to appease the film’s producers.

4 thoughts on “The Ticking Sound of Abraham Lincoln’s Pocket Watch

    • I mentioned in the post:

      “It is a key-wound J. Jacqueson movement enclosed in a yellow gold hunting case, thought to have been purchased at Tiffany & Co. around 1860. Unfortunately, it does not appear that there are any photographs of the movement currently available.”

    • David, great find. This is actually the other known “Lincoln” watch. If I recall, they tried to secure this one for the sound in the movie but were declined due to fear that winding the watch might cause damage. At that point, they pursued the one at the Kentucky Historical Society. The inscription watch is held at the Smithsonian and has an interesting history. I plan on writing an article about that one in the near future. Thanks again!

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