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John Arnold was born in Cornwall in 1736. His father was a watchmaker and his uncle a gunsmith, which probably explains his early interest in precision engineering and metalwork. A talented craftsman and scholar, he left England for the Netherlands at the age of 19 after completing his apprenticeship to hone his watchmaking skills. He returned two years later speaking excellent German, which stood him in good stead later at the court of George III, and had established himself as a watchmaker of repute in London's Strand by his mid-twenties.
This is a story worth telling. Starting with this catalogue, we shall look at some of the achievements that assured John Arnold and his son of their place in watchmaking history. Following with the stories, we shall read how his timepieces accompanied famous explorers on their voyages of discovery, helped the East India Company establish its empire and how Napoleon Bonaparte himself presented an Arnold clock to the Observatory of Milan in 1802.