In the 18th and 19th centuries, Coventry became one of the three main UK centres of watch and clock manufacture and ranked alongside Prescot, near Liverpool and Clerkenwell in London.
However, the origins of Clock and watch making in the city can probably be traced to the latter half of the 17th century.
William Watson, who was sheriff of Coventry in 1682, became famous for making an ingenious astronomical clock; John Carte, a watchmaker from Coventry had set up his own business in London by 1695, and the mayor of Coventry in 1727 was a watchmaker named George Porter. The firm of "Vale" was established in the late-1740s, and "Rotherhams" set up business in 1750.
The next 60 years saw a rapid development in the trade with factories employing a number of specialised workers springing up alongside the workshops of individual master craftsmen. From 1825–50, Coventry's business in watches almost doubled, and in 1861, some 2,037 people were employed in the trade.
As the industry declined from 1880 onwards, due mainly to competition from American and Swiss clock and watch manufacturers, the skilled pool of workers proved crucial to the setting up of sewing machine and bicycle manufacture, and eventually the motorcycle, automobile, machine tool and aircraft industries. However, Rotherhams were still making 100 watches a day in 1899 when many watchmakers had gone out of business.