Churchill and the Turnip - Partners in Time

“Vestis virum facit” meaning “clothes make the man” is a Latin proverb by Erasmus, who was known as the ‘prince of the humanists.’ He was a Dutch philosopher and influencer of the Northern Renaissance.

Undeniably, even in the 1500s, we are exposed to the notion that ornamental possessions were able to sway the opinions of the public by implying that a man who was well dressed was more important than one who was not.

The fact was accepted that at a basic level, a naked man would not be able to influence society, the way a well-dressed man could. 

Today, clothes are only a part of the game. Shoes, belts, sunglasses and most brazenly – watches, are becoming more of a status symbol than they are functional. Watches are among the most expensive items humans currently adorn themselves with, second only to jewellery.

Those who were simple watchmakers generations ago, are now iconic brand names and have evolved into multi billion dollar companies due to their refinement and mastery of the craft over time.

With exciting personalities of their own, the watch on your wrist is a powerful accessory and can say a lot about your choices in life thereby positioning you in social circles that could become the world you blend into. 

Years ago, it was the humble pocket watch that first became a part of a pedigreed man’s ensemble. There have been some famous ones over time, but none quite as well known for its dependability to the man who wore it, than the ‘Turnip’. Created by the Maison Breguet, the “Turnip” is a yellow-gold minute repeater with a split-seconds chronograph, and a white enamel dial.

This iconic pocket watch, also referred to as 765, was commissioned in 1890 by John Spencer-Churchill, the 7th Duke of Marlborough and bestowed eventually to his grandson, the illustrious Sir Winston Churchill, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. While no one can clearly say why his pocket watch was nicknamed the “turnip” (although, this writer suspects it may have something to do with its shape), the instrument was a faithful and reliable timepiece that the famous man was never seen without.

Interestingly, Churchill is known to have been woefully bad at making it to his appointments on time which prompted his aides to fast forward the clocks in his house to ensure he was always ahead of time, but they could never get their hands on the “turnip”, which Mr. Churchill relied on, and so ironically, their attempts to keep him timely were squandered.

Yet, this pocket watch proves the dependability that is required of a timepiece. While Mr. Churchill may have found it difficult to make it to his personal appointments on time, the times that he turned to his faithful “turnip” to make the decisions he did during a bleak time of war and worry, make this timepiece one that “ticked” its way into some of the most significant decisions in Britain’s history.

There aren’t many accessories that can own the credentials of belonging to influential leaders throughout their lives and very often, appearances and brand names can cloud the ‘want’ to wear a particular time piece.

However, Mr. Churchill’s family heirloom is priceless not only because of the man that wore it, but because of the solidarity and trust he had in it. The context of the journey of life is understood and appreciated because of its position relative to the time in which it occurred. The “turnip” did so much more than simply keep time for Mr. Churchill. It did him the honour of standing by him impartially and steadfastly when it mattered most.

Written by Hawchester London