During his retirement years, Thomas Jefferson was surrounded by his twelve grandchildren, and he took great joy in pleasing them. He traditionally gave each grandchild a watch, and directed in his will that this practice should continue after his death. Although he owned and gave gold watches as presents, during most of his lifetime Jefferson customarily wore a silver pocket watch.
Primary Source References
1783 January 14. "Pd. Clarke for mendg. watch 3/9."1
1806 July 11. (Jefferson to Henry Voight). "A friend of mine has requested of me to procure for him a plain, but good silver watch, with a second hand, and the works capped to protect them from dust."24
1808 January 6. "Drew ord. on bk. US. for … Henry Voight for 85.D. for a watch."25
1808 April 11. "Pd. Joseph Daugherty for Rigden for mending watch 7.D."26
1808 May 18. "Pd. Pitman for mending watch .50."27
1809 February 20. "Pd. ... Kent cleaning watch 1.50."28
1811 June 3. "Repaid Mr. Patterson 5.D. which he pd. Rigden mending watches."29
1813 May 20. (Jefferson to Thomas Voight). "[C]ould a gold watch, good and moderately ornamented for a lady, be now got in Philadelphia, for a moderate price, say from 80. to 100.D.?"30
1813 July 1. (Thomas Voight to Jefferson). "... In Concequence of the War, watches have taken a Verry Considerable Rise; and I find that I Can get no Good ones of that disscription, such as I Could Recommend, for less than a $100—or a 110 Dollars."31
1813 July 30. (Jefferson to Thomas Voight). "... I will now ask the favor of you to procure for me such a gold watch as I described in my letter of May 20. that is to say, excellent in it's quality, but only moderately ornamented, just enough to make it fit for a lady. on a similar occasion of such a watch from your father in 1808. mr Short procured for me a chain of Paris gold (in several strands of very minute links), price 18.D. and a chrystal seal, not set, but in a solid peice, of the form in the margin price 2.D. I should be glad to receive such now with the watch."32
1817 October 26. (Jefferson to John Wayles Eppes). "I have procured from Leschot for mrs Eppes a very elegant watc[h] and of the very best construction being of the kind called à cylindre horizontal; the only inconvenience of which is that they require being touched with oil a little oftener than the others. he had no watch of the common construction which was proper for a lady. he required 40.D. boot, allowing only 30.D. for the gold of the old watch, the works being entirely past use. … I know that the Richmond watchmakers are as absolute murderers of a watch as your neighbor watchmaker."33
1819 April 8. "Drew on Jas. Leitch in favor of Louis Leschot for 165.64 for watches."34
7. This gold timepiece was made by Louis Chantrot who worked under the name of Meyer. Jefferson bought these watches for James Madison and Nathaniel Barrett, as well. MB, 1:628, 1:628n23. Transcription and editorial note available at Founders Online.