Shepherds Watch® is the creation of Quebec artist and designer Harris Morrison. Almost thirty years ago, Harris came across a 400-year-old portable sundial in an antique shop in Paris. It inspired a period of intense research on sundials, and he joined the American and British Sundial Societies. Drawing on his years as an artist and craftsman, Harris began designing elegant, fully functioning modern sundials, modeled after the originals. His new passion soon became a new business, and he sold the successful pottery studio that had kept him and several employees busy for a decade. Over the years, his designs have been carefully translated into the many beautiful timepieces you see on this site.
Our products are all hand-crafted by a small network of skilled artisans, most of them here in Montreal, where Shepherds Watch is based. We maintain rigorous standards and do not hesitate to reject pieces which fail to meet those standards.
As our civilization goes through dramatic changes, we hope that people will be drawn to the classic simple beauty of these functional pieces of art. In a world increasingly dependent on electricity and batteries, we hope these timepieces and accessories will appeal to those who yearn for something as natural as a simple bead of light.
We are working to add models to our New World line of sundials based on design motifs from the indigenous cultures of the Americas -- Aztec, Maya and Navajo. We have a bold new design in development that replicates a wearable sundial designed in Dresden (in Prussia) near the end of the Renaissance. We hope to add to our new line of garden sundials, too, and may even add an authetic replica of an astrolabe to our catalog in the coming year. So stay tuned...
How Sundials Work
On sunny days, suspend the dial by its black satin cord and aim the hole toward the sun. A ray of sunlight will shine through to illuminate a number on the inside of the dial, showing the time of day.
"Thanks for all your help. I am glad to have this beautiful ring. It is unique, functional and bold. Terrific! Great products and service."
Nolan - Houston, Texas
"We will certainly use Shepherds Watch again. My daughter is busy deciding which she wants now, and my husband is selecting his fourth!"
Sarah - England
"I recently purchased a sundial (Celtic Harmony) from a somewhat local vendor. I really enjoy your product and your web site has given me a lengthy wish list for the holidays! It's one of my favorite pieces of jewelry."
Becky - Baltimore, MD
"Last Spring I moved to New York City from a small town in the mid-West. Not knowing anyone, I looked in several shops for something that might be a conversation starter to help to meet new people and start some friendships. A salesman in one shop suggested I buy an Aquitaine necklace. I hesitated at the idea of a man wearing a necklace, but in the end decided to go for it and it's been just terrific. I can't tell you how many people I've met because of the Aquitaine. Thank you so much for creating such a wonderful thing."
Elias - New York City
The Evolution of the Sundial
From Sundial to Jewelry
The sundial was humanity’s first technology for marking the passage of time. Sundials also provide aesthetic and even spiritual nourishment. Shepherds Watch marries beauty and practicality in the form of working sundial jewelry and garden sundials.
The Coming of the Train
In earlier days, because of the earth's rotation, the town 20 or 30 miles to the east or west of you would have its clock set slightly differently. This was of little consequence to the residents who might never in their lives venture to any of their neighboring towns. Why would it matter if their clocks were five or ten minutes different?
By the late 19th Century, however, time discrepancies began to matter. The reason? The railroads. They demanded schedules. Schedules demanded times; but whose time? Along a hundred mile stretch there might be 6 different cities with 6 different town clocks each different from the other. Passengers needed to know what time the train would depart and when it would reach its destination. Railroaders needed to know when to send the next train in order to avoid serious accidents. In 1884, a conference was held and an agreement was reached to divide the USA into 4 zones each 15 degrees wide - Eastern, Central, Mountain and Pacific. All stations in the zone would carry the same time. In fact, train time, which was kept quite strictly by the railroads, became the standard by which cities and citizens set their clocks. The train whistle became the signal for setting clocks, and sundials now began to steadily disappear from almost everywhere except the garden -- and a few isolated spots on the planet, like Tibet.
The Middle Ages and the Renaissance
During the Middle Ages, people used sundials, sometimes small pocket-sized ones. But clocks were invented at the beginning of the Renaissance and then steadily developed over the years. Clocks were more of a curiosity at first; most people still used their sundials or estimated the time by the height of the sun in the sky. In 1777, when the French general Lafayette wanted to express his respect and admiration for his ally and friend General George Washington during the American revolution, he chose a silver Explorer dial as his gift. By the 18th century, clocks and watches began to supersede sundials. However, they were often unreliable and sundials often continued to be depended upon for an accurate reading.
The Greeks and Romans
The Greeks and Romans also used sundials extensively. The indicator on the sundial that casts the shadow is still known by the Greek word "gnomon," which means pointer. The use of towers and obelisks as gnomons to cast shadows indicating the hours of the day was very evident in ancient Greece and Rome. Sundials were found in houses, tombs, temples, baths and other public places. Not everyone was happy about the prevalence of sundials in ancient Greece. Writing survives in which authors complain about the intrusion into the natural flow of life by these new and demanding gadgets.
The Ancient World
The real history of sundials begins with the Egyptians, for whom the sun was central to life itself. It’s not surprising that the same civilization that invented the solar calendar would also give us the sundial. Cities and trade had been firmly established, so the need for more precision in telling time had arrived. A piece of a sundial that calibrated the location of the gnomon’s shadow is dated to about 1500 B.C., during the reign of Thutmose III. In order to differentiate between the morning hours and afternoon hours, the position of this T-shaped sundial had to be reversed 180 degrees at noon. A big step in sundial design was taken when the first round sundials that more closely resemble ours appeared in Egypt in about 1300 B.C.
The Babylonians, who were renowned astronomers, built and used sundials soon after the Egyptians, so the sundial of Ahaz may have been of either Egyptian or Babylonian design. Their treatises on sundials were the definitive statements on the subject for over a millennium, right up until the Christian era. The sundial of Ahaz is mentioned in the Old Testament (Isaiah 38:8) and dates from around 730 B.C. This is the oldest known written reference to a sundial.