Adam Smith, Watch Prices, and the Industrial Revolution

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Title: Adam Smith, Watch Prices, and the Industrial Revolution
Authors: Kelly, Morgan
Ó Gráda, Cormac
Permanent link: http://hdl.handle.net/10197/6439
Date: Mar-2015
Abstract: Although largely absent from modern accounts of the Industrial Revolution, watches were the first mass produced consumer durable, and were Adam Smith’s pre-eminent example of technological progress. In fact, Smith makes the notable claim that watch prices may have fallen by up to 95 per cent over the preceding century; a claim that this paper attempts to evaluate. We look at changes in the reported value of over 3,200 stolen watches from records of criminal trials in the Old Bailey court in London from 1685 to 1810. Before allowing for quality improvements we find that the real price of watches in nearly all categories falls steadily by 1.3 per cent per year, equivalent to a fall of 75 per cent over a century, a rate considerably above the growth rate of average labour productivity in British industry in the early nineteenth century.
Type of material: Working Paper
Publisher: University College Dublin. School of Economics
Keywords: Watch pricesAdam SmithIndustrial revolution
Language: en
Status of Item: Not peer reviewed
Appears in Collections:Economics Working Papers & Policy Papers

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