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"The release of atom power has changed everything except our way of thinking...the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker."
"If you can understand the complexities of a watch you can understand anything. Everything. Cause, effect, action, reaction. How to change the future."

Perhaps because of the analogy used by Paley and others comparing God to a watchmaker, characters who fix watches and clocks for a living are often portrayed as somewhat special or even having a supernatural degree of knowledge about the universe. Perhaps because of the somewhat detached nature the metaphor implies, such characters are rarely unambiguously good.

Compare with The Chessmaster

Examples of The Watchmaker include:

Anime and Manga

  • Miki from Revolutionary Girl Utena carries a pocket watch-like stopwatch and, during student council meetings, spontaneously clicks it. He seems to click it a lot before speaking himself, taking control of the conversation, and he also clicks it to note important narrative points about to be delivered (such as the first time Nemura Hall is explained). During the last episodes, while the whole of the student council sits around idly waiting for the revolution to occur, Miki is seen just gazing at the watch as it spins.
  • The Enigmatic Empowering Entities of Digimon Xros Wars the Young Hunters Leaping Through Time are an old man who runs a clock store and his Bond Creature Clockmon. He's never actually seen doing anything with actual clocks, but still...

Comic Books

  • Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen grows up learning about watch repair and ends up gaining powers that make him into a rather detached and apathetic Physical God. Sylar may have been partly inspired by him.
  • The Messiah Prez Rickard in The Sandman is the perfect American president who fixes all the nation's problems and inspires everyone he meets. He also happens to be a watchmaking prodigy. He was a DC Comics character before that, but I'm not sure whether Gaiman added the clock thing or not.
    • In the original Prez comics, he was first elected mayor by fixing all the watches in his city. The metaphor was absent, however.
  • The Spider-Man villain Big-Time is a slightly cheesy use of this trope - he seems to be good at setting up gambits, but at the same TIME, he can't stop TICKING people off with his really bad clock-puns.


  • The Magical Negro Moses in The Hudsucker Proxy is a clock worker who is only ever seen inside the clock tower, and seems to have some deep knowledge of the world, as well as more than natural powers.
  • While not watches, the Keymaker in The Matrix Reloaded has a lot in common with this trope; of note is a very clockwork-looking 'inside the keyhole' shot.


  • In ETA Hoffmann's novella The Nutcracker and The Mouse King (and any adaptations thereof), the character Drosselmeyer is a clockmaker and inventor who is a Cool Old Guy and implied to have some supernatural connection
  • The Discworld book Thief of Time has Jeremy Clockson, a son of the Anthropomorphic Personification of Time. He was a foundling at the guild involved in clock-making and is a completely rational and utterly socially inept genius. For much of the book he aids the Auditors, who are devoted to making the world more orderly (generally in an Omnicidal Maniac way).
    • Although he isn't a watchmaker himself, Lord Vetinari quite often uses a watch metaphor for the city of Ankh Morpork, and the metaphor is very apt- and puts Vetinari right in the centre as the watchmaker: by careful organizing and attention to detail, he has made a ridiculously complex city run smoothly and almost automatically- the parts of the city, like the gears in a watch- are buoyed around by the force of each other. And, fitting with the trope, he's next to omniscient and is most definitely NOT unambiguously good.
    • Nanny Ogg kind of makes a roundabout reference to this trope in Witches Abroad; as she thinks "When you know about clockwork, you know about everything. I wish I bloddy well knew about clockwork."
  • In John Morressy's short story Timekeeper, the mysterious clockmaker who moves to town seems to have time-related powers, but mostly he uses them to have exactly the right clock ready at exactly the right time for every customer who comes into his shop.

Live Action TV

  • This is very explicit with Sylar of Heroes, who starts out fixing watches and have the power of complete understanding of how things work. He starts out using this ability to acquire more powers by eating dissecting his victims' brains. He later starts using it to analyze the other characters and hand out The Reason You Suck speeches to them, before finally using it to put together a scheme to achieve Total World Domination.
  • The mysterious omnipotent time-traveller Bilis Manger in Torchwood runs a clock shop, reflecting both his power over time and his ability to run seamless Gambit Roulettes.

Video Games

  • In Deus Ex Human Revolution, Adam Jensen's apartment has a couple of tables littered with clockwork components, indicating that he has taken up watch assembly as a way to cope with his new augmentations.

Western Animation

  • The Batman had a single-episode villain named Francis Grey, a clock repairman who (after spending 17 years repairing clocks in prison for stealing a watch to try to pay for his mounting bills) became so obsessed with time he eventually discovered he could see how time itself functioned and thus how to rewind it. He then embarks on a plan to get revenge on Gotham for all the time they took away from him, and thanks to his ability to rewind time by 20 seconds at will he actually succeeds in killing Batman and the rest of Gotham as well.
  • Nox was originally a very mundane and amiable watchmaker, but by the time Wakfu starts he's fully into this trope.

Real Life

  • Part of the idea behind this trope is Older Than They Think, as it's essentially related to The Blacksmith trope. Crafts have always had a mysterious aura for the uninitiated which is why we have Ancestral Weapons, and smith-gods (like Vulcan) and gadgeteer heroes and villains.
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