The ring or watch said to have been found by Chinese archaeologists in 2008 at a centuries-old, sealed tomb.

Timeless Mystery: How did a Swiss Ring Watch End up in a Sealed Ming Dynasty Tomb?

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The Great Unknowns

There is still much that is unknown about the story of the Swiss watch in China.

Was the tiny artifact an actual working mechanism with gears, and moving hands? Or was it simply a mold or pressing of a watch face into metal?

Ring-watches, fashionable jewelry pieces, are not unheard of but they were not popular until after 1780 in Europe. In 1588 Queen Elizabeth I is reputed to have worn a special ring-watch with a protrusion which would scratch her finger as a clever “alarm”. Additionally, in 1755 Caron, a Parisian watchmaker created a ring-watch that was wound with a key. However, this is all academic, as the ring-watches were not known to be in vogue during the Ming Dynasty, and in its reported condition the ring doesn’t seem to have been a protected grave-good. Indeed, it is said the ring was on the outside of the coffin, and seemed to fall away with a light touch.

A locket ring which belonged to England’s Queen Elizabeth I. Representational image.

A locket ring which belonged to England’s Queen Elizabeth I. Representational image. Wikimedia Commons

Finally, there is a lack of background evidence surrounding the entire episode. Though the story has been reported and widely circulated by media outlets, there seems to be little information on the background of the archaeologists and journalists involved in the story. It has never been revealed which tomb in particular was being excavated, by whom, nor any additional information on the coffin itself.

Could it be that this whole incident is a hoax; disinformation from start to finish?

The strange mystery of the tiny metal ring-watch has remained thus far unsolved. There is no clear evidence to prove it as a definite OOPArt, nor enough facts to condemn it as a mere hoax. What is certain, however, is that it is a story which ignites the imagination and urges us to reconsider how it might have come to be nestled in a Ming Dynasty tomb before its time.

Featured image: The ring or watch said to have been found by Chinese archaeologists in 2008 at a centuries-old, sealed tomb. ( Image Source )

By Liz Leafloor


Thornhill, C.  2008. Mystery as century-old Swiss watch discovered in ancient tomb sealed for 400 years . Mail Online [Online] Available here.

Ancient Code, 2015. The mystery of the Swiss watch from the Ming Dynasty. [Online] Available here.

Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie , 2015. History of Watchmaking [Online] Available here.

Garnham, E. 2008. Tomb raiders baffled by Swiss watch found in ancient tomb . Express[Online] Available here.


If the object was covered in dirt, how could it have a "metallic ring" when it hit the ground?

The doubts cast by the author on the story are legitimate and should be well noted. The standards for archaeology and excavating sites in China are not nearly what they are in other parts of the world. It has only been during the last 35 years that the PRC has taken an interest in China's past.

Ever since the discovery of the First Emperor's Tomb which revealed all those terracotta statues, the government has made some strides to combat illegal excavating, but with so many sites and so many people, the job is very difficult.

From the story's lack of names and places, I would suspect that this is probably an illegal excavation by amateurs or criminals looking for good to sell on the black market. If, in fact the story isn't a hoax, as the article suggests.

Put this article in the "I'm from Missouri, show me" file. Until names, dates and places are verified by independent sources, this story is a non-story.

I think this is a hoax, and a bit like the game, Telephone. What kind of hoax? I do not know...due to the lack of evidence from the supposed journalists & archaeologists.

What they need to do us look at the symbol in the middle of the "face" of the ring. What does that symbol mean that looks like "11:05 with possible marks near the 3 and 9" positions.

What does the symbol say in Chinese?


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