Thomas Cole was born in 1800, the son of James and Catherine Cole of Nether Stowey in Somerset. His father was thought to have been a clockmaker and this may explain how Thomas and his elder brother, James Ferguson Cole, were introduced to the trade. Both were immensely talented but their apprenticeship is a mystery. There is much speculation about them having studied under the great French clockmaker Abraham Louis Breguet (d.1823).
The two brothers formed a partnership in 1821 and by the next year had begun to produce a small series of highly complicated silver hump-back travelling clocks. The hump-back carriage clock was originally designed and made fashionable by Breguet ten years earlier, lending support to the Cole brothers' theoretical apprenticeship. These carriage clocks were amongst the most complicated pieces being made in England at the time and Thomas Cole was then just twenty two years old.
By 1835 the brothers had gone their separate ways. Thomas's first wife had died and he married again in 1841 and later had two sons and a daughter. By 1845 he called himself A designer and maker of ornamental clocks and he began to make his now famous and popular series of exceptional quality clocks that appealed enormously to a rising class of Nouveaux Riche Victorians made wealthy from the Industrial Revolution.
It is not known how many other turntable tripod clocks Thomas Cole made. The present clock, one of which which was retailed by Hunt & Roskell (then one of London's leading jewelers) make an admirable harlequin pair. Formed in 1848 by John Samuel Hunt and Robert Roskell, the company Hunt & Roskell exhibited Cole's work at the 1851 Great exhibition.
The extraordinary design and exceptionally high level of workmanship that these two clocks display is testament to Thomas Cole's genius for innovation and individuality.