Famous watchmakers

Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin

1805 - 1871

Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin

French illusionist, watchmaker, maker of mystery clocks and automata, inventor of electromechanical systems, and a pioneer in the use of electricity.

Born into a family of watchmakers, in 1856 he officially changed his name to Robert-Houdin by adding the surname of his wife, Cécile Houdin, to his own.

Key dates


he filed a patent for an alarm clock-lighter which lit a candle at the same time as it sounded. He presented one of his mystery clocks with invisible mechanism at the 1839 Exhibition of French Manufacturing.


He opened a magic theatre in the Palais Royal district of Paris. His shows were such a huge success that in 1854 he moved the theatre to Boulevard des Italiens. It was sold in 1888 to the film-maker Georges Mélies, considered the father of special effects.