We live in an age obsessed with security, from fingerprint passcodes to keyless entry systems. But lest you think home safety is something new, we introduce a clever smart lock made over 300 years ago. This “detector lock,” so named because a counter tells you the number of times it’s been opened, was created by British locksmith John Wilkes around 1680.
Now in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, this beautifully designed brass and steel lock is built for protection. It would have been fitted to the door of a private closet, where important business took place or valuables were stored, ensuring maximum security in all situations.
Can’t make it to London to view the original? There is another version in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, or watch the video below to see how this 330-year-old smart lock works.
How does this smart lock work? The man’s leg conceals a hidden keyhole revealed by the press of a button.
Cocking the man’s hat releases the door-bolt, while turning the knob at the same time opens the lock.
Each time the detector lock is unlocked, a disk rotates, causing the pointer to show how many times it’s been opened. The counter is reset after reaching 100 by pressing a button on the man’s jacket.
An inscription on the vintage lock reads “If I had ye gift of tongue / I would declare and do no wrong / Who ye are ye come by stealth / To impare my Master’s wealth.“