The sheer volume and frequency of the online wristwatch media has transformed the landscape of news, information, and entertainment for enthusiasts. Anything that’s printed risks obsolescence before it reaches the mailbox. For that reason, enduring – and in-depth – troves of objective knowledge stand above the ranks of entertainment and transient current events. The reference texts, “The Watch Repairer’s Manual,” and “Theory of Horology,” distinguish themselves as essential additions to the libraries of modern collectors.
Henry B. Fried is a name that towers over 20th century American watchmaking. Among other distinctions, Fried served as an early president of The Horological Institute of America, a forerunner of today’s American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute (AWCI), and he instructed generations of watchmakers for the better part of seven decades. As the author of no fewer than a dozen books and countless articles on horology, Fried was a prolific advocate and teacher for practitioners of his craft. In 1949’s “The Watch Repairer’s Manual,” Fried created an enduring standard for quality and clarity in the field of professional watchmaker’s texts.
Topics in the “Manual” run the gamut from insightful commentary on trouble-shooting, which offers great insight into fundamental watch mechanics, to increasingly rare professional skills such as manufacturing balance staffs. Today, the latest editions of this seminal text remain keystones of professional instruction and present accessible insights into the watchmaking trade for committed enthusiasts.
Theory of Horology, a student watchmaker’s training publication by the Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Educational Program – better known by its acronym, WOSTEP – is a cornerstone of modern AWCI instructional programs. The text offers precisely what its title suggests: theory.
As such, this text is more narrative-driven than Fried’s piecemeal how-to “Manual” since the progression runs from basic theory in the opening chapters to more advanced topics towards the end. As a text designed for initiation of new students, “Theory” is written so that the reader grows in step with the featured subject matter and can be picked up, read, and enjoyed by any new enthusiast of the watch hobby. Moreover, abundant references to the history, heritage, and heroes of watchmaking add periodic relief from the core technical focus.
Swiss Managing Editor
On the weekends you can find me curled up on the couch with a hot cup of coffee and the latest horological page-turner feeding my inner watch geek. The most recent horological book that has caught my interest is “Chronographs for Collectors” by Joël Pynson and Sébastien Chaulmontet. This hardcover book details over thirty important chronographs in chronological order, including crowd pleasers like the Omega Speedmaster, Rolex Daytona, and Breitling Navitimer to personal favorites like the Heuer Monaco or Universal Tri-Compax.
In the preface, Pynson and Chaulmontet disclose their admiration for chronographs and set the stage by explaining their motivation behind the book.
“This book has been born out of a passion for this watch which is like no other, and has a twofold mission,” they write. “Firstly, to introduce the chronograph classics, those watches whose design, technical skill and history characterize their period, and secondly to help the collector, because there is a high demand in the market of vintage watches and it is unwise to venture into that market without a minimum of knowledge.”
More than ten years of research, countless hours in museums, and trips around the world to visit with collectors are captured throughout the pages of this library-worthy book. All 232 pages expound on the history and significance of thirty chronographs as well as pay tribute to the watchmakers involved. Original pictures of the watches and movements, plus several of the corresponding advertisements particular to each watch, tie it all together and help us understand the complete picture. Additionally, each watch is reviewed in a section called Expert Opinion in which the authors share the particulars of the chronograph, pointing out which design aesthetics are perceived as valuable, limited editions or key traits to look for when at auction or hunting for a piece to add to your own collection. Also helpful is a legend for each of the chronographs identifying the level of technology involved in the watch, its rarity, and price – a handy reference to help understand the watches status and value.
Perusing the pages of “Chronographs for Collectors” delivers an abundance of well-researched facts for chronographs dating from 1913 with an Omega to 1984 with the Ebel QP.
Find out more about well-known chronographs or maybe even discover an unknown pearl like the Jet Graph from a now-defunct brand like the Enicar. This book may even inspire a wild hunt for a vintage chronograph. You can find the book here.
As author and raconteur Aaron Sigmond relates in the amusing introduction/short memoir found in his new book “Drive Time: Watches Inspired by Automobiles, Motorcycles, and Racing,” the two toys men covet most, cars and watches “are a natural pairing that has spawned an entire subculture of conspicuous consumption signifying achievement and lifestyle.”
In this beautifully illustrated and surprisingly informative book about how gears, wheels and dials on the road and on the wrist have attracted men (and women) for more than a century, you’ll find well-known names and a good dose of newer auto-inspired timepieces. Lesser-known names like Cyrus, CT Scuderia, Struthers London and Brooklyn’s own Autodromo share pages in this 121-page book with TAG Heuer, Rolex, Porsche Design, Hublot, IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Chopard and many other better-known auto-influenced watch companies. Not surprisingly these high-profile car-watch relationships earn much more ink than the newcomers or the short-lived (anyone remember Wyler Genève?), but so many are included that it is clear that Sigmond did his homework.
“Drive Time: Watches Inspired by Automobiles, Motorcycles, and Racing” includes pictures of more than ninety watches, from the earliest dashboard instruments of Alfred Dunhill, Heuer and LeCoultre & Cie. to the latest Ferrari-influenced Hublot extravagances. Watch names and dates are clearly delineated throughout the book, and Sigmond’s personal take on most of them echo his obvious love of action-focused wrist wear.
One of the book’s most interesting chapters presents the history of Ferrari and its many watch brand partners. As a bonus, film critic Elvis Mitchell presents a fascinating look at the interplay between Hollywood and timepieces, with much of the chapter devoted to Steve McQueen’s outsized legacy with Rolex and Heuer. Noted collector of timepieces and cars Jay Leno penned the book’s foreword.
Sigmond notes in his introduction that his father taught him many life lessons, “among them an appreciation for British sports cars and fine Swiss watches.” With years writing about both subjects behind him, and many more ahead, he has skillfully melded these two passions into one terrific, entertaining book that I’m quite sure every iW reader will enjoy immensely.
“Drive Time: Watches Inspired by Automobiles, Motorcycles, and Racing” is available on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble and is published by Rizzoli. For the latest, check out Sigmond’s blog that features noteworthy Drive Time-category wristwatches that he says would otherwise have gone into the book's second edition.
There is no doubt that “Breguet Watchmaking Since 1775, The Life and Legacy of Abraham-Louis Breguet (1747-1823),” published in 1997, was a labor of love for author Emmanuel Breguet (translated by Barbara Mellor). Emmanuel Breguet, as you may know, is Vice President, Head of Patrimony and Strategic Development at Montres Breguet SA. He is also a descendent of the virtuoso watchmaker and a prolific writer, having authored or co-authored a number of excellent references. His most recent work is the equally engaging “Breguet: Art and Innovation In Watchmaking,” published last year.
“Breguet Watchmaking Since 1775” nearly bursts with information, much of which had not been published prior to this. It is also a lovely book, well designed and expertly illuminated by more than 500 illustrations. And let’s face it, one year in the life of Abraham-Louis Breguet could feed multiple volumes given his many contributions to watchmaking. But my favorite part of this hardcover treasure is the multi-dimensional story Emmanuel tells, artfully weaving in histories of art and technical developments, as well as the politics and economics of the day. This makes it eminently readable, at times more like a page-turner novel than a historical treatise. This is my go-to book for all things Breguet.
The “Twelve Faces of Time - Horological Virtuosos,” by Elizabeth Doerr and Ralf Baumgarten, has been around for six years, which is astounding to me, since it seems like yesterday I attended the Baselworld book signing where it was formally introduced. Since then, it has become my go-to tome when I want to be uplifted by the art of watchmaking.
The book is a wonderful reference in regard to the 12 watchmakers on which it focuses—thanks to Doerr’s excellent text. It is also unfailingly gorgeous, with dramatic black and white photography by Baumgarten that is both informational and visceral. The independent watchmakers included are Philippe DuFour, Paul Gerber, Dr. Ludwig Oechslin, Francois-Paul Journe, Kenji Shiohara, Kari Voutilainen, Vianney Halter, Beat Haldimann, Volker Vyskocil, Thomas Prescher, Roger Smith and Felix Baumgartner. In Doerr’s words, “It was the watchmakers who inspired us to create [this book] and nothing else.”
This is a weighty, hardcover 207-page coffee table-style book that one wouldn’t—couldn’t—carry around for easy reference. But there have been many an afternoon when I’ve referred to it at my office, where it resides in my library. Sometimes I just want to give my brain a new perspective, and upon opening the book to nearly any page I find first-person pearls from the various genius watchmakers and stirring images that ground them in time. And despite its heft, this is in many ways a very intimate book, given the large, up-close (and seemingly candid) shots of the watchmakers that draw the reader in. So, too, a short CV of each of the men is included at the back of the book, serving to further personalize them.