I was never a huge reader growing up, though some of my obsessions like soccer, music, skateboarding, art history, and eventually watches, would inadvertently lead me to picking up a book or two. Watches have managed to keep me fascinated longer than my previous 'phases', and I am quite confident that it will not be going away any time soon. Today, social media platforms, by and large, are amazing, in that we are able to connect with likeminded people from all over the world. I do not know many watch enthusiasts in my hometown of St. Augustine, Florida, United States, so staying in touch with friends online has actually been a blessing. Additionally, the watch community is full of extremely encouraging individuals. But, in spite of the fact that search engines and communicating with other enthusiasts provides immediate gratification to my questions, print remains special to me. Books offer a unique opportunity to learn in a more natural sense. The way we can get lost in technology, the same way we can enter another world within the bound pages of a book. Here are some of the best books on watches and watchmaking, which will hopefully pique your interest and maybe even help you disconnect.
Audemars Piguet 20th Century Complicated Wristwatches, by Audemars Piguet
Audemars Piguet is synonymous with its seminal design, the Royal Oak. Yet the manufacturer understands that much of its past warrants an equal (if not greater) amount of acclaim. This is highlighted within the brand’s effort to not only bring historic timepieces to the boutiques and travelling exhibitions, but also in the expansion of the new Musée Atelier Audemars Piguet. Knowing the value of watch literature, Audemars Piguet does not disappoint in its highly detailed 2018 publication. The book is an essential resource on complicated wristwatches and quite frankly a case study for other brands wishing to highlight their history in their own words.
Cartier: The Gentleman’s Files. The Paparazzi Book, by George Cramer
While Cartier watches have been documented extensively within watch literature, it will always remain a brand that warrants further volumes. George Cramer adds to the next chapter of the Cartier saga by curating a selection of the brand’s best creations from 1985 to 2018. The book primarily focuses on the men’s timepieces, adding contextual information on historic design cues and the independent watchmakers behind the adored watches of the modern era. The author deviates from traditional Cartier books in creating an in-person experience via brilliant photographic scenes on each page. Those deeply passionate about the brand will admire this as functional art, and as a quintessential coffee table book, not to mention one of the best books on watches and watchmaking.
Marine Nationale, by Watchistry
When asked why the watch registry website Watchistry decided to go about self-publishing a book on the niche subject of timepieces issued by the French navy, the author’s response was, “I wanted to create the book I wish I could have bought when beginning to collect MN watches”. The book features 34 MN watches, including brands such as Tudor, Longines, Breguet, Omega, Triton, Auricoste, Casio, Doxa, and more. The collector fully embraces watches that have lived a life in the purest sense—they have scratches and dents, and even replacement parts added during their life in service. Both experiences and key figures are explored throughout the book through a personal pilgrimage to the city of Toulon, and the hunt for key details within a watchmaker’s mysterious ledger.
Retro Watches: The Modern Collector’s Guide, by Mitch Greenblatt and Josh Sims
Retro Watches deviates from the usual suspects you will most certainly scroll past later on Instagram, and opens the reader’s eyes to the unconventional watches of the late 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. While 'designer watches' are infrequently celebrated within the watch community, the book highlights many of the outstanding examples by the likes of Richard Arbib, Pierre Cardin and others. Like many of the watches featured, the book punches in a much higher weight class than the accessible price would suggest. If you have the slightest desire to expand your interests and knowledge, then this is a one of the best books on watches and watchmaking out there.
Time for a Change, Discovering Vintage Enicar, by Martijn van der Ven
Martijn van der Ven’s unrivalled love for the 'forgotten Swiss watch brand' is eloquently showcased within this 2020 book. The author credits this passion project as being possible through the collective effort and encouragement from the die-hard Enicar collector community members known as ‘Enicar International’. This independent book incorporates advertising, the brands’ history, re-enactments, photography, poetry, personal reflections, and much more. It is undoubtedly a book that the brand deserves.
Universal Watch Genève, by Pietro Sala
Universal Genève is a manufacturer that distinguished itself among the greatest watchmakers. And despite being overshadowed by many other brands, it remains deeply appreciated within the watch community. Pietro Sala’s 2010 book is an indispensable read for not only UG collectors, but also those interested in complicated wristwatches. Although the subject matter is primarily focused on the 'in-house' complicated wristwatches, the author illustrates the broader history through a beautiful selection of advertisements. Just recently, the author made his research accessible as e-books through his website. Despite the fact that the original publication will cost you a pretty penny from a second-hand seller, the digital version has been generously priced at a rate every watch enthusiast can afford.
Read digital version here
Moonwatch Only: 60 Years of OMEGA Speedmaster, by Gregoire Rossier and Anthony Marquie
The Omega tome is a fantastic approach to watch literature. The ‘Watch Books Only’ style dissects a single model’s various references in the manner of a watch dissertation. The authors spare no effort in breaking down each component of the Speedmaster models in order to help the reader fully understand what to look for across the Moonwatch lineage. Even though the evolution of the iconic model requires a meticulous eye for detail, the book is digestible for both experts and newcomers. It is an unassailable resource that could be categorised both as an educational guide for collectors, and as an authentication tool.
Also read | Reviewing the Omega Speedmaster 321
Longines Legendary Watches, by John Goldberger
Auro Montanari (more commonly recognised by his pen name John Goldberger) pays tribute to the Saint-Imier watch manufacturer within his 600-page compendium. The first edition book has been extensively expanded with the assistance of the Longines heritage department to include various timepieces that reside in the brand’s collection. In typical fashion, the author highlights the essential aspects of each timepiece, accompanied with the integral details only a collector would think to highlight. It will unquestionably provide a lifetime of enjoyment and sensation for the legendary watchmaker.
Time Tamed, by Nicholas Foulkes
Nicholas Foulkes’s illustrious catalogue has been expanded to include some of the most significant horological instruments throughout human history. Whether it is the more straightforward engraved bone used as a calendrical device that dates as far back as 25,000 BCE, or the complex mechanical toys of Hans Schlottheim capable of making Max Busser as excited as a child on Christmas morning, the chapters are simply splendid. It is truly a brilliant book that should reside alongside David Landes’s Revolution in Time and F.J. Britten’s Old Clocks and Watches and their Makers.
Charlie Dunne's image: Courtesy WatchMax
This story first appeared in the January-March 2021 issue of WatchTime India. To subscribe to the magazine, click here.