WATCHES ARE VERY MUCH LIKE BOOKS
When I chase a watch, I usually tend to obsess and research it aggressively. I usually start with YouTube, articles, blogs or forums. I enjoy the YouTube videos as they are easy to view and offer the user’s experience and feel. When I was chasing specific Rolex models, I would start with YouTube videos and discovered that other than the reviews where third party dealers are selling the model in question, there are very few reviews on a specific model for example the Aquanaut 5167r. And the reviews do not go into too much detail on the history of the watch or the idiosyncratic subtleties of the watch. They primarily want to sell the watch and present beautiful filming and narrative to command a sale but as a collector, one desires more interesting and detailed information such as manufacturing techniques or difficulties that are simple enough for non watchmaker lay people to understand.
Articles from reputable watch websites tend to be very technical and factually based and sometimes give an emotional account. I also love to discuss timepieces and their accompanying life experiences with many of my watch friends that I’ve met along this journey. However having exhausted all the content available (which is pretty sparse) on internet media, leaves me in an unfulfilled desire for more information. That is when I turn to books which tend to be quite expensive, especially the ones written by authoritative watch experts and historians. I am old school and I never feel that I have a full grasp on any subject I am interested in until I read it in a published, peer-reviewed textbook, preferably. I will share my readings of certain books that I have purchased and read.
ROLEX by GISBERT L. BRUNNER
I don’t know if this can be considered one of the more authoritative books on Rolex but it certainly is a very easy and quick read. The cover is in draped in velvety Rolex green and the book is quite large. It begins in 1905 when Hans Wildorf founded the company and gives an extended history of the company’s major milestones such as Mercedes Gleitze’s swim across the English channel and the development of significant mechanical innovations. The book then chronologically describes the development of all Rolex models with fantastic illustrations and ends at the present day. As a historical book, it is an excellent account of this large cap company (even though they are not public) and doesn’t delve into too much technical detail about their timepieces themselves. The book is quite thick and heavy because it is written in English, French and German but it reads very quickly.
DAYTONA SELF-WINDING BY FRANCO and Guido Mondani
The Mondani family in Italy are well known authorities on vintage and modern watches and they have published various textbooks on Rolex and Patek Philippe. This book focuses on the only two Daytona chronograph self-winding models the 16500 and 116500. The 16500 was in production from 1988-2000 but housed the Zenith El Primero chronograph movement. The 116500 series was produced from 2000-present and was Rolex’s first in-house chronograph movement, the 4130. This book describes in exquisite and comprehensive detail all the 16500 and 116500 models in all metals from 1988-present day. Like the Nautilus Mondani book, there are many real life examples of watches purchased in Europe by real owners. This book contains an exhaustive account of many of these models and is a lengthy read. It is again a reference textbook and some people may find it monotonous and unless you are a Daytona enthusiast and collector, the details may bore you. However, I found it to be a very detailed experience and no other book will explain or illustrate the variation in dials within these two models. The book explains perfectly clearly the differences between all the Mark dials over the years. One never remembers all those differences because there are just simply too many, but luckily one can always refer back to this textbook. It was a fascinating education mostly learning about particularly sought after models such as the “floating” Mark 1 dial or the “Patrizzi” dial. These Mondani textbooks delineate all the intricacies and differences in all the models that collectors seek and gives huge insight on the rarity of certain models. The Mondani books give a better understanding on why these models are so sought after and why they are command such high prices at auctions and everywhere else.
PATEK PHILIPPE NAUTILUS AND AQUANAUT BY FRANCO AND GUIDO MONDANI
Another authoritative book in the Mondani series, this one is much more technical focusing on the mechanisms, the particularities of dials and changes that Patek have incorporated with these two models over time. It comprehensively describes and illustrates all the Nautilus and Aquanaut models since the Nautilus’ release in 1976. The book displays many examples of real watches that have been bought, complete with box and papers and explains the warranty cards and notations. This book is not intended for casual reading even it is an easy and enjoyable read. Its intention is meant to be a reference comprehensive textbook to look up certain models and refer to all the model variations. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book in conjunction with the Mondani Daytona book from a collector’s viewpoint. Again, the Mondanis are highly successful in elucidating why certain models are so unique, rare and highly coveted by seasoned collectors.
This book is available through Mondani books.
1001 WRISTWATCHES FROM 1925 TO THE PRESENT BY MARTIN HÄUSSERMANN
This book was gifted to me and I don’t consider it an authoritative one but nonetheless fun to read. It is an account of various watch type complications across all major brands. The book is divided into chapters according to types of men’s watches such as GMT watches, calendar watches, tourbillons and other major categories. Within those categories, major watch brand examples are included. It is by no means a very detailed book omitting even the model numbers but nevertheless it was interesting to view the aesthetics all the models from each of the brands. It was an exercise in my tastes, picking and choosing which models appealed to me even though I never knew they existed before.
This book is available through Amazon.
MY GRAIL BOOKS
PATEK PHILIPPE The AUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY BY NICHOLAS FOULKES
This book is the authorized biography of the company, so by their reputation, we know that it must have been heavily edited, scrutinized and rewritten into perfect craftsmanship. It was written by the British journalist Nicholas Foulkes and I can only imagine what an honour and privilege it must have been to have been commissioned to such a work by the Stern family. And I’m sure the Sterns must have heavily influenced its content and direction just like their watchmaking. It is a book recounting the biographies of the prominent individuals in the history of the company beginning with its founders. I haven’t read the book so I presume it will be an excellent account of the company’s historical events and milestones. It is not currently available to order in North America presumably because of the dreaded thing that I refuse to mention but I am awaiting to even get a chance to order it because it looks so delicious and tantalizing. I even asked my AD if they could possibly obtain a specially ordered copy for me but they had no clue as to when it would be available. I will surely review it in its entirety and devote a whole post to it when I do in fact get a chance to read it. Dare I say that I am eagerly awaiting this book more than say a 5711? Well who am I kidding? But it’s close.
In all seriousness though, enjoying a watch purchase includes much more than just wearing and appreciating the watch. I find it is a much more rewarding and intellectual experience to concurrently research its history, the manufacturer’s history and basically everything available in all media about the timepiece. And hopefully, I may one day contribute some small insight (whatever it may be) to the watchworld.
This book is available through Patek Philippe but is currently unavailable.
Collecting Nautilus and Patek Philippe (3 books) By GUIDO MONDANI AND OSVALDO PATRIZZI
I am also eagerly awaiting to read this one after I obtain the Nicholas Foulkes biography. This 3 part series outlines over 2000 Patek models starting from their founding until 2010 with the third volume containing a special section on the Nautilus. I suspect that this book will further my interest in all things vintage Patek. Again, when I read it I will update the blog with a full critique. Buying books about watches may be a much cheaper and perhaps equally as rewarding alternative to making a big watch purchase.
These books are available through Amazon.
ADDENDUM: WATCHES ARE VERY MUCH LIKE BOOKS
6 June 2020
It dawned on me after reflecting upon this post why I like real physical books as opposed to digital e-books or any digital publication in general. Books, like mechanical watches, are very similar in many aspects. They are both very analog in nature. They both supply the reader with information, provided the reader can interpret the information which takes higher evolutionary brainpower. Books like watches, are very much collectible and the cynics out there would say that collecting both is obsolete and futile. Information can be found predominantly on internet publications now and not through the Gutenberg machine. Time can be read on phones and digital clocks. But I am old school, and I prefer to hold books in my hands and read them that way. I like the way they feel. I prefer to read an analog clock rather than digitally. The numerical layout of a clock gives me a better idea of time elapsed and a better idea of how much time lies ahead in our busy deadline based schedules. Reading a book or time on a light emitting screen also tires my eyes and I’m convinced it will turn out to produce adverse ocular health effects and ultimately the complex neuron pathways that connect the optic nerve to the brain. And eventually affecting the brain.
Books give us delight when we unwrap them and like watches we refer back to them when necessary. They provide us the vital information we need, and are always accessible when we forget. Some good books are works of art and I’m mostly referring to their content, but some books are actually bound quite artistically. Some watches are similarly works of art, mostly on the exterior but many watches’ content (mechanism) are considered works of art. Cars can be classified similarly from a design point of view. But enough, I think you get the point.
I hope that mechanical watchmaking and books will endure the digital overstimulation age and beyond. But physical books though, I’m not so sure. However, if the abolition of books means a better environment, then let the trees thrive. But keep the watches.