When I was a kid, I used to be fascinated by Swiss clocks and watches (actually, mostly anything that was made in Switzerland). However, my attention in watches seems to have faded shortly after I got my very own black & red strapped Swatch: only a few years later, I replaced the Swatch with a digital Casio with built-in calculator, because it looked flashy and cool. I have to admit that the watches I wore (if any) haven’t really improved much since then. However, since I recently came to be without a timepiece again, I took the opportunity to read up on watches before buying a new one. I ordered the first well-rated book on the subject I could find, which happened to be Gene Stone’s The Watch. It turns out that this book was one of the most entertaining books I recently read, and I must admit I have become a watch fanatic ever since I read it.
The Watch begins with a history of time, covering all kinds of timekeeping tools, from the pyramids of ancient egypt, up to the cell phones of today. After this brief history, the author motivates his choice of 50 brands that he describes in detail in the remainder of the book. He concludes the introduction with an entertaining comparison of the watch manufacturer scene with an old European court, consisting of a king, a queen, a prime minister, a knight, and so on.
The main part of the book consists of an in-depth description of 50 of the most notable and famous historical watch brands out there, old and new, literally ranging from A (Lange & Söhne) to Z(enith). The book tells the (often very extended) history behind each brand, the multitude of relations between the different watchmakers, and the most famous watches of each brand. These stories are a very interesting read, and serve as an excellent crash course into the world of watches for newcomers like me (whose knowledge of brands is limited to the obvious Rolex, Swatch, and Omega). However, what really puts the cherry on the cake are undoubtedly the 500 gorgeous high-quality pictures of watches and their movements, depicted in extremely high detail. On any given day, I find it fascinating to pick up the book, flip through the pages, and enjoy just looking at these photos for a while.
After the theory behind the watches and their history, the last part of the book focuses on the actual owning, exploring, and collecting of watches. Besides a handful of tips from the author, this part comes with several testimonies from different people, talking about how they got interested in watches, why they are so fascinated about them, and which one is their ultimate favorite. On top of this, the author created a few top 10s of watches, including “models that everybody should know”, “models that are fun to look at”, “models that look good”, and “brands to look out for”. Again, very valuable information for the uninitated like me.
You can feel that the author has a passion for watches, knows what he’s talking about, and put a lot of love into this book to share his passion and knowledge with the rest of the world. All this makes The Watch both a fascinating and entertaining to read, or, if you don’t feel like reading, a nice way to feast your eyes on pretty shiny pictures.
If, like me, you’re interested in reading even more about watches after finishing The Watch, I can recommend Cult Watches: The World’s Enduring Classics by Michael Balfour. Where The Watch discusses the history of many brands and a variety of their collections, Cult Watches picks out 30 specific “cult” watches (including my favorite, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Reverso), and tells the detailed story behind each watch and its manufacturer, also accompanied by a lot (though not nearly as many) of high-quality photographs of the insides and outsides of these timepieces. And although most of the watches in this book are mentioned in The Watch as well, some brands that are only mentioned briefly in that book (such as Longines) are mentioned in more detail in Cult Watches. All this makes Cult Watches a nice addition to Gene Stone’s broad reference book.