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As we all muddle through the dead of Winter (at least here in the eastern U.S.) and await the coming of Spring and more frequent outdoor activities, many of us are finding ourselves keeping warm inside, with more time to curl up with a good book and read. As any watch enthusiast knows, a good, compelling watch book — whether devoted to a particular brand and its history, a niche category, or a broad narrative about timepieces and culture — can be a very worthwhile way to while away some quiet hours and delve deeper into their passion at the same time. Here we spotlight 10 of the best watch books out there today, several of which you can acquire right here on TeddyBaldassarre.com.
Perhaps no book in recent memory has explored the deep and unbreakable bond between watch owners and their most beloved timepieces quite as compellingly as A Man and his Watch, which offers not only the expected high-end photos, provided by Vogue and Dujour contributor Stephen Lewis, but also a host of personal memoirs by a collection of luminaries never before assembled between two covers. Hranek, author of A Man & His Car as well as two cocktail tomes and the founder of Wm. Brown, a men’s luxury lifestyle magazine, weaves together a plethora of sentimental stories about prized personal watches in a series of interviews with celebrities and influential figures from the world of horology. The tales range from the historic to the intimate, from the Omega that JFK wore to his inauguration, to the Rolex that Sir Edmund Hilary wore on Everest, to the watch that Ralph Lauren purchased from Andy Warhol’s private collection, all the way through to the timepiece that motivated Hodinkee founder Ben Clymer to pursue his dream. Along the way you’ll learn about Paul Newman’s Daytona, discover the watch FDR wore to the historic Yalta conference after World War II, and experience the dozens of individual stories of how a watch won over its owner.
First published in 2014, this seminal, best-selling coffee table book by British historian and journalist Nicholas Foulkes was re-released in an expanded edition in 2022. Its 168 pages showcase the 100 “breakthrough timepieces” that have been developed since the beginning of the 20th century — with each selected timepiece judged on criteria of rarity, costliness, innovative functions, historical importance, provenance and aesthetic excellence. With more than 150 illustrations on hand-bound, art-quality pages, the book examines one of the most exciting and dynamic periods in human history through the prism of timepieces, reflecting the century’s incredible technological advances and social changes, from the invention of the airplane, through the world wars, all the way to the dawn of the digital age. Along with coveted pieces like rarities from Audemars Piguet, Cartier, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Richard Mille, Rolex and Vacheron Constantin, the expanded edition includes historical rarities like the 1925 Patek Philippe Ref. 97975, the earliest known perpetual calendar wristwatch, romantic complications like the Van Cleef & Arpels Midnight Planétarium from 2014, and audacious masterpieces of technical and cultural inventiveness like 2022’s Jacob & Co. Opera Godfather Musical Watch.
Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak famously turned 50 in 2022, and that anniversary year appropriately saw the release of this hardcover tribute to the iconic, forward-looking timepiece, penned by award-winning journalist and former British GQ editor Bill Prince. An outlier when it was introduced in 1972, the first steel watch that strove for the same ennobled status as a gold one, the Royal Oak nevertheless found an audience among youthful, free-spirited enthusiasts who appreciated its fusion of avant-garde industrial and elegantly traditional elements. It blazed a trail for many stylistic descendants that followed throughout the ensuing decades and has also proven to be a canvas for innovation in the areas of materials, complications, and bold design. This massive book explores the history of the iconic model from a broad cultural perspective, starting with the watch-world stir it created upon its release and tracing its evolution into a cultural artifact of its time, incorporating archival materials uncovered by Audemars Piguet’s heritage department as well as exclusive testimonies from longtime “friends of the brand.” Six decades’ worth of stunning imagery from the worlds of fashion, art, architecture, music, and other cultural touchpoints accompany the story of the Royal Oak’s evolution. The book also gives voice to “Generation Royal Oak,” a group of notable watch enthusiasts who came of age in the era following the model’s launch, including Serena Williams, Mark Ronson, Elle Macpherson, and Kevin Hart.
The Omega Speedmaster “Moonwatch” is one of the most legendary and collectible watch models in the world, its fame derived from its pivotal role in history as the first watch worn on the moon. The “Speedy,” a watch initially designed for automobile racing teams and engineers before it embraced its destiny in space exploration, is one of the very few timepieces in the world that merit the definitive and comprehensive treatment that it receives in this book, which serves as not only a comprehensive history of the world-famous watch but also a reference guide to nearly every iteration of the Speedmaster from 1957 to 2012. Over nearly 500 huge pages, and encompassing more than 1,000 illustrations, the authors drill down on every detail that a Speedy aficionado could possibly devour, from all of the different movements, bracelets, dials, case shapes and even clasps used over the decades to a voluminous listing of the various models themselves; there’s even an appendix with a foldout identification guide. New to the third and most recent edition of the book are several new features, including a 16-page gallery of astronauts wearing their Speedmasters, QR codes that can link you to additional resources, and a detailed story of a vintage Speedmaster.
Bulova Watch Company, founded in 1875 by Bohemian immigrant Joseph Bulova, is one of the most important historical watch brands in the United States, and Bulova: A History of Firsts chronicles its extraordinary history and enduring impact in this handsome, comprehensive volume edited and curated by luxury historian Aaron Sigmond. In its sweeping, multi-generational narrative, which runs from the Gilded Age up through present-day New York City, readers will discover not only the boundless creativity and innovation that drove Joseph Bulova, his sons, and their eponymous business, but also the seemingly endless series of “firsts” that they initiated — not only for watchmaking but also in the fields of advertising, marketing, aviation and space exploration, and even gender equality. The book’s series of lavishly illustrated essays will shed light on the meaning behind the corporate slogan, “America runs on Bulova time,” with contributions from luminaries including style writers David Coggins, Matthew Hranek, and Kate Betts; music-industry legend Nile Rodgers, advertising journalist Stuart Elliott, noted horology authority Jack Forster, and others.
As its title implies, this high-end monograph trains its focus on the dazzling works of more than 60 independent artisans of high horology, many of which are unique pieces never before seen in print. The innovative and iconoclastic watchmakers showcased comprise a veritable indie all-star team: Hajime Asaoka, Felix Baumgartner of Urwerk, Aaron Becsei, Vincent Calabrese, Konstantin Chaykin, Bernhard Lederer of BLU, Remi Maillat of Krayon, Masahiro Kikuno, Vianney Halter, Antoine Preziuso, and Andreas Strehler, among many others. The author, an Australia-based blogger who has also written books on architecture and design as well as horology, also offers a wider scope than most others covering this area of watchmaking, looking beyond price tags to include affordable pieces of artistic merit as well as luxurious rarities. Among the timepieces featured are the 15.48 Driver Watch, the Andreas Strehler Time Shadow and the Antoine Preziuso Chronometer, Tourbillon of Tourbillons, along with dozens of others, many boasting complicated movements and other elements crafted entirely in house; each is a veritable “hidden gem” of watchmaking that is sure to catch the eye of any true enthusiast. Louis Moinet’s creative director Jean-Marie Schaller provides the foreword to this 240-page magnum opus.
Following up its predecessors in Rizzoli’s Timepiece Trilogy, which included DRIVE TIME, with its array of motorsport and racing watches, and SEA TIME, a celebration of diving and nautical-inspired watches, AIR TIME explores more than a century of timepieces inspired by, built for, or made famous by aviation pioneers, from balloonists and wartime jet pilots to globetrotting jet-setters and astronauts. In a narrative spanning from 1904 to the present day, and showcasing nearly 100 timepieces over 240 pages, author Mark Bernardo (our own Director of Editorial Content) delivers history, technical insight, and the cultural impact of pilot’s watches in this authoritative and visually stunning coffee table book. Historical chapters showcase milestones such as Cartier’s invention of the first men’s wristwatch for Alberto Santos-Dumont; Charles Lindbergh’s development of the Longines Hour Angle; and the Omega Speedmaster’s journey to the moon. Icons like the Breitling Navitimer, IWC Big Pilot’s Watch, and Rolex GMT-Master are given their due spotlight, and an assortment of vintage and contemporary timepieces from dozens of other brands fill out a range of categories, from chronographs to world timers. Naval aviator Jim DiMatteo provides the foreword, former NASA astronaut Scott Kelly pens the afterword, and seasoned aerial photographer Eric Adams contributes a photo essay on the high-tech future of aviation.
In the most recent edition of The Watch Book: Rolex, watch historian, journalist and author Gisbert L. Brunner guides avid aficionados through the complex and fascinating world of the quintessential luxury watch brand with a level of passion, attention to detail, and technical expertise that few others could bring to bear. From the story of Hans Wilsdorf’s founding of the company that would become Rolex in 1905, all the way through the milestones of the 20th Century and beyond, Brunner, a longtime contributor to Germany’s Chronos magazine, hits all the right notes for Rolex fans old and new. This encyclopedic volume features more than 400 full-color and black-and-white photographs (including some rare vintage advertisements), along with trilingual texts, in English, German, and French. Historical and iconic models, like the first waterproof Oyster watch, the trend-setting Datejust, and the hugely influential Submariner dive watch, all receive their due in detail and technical analysis, and new models released as recently as 2020 and 2021 are covered as well in the updated version of this definitive coffee table book.
The author, who passed away in 2011, was a British watchmaker who is regarded as one of the greatest of all time, and renowned as the inventor of the co-axial escapement for Omega. His book, which has inspired a generation of contemporary horological pioneers like Daniels’ protegé Roger Smith, is a deep dive into the ancient craft of watchmaking, presented in a style that is geared to engage anyone interested in the subject regardless of technical background: Daniels himself states that “great care has been taken to ensure the text is easy to follow and to avoid complicated technical descriptions.’ As a reference book for budding horologists, it could not be more thorough, beginning with the author’s insights into what the ideal watch workshop needs and then taking the reader step by step through the assembly of a watch and its movement, from choosing the tools, to fashioning components like wheels, trains, and the escapement, to finishing techniques like engine turning, all the way to dial design and casemaking. Daniels’ extremely detailed descriptions (60 pages are devoted to the escapement alone) plus the array of exquisite illustrations throughout the book add up to a horological tour de force that will leave its reader both informed and entertained.
Subtitled “A Comprehensive Guide to Mechanical Wristwatches,” this massive volume sets out to make an expert out of anyone who reads it, and celebrates the micro-mechanical wonders of wristwatches, in all of their complexities, amidst a 21st-century world of microprocessors and smart technology. The book is comprised of two detailed sections, the first drilling down into the science of the mechanical watch movement itself, from power transmission and distribution, to regulation and power reserves, to innovations like the constant-force escapement — all to provide a thorough understanding of what goes on beneath a watch’s dial. The second section goes beyond the basics into the realm of complications, covering the gamut from purely functional to whimsical: from moon-phases, split-seconds chronographs, and annual calendars all the way to “super-complications” like sidereal sky charts and multi-axis tourbillons. More than 90 leading watch brands and their notable models are represented, and over 470 richly rendered illustrations accompany the texts. After devouring this book, watch enthusiasts will be able to both identify and comprehend even the most exotic of watch complications.
With more than 40 years as a collector and vintage-watch scholar to his credit, John Goldberger turned his well-honed eye to assembling the most exhaustive and definitive collection of Longines watches from the company’s 190-plus-year history. The result is what many would consider the most significant historical text on one of the watch industry’s most interesting historical brands. Goldberger, who has also authored well-respected books on Omega and Patek Philippe, spent three years working with the Longines Archive in the company’s ancestral headquarters in Saint-Imier, Switzerland to identify, research, and photograph the timepieces that are featured across the book’s 600 pages — 270 individual references, showcased in more than 1.500 full-color images. Each of the volume’s 16 sections spotlights a different category of watches, covering the gamut of Longines’ impressive historic portfolio: early manual-wind watches, early chronographs, technical and military watches, diving watches, and quartz watches, to name several, with important models like the Conquest and Flagship each receiving their own chapter. Longtime Longines CEO Walter Van Känel provides the preface, and a 10-page historical timeline, tracing Longines’ history from its founding in 1832 to its acquisition by the Swatch Group in the 1970s, adds a sense of scope that will engage not only die-hard fans of the brand but anyone interested in Swiss watchmaking history and its impact on the culture.
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