Bookreview

A Comprehensive Listing of All Wristwatches with Alarms


Alarm am Arm [Alarm on the Wrist]. By Leonhard Beitl. Published 2009 by the Author, Vienna (Austria). ISBN 978-3-200-01646-0. Hardcover, 676 pages, 30 cm. Fully illustrated in color. Suggested retail price Euro 195.- (approx. 275 US$), plus postage. Available through leo.beitl@aon.at .

Portable timepieces with alarm functions predate the invention of the wrist watch since alarms were already one of the sought after complications in pocketwatches. It is therefore not surprising that alarms were added to wrist watches soon after their invention. This book gives the honor of beeing the first to a Eterna brand wristwatch with alarm exhibited at the Swiss National Exhibition in Bern in 1914. Alarm wristwatches had their bigest boom years in the 1950s, launched by the ‘Cricket’ model by Vulcain of La Chaux-de-Fonds.

These are just two nuggets of information from the book under review, which undoubtedly is the most comprehensive documentation ever assembled or wristwatch alarms. The author is an Austrian collector enamored with that niche of horology, who has assembled a collection of over 900 different models of wrist wataches with alarms. The core of this book is the alphabetic (by brand name) section of 474 pages describing these 900+ watches. Each one is shown in natural size (or bigger) from the dialside, and for a substantial number of them there are additional images of movement, caseback or side views. The amount of descriptive text for each model varies from one line to a few paragraphs, and allways includes dimensions, plus whatever data the author was able to find in the course of his decades of research. In some cases, this includes technical details, patent numbers or specific descriptions of the alarm component in the movements. In order to break the monotony of these listings the author occasionally includes reproductions of various related ephemera items (such as advertisements, patents or instruction manuals) within the listings.

A general historic overview of the subject (22 pages), and a short article on pocket watches with alarm function (12 pages) precede the brand documentation. Following the documentation is a 95-page section devoted to a facsimile reprint of a series of nine articles by Bernard Humbert, which were originally published between 1958 and 1963 in “Schweizerische-Uhrmacher-Zeitung” (the German language edition of Swiss Watchmakers Journal). Each article deals with a specific caliber (3x Vulcain, and one each by Schild, Roamer, Langendorf, Le Coultre, Pierce and Cyma), which include clear movement schematics and detailed disassembly and servicing instructions. An 8-page table with the technical data of the 76 known calibers of wristwatch alarms, and a 41 page index conclude the book.

This is clearly a reference book, and not a book for reading, or even for casual browsing. Given that this is a reference book the language barrier for the wristwatch-alarm afficionado who does not read German is relatively unimportant. The illustrations, the caliber drawings, the dimensions, the production numbers etc, which form the core of this publication are comprehensible without knowing the language.

Weighing 3.8kg (over 8 pounds), and at a USA delivered price of above 300$, this book is obviopusly is not a casual purchase for any collector. But for the dedicated wrist watch alarm freak it is a “must-buy”, as there simply is no other publication available in any language providing the same amount of detailed information on the subject.

Fortunat Mueller-Maerki, Sussex NJ (March 2010)