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Discussion in 'Horological Books' started by Jeff Salmon, Mar 25, 2009.
Has any one seen a copy of the new book (November 08), on the English Watch? It is very expensive.
It is indeed pricey you may have seen this on the publishers' site but in case you haven't.
I have a copy of the book, and had started working on a review of ot for the NAWCC Bulletin. But it turns out somebody Ken Johnson of the British Horology Chapter of NAWCC had allready written a review which will apper in the Bulletin in due course so I never finished mine. Unfortunatly Ken does not post his reviews here.
Here is my short assesment: The book is gorgious, and worth its high price. The author is a respected expert in the field. It is destined to become one of the standard text on the histpry of the English pocket watch.
The current issue of the AHS has a review and it was quite complimentary. It did mention that many of the pictures had appeared earlier in the Country Life editions but the format and quality are supposed to be much better in this new and more comprehensive work.
I had pondered if I should get this book for some time. The price is rather steep compared to other recent horological titles of similar size. But having not bought any tools, clocks or watches for eons, I decided I could afford a copy. It arrived yesterday.
I think the reason why this book is so expensive is because all the photos are in colour as is some of the text. I am familiar with photographing and printing colour photos. Aside from the expense of the actual final printing; there is a huge amount of fuss involved in proper lighting and colour correction. It is much more complicated to execute than B&W photos.
I also have the AHS review of this book so I can comment on that review as well.
IMO, the AHS review by Paul Tuck (p. 382) seems to be very comprehensive and accurate. It is also objective and not a promo for the book or its author. The reviewer does make a number of expert comments and recommendations on a few detractions to the book.
I also have the other book mentioned in the review, "The Country Life Book of WATCHES" by T.P. Camerer Cuss, the father of Terence Camerer Cuss, author of the present book in question. And it is concerning this that I would like to suggest a correction to Tom's earlier message.
Tom, I suspect you do not have the older book to verify the AHS reviewer's remarks.
What the Paul Tuck said in his AHS review was:"...The English Watch owes little to the previous Camerer Cuss books published in the 1960s and 70s. Advances in publishing have enabled the author to illustrate every watch with detailed colour pictures, these include the most outstanding examples from the original 1967 'Country Life' book written by the author's father, the late T.P. Camerer Cuss...".
There are actually no photos in the new book lifted from the older book written by the father but given the wording of the review I can easily understand why Tom thought some photos were copied from the earlier book if Tom has not seen the older book. I believe what the AHS reviewer really meant was that the 'most outstanding' (watches) examples (cited in the father's book) have been included in the newer book. There are actually only 5 colour photos in the older book (including the representative cover photo) and all of them are group photos of several watches in a bunch. The rest are B&W photos and illustrations.
The older book by the father is actually quite a good book to have in a horological library but is more of a "preview" to the new book by the son. I attach a photo to illustrate the difference.
I have yet to examine and read the book in detail but my flimsy impressions of this book are consistent with those of the AHS reviewer. Though there may be a few blemishes, the most important being the lack of photos showing the internal mechanisms of the watches (casework and balance cock/bridge photos in the main), this is still a major work on the topic without precedent and a wonderful book on very important watches.
I have not finished reading this book (the last part and glossary to go), but ...
Fortunat said of me that "[Richard] recorded his own personal –and sometimes idiosyncratic- summaries and impressions on those books". So to be idiosyncratic ...
The book is a wonderful auction catalogue of watches that are not for sale, comparable to the books produced by Antiquorum.
The photos are outstanding and I am sure it will become a great coffee table book, but it is almost devoid of serious commentary. Most references are to Antiquarian Horology articles and I feel sorry for those who are "fresh to the subject" (Camerer Cuss's words) and who have not reached the stage of plundering journals for the current debates and opinions. There are a few references to very good books, but no actual bibliography and most certainly no assistance is provided to the reader.
Most of the book is a study of case/dial/movements styles and decoration. It is forced to consider escapements which it does poorly, the photo captions merely reporting bald facts. The very, very few photos of mechanisms (2 repeaters and little else) are presented without adequate explanation. (In one case the repeater mechanism is fascinating but it is not possible to understand it from a single two-dimensional photo.)
Unfortunately the book simply catalogues watches and there is no real attempt to provide understanding.
Thanks for your insightful review. I don't need another picture book, but I would like to look at this one. I probably won't buy it.
Just for the record, I do have the Country Life Book of Clocks and I believe one other edition as well as I recall. I did not take the time to read either before posting my brief comment.
Thank you both for your comments. I will probably buy the book just because Terrence is an old friend and you can never have too many pictures of great clocks.
Just to set the record straight:
This book contains NO pictures of great clocks, but tons of pctures of great watches.
Actually there are a couple of "clocks", or I should say watches masquerading as clocks.
Tom, I actually agree with you in that this book is a superb photo essay. But I would have liked more.
Oops! Fingers moving too fast again.
Indeed, Terrence is not really into clocks.
I have just (in the last six months) started to collect pocket watches, and my main interest has become English 18th/19th century. What I want to be able to do is firstly to identify the case and movement makers of a watch from hallmarks and signatures, and to learn more about those makers; secondly I'd like to learn about the construction and development of movements.
Is "The English Watch" a good book for me? And if not, what books would anyone recommend ?
Camerer Cuss's The English Watch describes the best of the best. he items are wonderful, scarce, and expensive. His previous books are also very useful but still describe mostly teh top items.
My view is the top end English stuff is still undervalued so if you can afford it you should buy it whenever you can but you can buy a lot of very serviceable items for what a single spectacular example from Cuss's books costs.
For more typical I suggest you read Kemp's two books The Englishman's Watch and The English Lever Watch. The latter is hard to find but the NAWCC library has it. These describe what the market was like and help you make an informed judgment about where in the "food chain" an item lies.
Thanks Dr J ... I am now hunting for those two!
In addition to the books mentioned, you might find the following useful.
The Country Life Book of Watches by T.P. Camerer Cuss
Watches by Cecil Clutton & George Daniels
Watches 1850-1980 by M. Cutmore
Pocket Watches 19th & 20th Century by Alan Shenton
The History of Watches by David Thompson
Also: NAWCC Bulletin Supplement 20, Spring 1994,
Watch Case Makers of England, A History and Register of Gold & Silver Watch Case Makers of England: 1720-1920 by Phillip T. Priestley.
The above should still be available from the NAWCC Book Store.
And: The Artistry of the English Watch by Cedric Jagger, 1988. ISBN 0-7153-8935-1
The above is primarily about the English watch as a piece of art and discusses changes in design and style over time.
I've ordered three books, which should arrive tomorrow :
The Englishman's Watch by Thomas Kemp
19th and 20th Century Watches by Alan Shenton
The History of Watches by David Thompson (the British Museum version, not the Ashmolean)
I'll have a look at that NAWCC book, Ron, because that sounds really useful. How do I get to the NAWCC bookstore?
I will write reviews on these after I've had a chance to read and use them ... maybe in a couple of years ?
Marty, to access the bookstore go to the NAWCC home page, there's a link on the upper left. Unfortunately the soft cover on the English watch cases is not listed currently.
The book by Thomson has been reviewed on this Forum in June 2008.
BOOKREVIEW by Fortunat Mueller-Maerki
Two Catalogs of Old Watches in English Museums
The British Museum Watches, by David Thompson, Photography by Saul Peckhan. Published 2008 by the British Museum Press, London; hardback, dustjacket, 174 pages, ISBN 973-0-7141-5055-0, illustrated in color, Glossary, Bibliography, Index. Available at British Museum web site (www.britishmuseum.co.uk , product 50550) for approx. $25 or discounted at www.amazon.co.uk or borrow from the Library & Research Center at the National Watch & Clock Museum.
Watches in the Ashmolean Museum, by David Thompson. Published 2007 by the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; hardback or paperback, XX & 92 pages, ISBN 84444-218-x paperback, 84444-219-8 hardback, illustrated in color, Glossary, Bibliography, Index. Available at www.amazon.co.uk for approx. $30.
David Thompson is not only one of Britain’s most eminent horological scholars, and the Curator of the Horological Collection at the British Museum. Horological bibliophiles will know him as the author of the recent catalog “The British Museum Clocks” (2004, ISBN 973-0-7141-2812 0) which is the companion volume to the first title reviewed here. The British Museum Watches follows the format established by the clock book, selecting the most important pieces from the collection (in this case 77 watches) and presenting each one chronologically on a double page spread, with at least half of the space allocated to two to six superb color photographs of dial, case and movement. Where appropriate side shots of the movement, details of signature, and under dial images are used as well.
The selection of 77 pieces described in detail must not have been easy given the depth of the collection at the British Museum, they own over 4500 significant watches. From a global horology perspective their collection is somewhat UK-centric and nearly exclusively pre 1880. They do not claim to collect the full breadth of the history of the watch, but this book nevertheless attempts to stretch until the present, and that is its weak side. For the time period when craftsman and artisans made watches there was an embarrassment of riches to choose from; the documented watches are first class and most interesting. The last 130 years are represented by 25 examples, including an effort to tell the story of the wristwatch with just nine samples. This reviewer feels it might have been more satisfying to limit the effort to documenting just pocket watches, or even to pre-industrial watches, because frankly the collection at the British Museum is not really suitable to tell the later part of the story, and this book completely omits such themes as American railroad watches, or the complicated Swiss watches of the 19th and early 20th century.
The texts on each of the selected pieces puts the artifacts in their historic context and points out why they – and/or their maker - are significant, it points out important technical or stylistic/aesthetic details, without wasting words on physical descriptions that can be easily gotten from the images.
He second museum watch catalog by Thompson, ‘Watches in the Ashmolean Museum”, the art Museum in Oxford, was published barely half a year later, and – not surprising - follows a similar style. However this was to be part of the series “Ashmolean Handbooks”, prescribing a page size of less than half of the London publication, as well as a page-count of around 110. Here we find a 20 page general introduction to the history of the watch, and after the catalog entry a 10 page section of mini biographies of the watchmakers whose work is featured in the catalog.
The catalog proper, covering 31 selected pocket watches, also devotes a double page spread (in three cases 4 pages), again using at least half the space to several color photographs of each watch. But given the page size of 21x15 cm (as opposed to 25x25 cm for the BM book) details are a bit harder to see here. I also believe that the quality of the photography and printing, while more than adequate, is not quite up to the expectations raised by the BM book.
The 31 pocket watches are presented chronologically, covering the time from 1540 to 1869, with 27 predating the year 1800. 13 examples are by London makers, 7 –mostly early pieces- are from Germany and 7 from France. Photographs concentrate on dials, cases and movement backplates. Unfortunately there seemed to be no budget to uncase the movements to present underdial views or side shots into the movements.
The authors’ text on the 31 watches is full of fascinating tidbits of horological history, and –not surprising as this is primarily an art museum- focuses more on the decorative arts elements of the cases than on the technical details. This reviewer particularly appreciates that each entry, besides dimensional and provenance data, has its own bibliographic reference pointing to further reading on this maker or this kind of watch.
Many horological enthusiasts in their zeal to augment their collections diligently study timepieces at dealers, fairs and auctions, but fail to fully realize that many of the best and most interesting timepieces in existence have long ago been acquired by museums, where some of them are on public exhibit, but many are hidden in the reserves. (Note: The British Museum is exemplary in making its horological reserves available by appointment in their Horological Students Room.) This reviewer applauds David Thompson for creating, with the books under review, the kind of published catalogs that bring these horological treasures to the attention of horologist who can not travel to all the museums. If these books can entice some of their readers to take the time and visit more horological collections they have served another noble purpose.
May many more museums be inspired by David Thompson’s example to do their bit to augment the published record on some of the greatest timekeepers in the world.
Fortunat Mueller-Maerki. Sussex NJ June 24, 2008
The NAWCC Library has received a copy of The English Watch and I had the opportunity to spend some time going through it last week. A great picture book of rare and expensive English watches from beginning to end with not enough emphasis on horological technology, it's discussed, but not illustrated to any great extent. Dr. Watkin's criticisms are on the mark in my opinion.
To be fair, I think "The English Watch" is really meant for collectors who already have other references and resources but would appreciate an updated account with modern photography on these well-known iconic watches. In this regard, I think it was unfortunate photos of the movements were mainly omitted. I think it would have been quite manageable within the format of the current publication to simply include the photos.
However, for such a book to provide the depth of technical information many of us would like, it would have taken much longer to publish, be 2 to 4 times bigger and cost at least 3 to 5 times the current price.
It would need to be a multi-volume treatise and the market for such an expensive work would be even smaller. These are real problems when you try to publish an expensive book for a narrow market and try not to risk losing too much money in the process.