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BOOKREVIEW: Humbert: Modern Calendar Watches (2007)

  • Thread starter Fortunat Mueller-Maerki
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Fortunat Mueller-Maerki

NAWCC Star Fellow
NAWCC Fellow
NAWCC Life Member
Sep 23, 2001

Modern Calendar Watches
By B. Humbert

Modern Calendar Watches, Action – Detail of Calibers – Repair. By Bernhard Humbert (former Professor of Complications at the Watchmakers School in Bienne, Switzerland, with a preface by Samuel Guye). Republished 2007 (as a facsimile of the 1954 edition) by Editions Simonin, Neuchâtel, Switzerland; in English (simultaneously also published in French and German); hardcover; 123 pages; 190 black and white illustrations; ISBN 978-2-9700573-1-4. Available from the publisher ( http://www.booksimonin.ch/ ), approx. US$60 plus postage, or borrow from the Library & Research Center at the National Watch & Clock Museum

For half a century one of the most widely used text and reference book on how to service, adjust and repair the calendar mechanisms in 20th century watches has been “Modern Calendar Watches” by B. Humbert. This book was published in 1954 in English as part of a trilogy by Scriptar, then publisher of the “Journal Suisse d’Horlogerie" but has been out of print for over 25 years. It is the companion volume to “The Chronograph - Its Mechanism and Repair” (ca.1955, republished 1990) and to “Swiss Self-Winding Watches” (1956, now out of print), all by the same author.

All three language editions (English, French and German) of “Modern Calendar Watches” have just been finally republished in late 2007 by the specialized horological book publisher Editions Simonin in Neuchâtel, once they had tracked down the heirs of the author.

The hardcover book consists of two parts: a general part of four chapters on 45 pages, and a specific part of six chapters on 75 pages. The specific part describes how the calendar mechanisms work in 47 different movement calibers used by the Swiss brands in the first half of the 20th century. Nine “Day of month only” calibers are covered, one “Day of month, plus phase of moon” caliber, and four “Day of month, day of week” are covered. Twelve variations of movements with three calendrical indications are described, as are 18 different calibers with four indications. The final section covers three different “perpetual calendar” mechanisms. A wide variety of Swiss movement makers are represented, including many Ebauches SA affiliates (Schild, ETA, Fontainemelon, Unitas, Felsa, Venus, Landeron, Valjoux), as well as others (such as Boucher-Girod, Rolex, Moved, Roamer, Corte Bert, Bemus, Angelus, Abu, Universal, Marvin, Eternal, Rasa, Buren, Pierce, Jaeger, Acheron, Piglet, Antefix, Omega, Cart, and Pate Philippe). As the book under review is an unedited reprint of the 1954 edition the newest inventions in calendar mechanisms are not explicitly covered, but the majority of these often are variations to basic concepts from before 1954. There are 190 illustrations (black and white) in the book, the vast majority of them clearly drawn functional diagrams show in multiple steps how the various parts of each caliber are supposed to interact.

In spite of its lack of coverage of contemporary mechanisms he book is a “must have” title in the bench reference library of any watch repairer attempting to service or repair modern calendar watches. The time saved by not having to figure out from scratch how the complex calendar mechanism works on just one watch will easily pay for the purchase price of the book. For many decades this book had been the standard used in teaching calendar mechanisms at many watchmaking courses around the world, and now that it is finally available again I expect that Humbert will fall into that role again, but it is equally well suited for self study. Editions Simonin deserves the appreciation of the watch servicing profession in republishing this “classic” text.

Submitted by Fortunat Mueller-Maerki (New Jersey)

Fortunat Mueller-Maerki

NAWCC Star Fellow
NAWCC Fellow
NAWCC Life Member
Sep 23, 2001
Sorry for the several spelling mistakes in the Brand names list in the review, I discovered them to late to use the edit function to correct them correct would be:


Registered User
Nov 19, 2005

Thanks for the review of this book and your other, most recent, post/review. I had no idea that the books existed. I can definitely use these to expand my knowledge base.

Thanks again.


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