BOOKREVIEW: Mallory: Clock & Watch Companies - 1700s-2000s - Vol.1&2

Discussion in 'Horological Books' started by Fortunat Mueller-Maerki, Nov 10, 2011.

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  1. Fortunat Mueller-Maerki

    Fortunat Mueller-Maerki Registered User
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    #1 Fortunat Mueller-Maerki, Nov 10, 2011
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2011
    Bookreview

    A Reference Book on (mostly American) Clock Companies and Trademarks

    Clock & Watch Companies - 1700s-2000s, by Steven R. Mallory. Published 2011 by Schiffer Publishing, Atglen PA, USA. ISBN 978-0-7643-3742-0. Two volumes, hardbound, dust jacket, in slipcase; 28 cm x 28cm, 400 pages and 480 pages; numerous black and white illustrations of trademarks; exhaustively cross-indexed. Available from the publisher at http://www.schifferbooks.com for US$100 plus shipping.

    Clock collectors – like most collectors – like to not only possess a physical object, but most of them also like to find out background information about their objects. This legitimate hunger for information has led to a sizable market for collector’s reference books, and the new book by NAWCC member Steven Mallory obviously fits into this category.

    The first impression of the book is awe of the mass of data presented. With nearly 900 large format pages the two volumes weigh in at over 12 lbs. There is a lot of material presented here, and the author deserves praise for the thoroughness and diligence that went into collecting all this data, a significant part of it new and never before published in the horological literature. Mallory is a former data processing professional, turned clock enthusiast and professional clock repairer, so –not surprisingly – he took an approach to data gathering that differs from previous similar attempts. The backbone of the content is primarily a result of systematic electronic “data mining” of the public databases of the US Trademark and Patent Office. The resulting trademark and brand name database was interweaved with selected trademark records collected in the last quarter of the 20th century by the late Karl Kochman and other printed sources to produce the core of Volume 1. The vast majority of the trademarks are for US producers, but selectively foreign makers (or their importers) registered their trademarks as well with the US authorities.

    After an introduction of 16 pages, the remaining 380 pages of Volume 1 are labeled ‘List of Clock Companies’. That list contains over 4000 entries, varying in length from 2 lines to a bit more than a page. If there are legally registered trademarks, brand names or model names that were registered by the company they are also listed, and registered image trademarks are illustrated. In most cases a location is given, and sometimes principals are named, and the source of the information is given.

    All that information is undoubtedly valuable for a collector. But the user should be aware of its limitations, as the data should be taken cautiously with a grain of salt, and must be seen as what it is: a data point, rather than a comprehensive answer to a question. A listing in Mallory’s book may say very little of what a company actually did and when. Registering a trademark (or even a company name) does not necessarily mean that anything was ever produced under that ‘label’. The author makes no claim to describe what the companies actually produced, all he does, is catalog their legal filings and give bibliographic sources mentioning the brands. As he writes in the introduction: “A company is included in this list if the company manufactured clocks, or was a wholesaler or retailer of clocks, or was a company associated with clocks”. That obviously very wide filter must be kept in mind when using the list, which includes numerous foreign watch brands that made no - or virtually no- clocks but chose to register their brands in the USA, probably for precautionary or defensive reasons.

    The second volume, with 480 pages even heftier thicker than volume one, contains an amalgam of additional data, organized into six Appendices, a Bibliography, the Credits, and four Indices: The first Appendix (55 pages) is typical. It is labeled “Clock Trademark Timelines”, a strictly chronological listing (from 1871 through 1971) of all the registered trademarks. The second appendix (98 pages) is an alphabetical listing of all text trademarks mentioned in Volume 1, followed by an index to the symbols/images which were trademarked. In the opinion of this reviewer this is a useful research tool. The third appendix (100 pages) is the “Patent Timeline” the chronological listing of all US registered clock related patents (1846-1970). The forth and fifth appendices (60 pages) are ”Clock production timelines”, listing dates when companies were in business, as well as serial numbers associated with years where such data is known, including an location index.
    The last Appendix (32 pages) contains an eclectic mix of nine ‘chapters’ with various ancillary reference information useful to clock collectors, ranging from listings of clock classification schemes and style timelines, through different wood species and dating charts, to key sizes and the tonal sequences of various common chimes.

    The second volume concludes with a 20 page bibliography of publications used to amass the data presented, and with four separate indexes (100 pages of small type, i.e. over 10% of the whole work!) for 1. company names, 2. persons and 3. subjects, as well as 4. an index by horological keywords. The effort to index data in a multidimensional grid is most welcome and laudable, as all too many books economize on the effort needed to facilitate navigating through their content.

    There is no question that this publication contains an enourmous amount of horological historic data and related indexes, and as such it is clearly of value to horological collectors and scholars alike. The author is obviously a data driven person, at home in the world of databases. But books are not databases, and most complex databases do not lend themselves to be easily published in book form. The inherent multidimensional nature of databases strongly suggests publishing such material as a database in electronic format, either on a CD ROM, or online as a fee per use internet based service. This reviewer realizes that a threat of unauthorized copying and piracy goes with the electronic form. But I nevertheless wish that this wonderful treasure trove of horological data would have been made available in the more useful and more user friendly electronic format than this hard to use, unwieldy paper publication.

    In the final analysis this reviewerhas reached the conclusion that publishing a massive treasure trove of data is a very different process from writing and publishing an interesting horological book. A small example may illustrate this point; Looking under ‘B’ in the book, one finds on page 59 of volume 1 an entry for a ‘Henry Breguet’, and learns that he established a horological business in Le Locle, Switzerland in 1775. The logo of the current Breguet luxury watch brand (a division of Swatch Corporation) accompanies the entry. Now anybody who knows more than the bare skeleton of horological history will realize that the entry in volume 1 is utter nonsense. Yes, a Swiss gentleman by the name of Breguet was arguably one of the greatest clock and watchmaker ever, but he was Abraham Louis Breguet (1747-1823). But The Brand of A.L. Breguet or the firm he established in Paris in 1775 is not listed in this book, presumably because his firm never registered with the US Trademark Office. Henri presumably was a distant relative (who, according to Kochmann, did register a trademark for watches (but completely different than the one given in the book) in Switzerland and Germany around the same time). One can see how the ‘data mining/database approach’ to writing a book, i.e. trying to build a big picture from many small fact points can lead to these kind of mistakes. To the credit of Mallory’s book, he never claims to ‘tell a story’ and he makes clear that he is only presenting isolated facts. Given the nature of his book, and the way this book was created, there are undoubtedly countless other instances of misleading information and half truths.

    That is the main reason this reviewer has a strong preference for books that do more than present facts, for publications that offer insights, that develop the big picture, that convey both opinions and facts in context. Mallory’s new directory of clockmakers is a useful tool to have around for looking up certain facts, but in the hands of many horological collectors it can easily become a source of misplaced complacency. Beware: Finding some fact in a book relating to a name found on the back plate or on the dial of your clock in a book does not mean that you have learned anything substantial about your timepiece. Understanding the items in your collection requires much more, it requires understanding the whole history of the era, of the geography of the place where the item made and used, of the society and culture it represents. And thankfully there are plenty of other great horological books around which cover that end, to complement the kind of book reviewed above. If only more readers would pursue the gain of horological insight with the same diligence they employ in their hunt for ultimately trivial horological facts.



    Fortunat Mueller-Maerki, Sussex New Jersey – November 2011
     

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