Investing in clocks and watches - Cumhaill

Discussion in 'Horological Books' started by rstl99, Aug 3, 2019.

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  1. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User
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    #1 rstl99, Aug 3, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2019
    For fun I ordered a copy of this book, available quite cheaply on the used market. I read somewhere that the author used a pseudonym, and that he worked (as a curator?) in one of the major British museums.

    The prices and general advice on investing trends are obviously outdated (the book was written 50 years ago!), but I found a lot of the general background information on historical trends in clock and watch evolution, quite enjoyable and informative to read. Of particular interest and relevance were his discussions on the trends in production of fakes and forgeries over the centuries, and the care with which potential investors should approach some of the "ancient" or "antique" timepieces available on the market.

    It's also quite interesting to see what some of the investing trends were like in the 1960's, what people were buying and why (and at what price!).

    Obviously, there have been many many changes in investment philosophies and approaches in the decades since (the increasing infatuation with wristwatches easily comes to mind). I recall a knowledgeable seller of fine pocket watches at the Portobello Market in London lamenting to me a few months ago, that buyers today were "only interested in Rolex's and Omega's".

    It would be nice to go back in time and buy up some of the nice timepieces, watches in particular, that "Cumhaill" suggests, at the prices they could be bought for at that time. Then again, he pointed out that they could have been had for even cheaper a decade before.

    I don't consider myself a "collector", but found this book an interesting read, and some of the insights and general advice are perfectly applicable today, in my humble opinion.
    -- Robert
     
  2. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User
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    A few quotes...
    - Collecting provides a hedge against inflation and currency devaluation, but this should be thought of as a fringe benefit rather than the first objective.
    - Only the rich can afford to throw money away.
    - The biggest dividends [of collecting] are the pleasures of building and living with collections, of studying a chosen subject, and of pursuing new acquisitions.
    - There are many opportunities for the newcomer to become an expert in a previously unknown branch of the field
    ...etc...
     
  3. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User
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    Here is the final paragraph from the book, may it be useful to some here. I wish I had heard some of these things when I started out with my humble acquisitions and "collecting".

    Finally, a few general points that apply particularly to the investor with financial limitations. Never guess; if you do not know, ask somebody's advice, check and then make up your own mind. Never buy at random, always have a buying policy -- unless you can afford to be a magpie. Always buy the best you can afford, and if you cannot afford it leave it alone. You may have to liquidate in a hurry and probably at a loss. If you do make a loss, try to find out where you went wrong. If after buying something you find that you have made a mistake, get rid of it. If you find a good source of supply, look after it. But if you see something which you know if of interest to someone else, tell them. With any luck they will do the same for you. Goodwill always pays dividends, and today's unconsidered trifle will be tomorrow's antique.
     
  4. zedric

    zedric Registered User

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    I also have this book, although at the moment it is packed and in storage as I’m in the process of moving back to a smaller house... The above is always good advice, and although i was given the same advice as I was starting out, I ignored it..

    In particular Always buy the best you can afford, and if you cannot afford it leave it alone.. I never think I can afford the best, but looking at the prices I have paid over time, buying the best, while netting me fewer examples, would have been a better investment. But in buying cheaper examples, I have developed my taste, and that helps...

    We live and learn (if we are lucky)...
     
  5. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    If I only bought the best I would only have one clock I think. I have bought some duds but they have helped in my education. I certainly don't see my clocks as an investment. More something to do now I can no longer travel much.
     
  6. zedric

    zedric Registered User

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    Time to curate the new Dorset museum..
     
  7. zedric

    zedric Registered User

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    Quote from another book - this time Vehmeyer, “clocks their origin and development”... “it seems to me that collecting antique clocks has grow into a serious and hereditary family disease, of epidemic proportions....”. Let’s hope this is the case..
     
  8. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    off the top of my head only 22 set up here at the moment, not enough for a museum. A few passage migrants on top.
     
  9. rstl99

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    #9 rstl99, Aug 5, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2019
    In a chapter entitled "Areas for investment", the author offers suggestions of types of watches or clocks that a collector (or investor) of somewhat "modest" means could look for, in the 20-50 UKP ballpark price range. He purposely avoids more expensive items, since they are generally out of the buying range of more modest collectors. At first I thought "gee, there were some very nice items available in those price ranges back then" but looking at one of the inflation calculators, 50 pounds in 1967 equates to around 750 pounds today, which is not a trivial sum. Sort of demonstrates I suppose, that wise acquisitions 50 years ago would maintain good resale value.

    Whether the same holds true today for some of the items he was suggesting back then, is anybody's guess. Plus as I indicated earlier, trends and tendencies have obviously changed since 1967, and a lot of serious money is currently being spent by wealthy investors/collectors on Rolex's and other "desirable" wristwatches of the 50's-70's, at the expense of some of the fine pocket watches deemed more desirable back then. I know I'm speaking in gross generalities, but I find these trends interesting, even though I don't personally play in those sandboxes.

    I first read about this book in an interview with French collector and watch history expert and author Adolphe Chapiro. He said that when he started out acquiring timepieces in the late 60s, he relied a lot on the recommendations in this book. Chapiro was a successful industrial chemist by profession, and would regularly travel the world for meetings and conferences. Everywhere he went, he would scour antique shops, second-hand shops, estate sales, horology auctions, etc., and amassed a most impressive collection of (mostly but not uniquely) historical French watches. Many of his watches are featured in his two great books "La montre française" (the French watch) and "Jean-Antoine Lépine". His collection was sold a few years ago at auction in France, and the prices obtained were most impressive. Obviously, his collecting earned a significant dividend for him in his old age, and for his estate. But in my opinion his greatest achievement was analyzing and documenting all his acquisitions, and describing and showcasing them admirably in many articles and in his two books, which in my estimation are two of the finest books on horology ever published (sadly for some readers, neither are available in English).

    --Robert
     
  10. rstl99

    rstl99 Registered User
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    #10 rstl99, Aug 6, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2019
    The author's real name is Philip G. Coole. He also wrote a book on Orpheus Clocks, and co-authored a book on stackfreed watches at the British Museum (where I assume he worked in the horology department). Here is how Richard Watkins sums up the book in his bibliography (I mostly agree with his assessment):

    This book is about buying timepieces as investments, to make money. The focus is on what is worth buying (in 1967) and how to buy, with good advice on collecting, fragments, restoration and the recognition of fakes. The book is limited to pre 1800 pieces. The prices, based on auction figures in 1967, provide an interesting basis for comparison with the present day. The bibliography is interesting because it is one of the few where the author’s opinions are given. But it is restricted to works related to assessing investment potential. I found the book rather ponderous (partly because of poor text layout) and dated, but it is interesting.
     
  11. gmorse

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    Hi Robert,

    He did. The book is certainly an interesting historical document on the way collecting looked in the 1960s.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  12. Allan C. Purcell

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    Robert, I think here you have started a very interesting thread (Not that many will read it) but I think an inspiration to those that do. I would say most people who have taken up Horology as a hobby, would say it started with a horological item that impressed them is some way or other, it´s beauty, it´s cost, it´s history, or mechanical interest, which in turn brought them to buy their first book on the subject. I too bought Cumhaill´s book about 1974. My edition is that published by Barrie & Jenkins Ltd. in association with Corgi Books.1971. (I still have it) I think, to be honest, my first contact with horology was greed, I had bought a clock and found I could sell it for far more than I had paid for it. (which I did) This knowledge came from a book, which could well have been this one, but if my memory is correct it could have been"In Quest of Clocks" by Kenneth Ullyett´s first edition 1950. I also remember it was expensive (25 shillings- One pound 5 shillings ) for an old book even then. When I think back now, after reading your letter above, it was those early books, and my membership of the AHS, that changed my mind about clocks, watches came later. In those days I was a member of Her Majesty´s Armed Forces, and moving about the world did not encourage clock collecting, so that too brought me closer to books. I then found that the AHS also had books for sale, that in the main were a great advantage for members, plus some of the older books were reduced in price too for members. Plus there were the reviews on forthcoming books. I have never regretted joining, and have a full set of Antiquarian Horology.
    In Cumhaill´s bibliography, I would like to quote from his first paragraph; "Although books can be bought as the basic tools of the research worker, and consequently the investor, they can be more than just that. Horological books wisely bought can be investments in themselves. This can be seen by comparing the original cost of some of the standard books which are now out of print with today's prices."
    e-23.JPG This is the inner dust cover of my copy of John Harrison The Man Who Found Longitude by Humphrey Quill
    I also bought Mercer´s books as they came out, published by the AHS who used Thanet Printing Works-Church Hill Ramsgate, Kent. John Arnold & Son 1972, (I bought it in 1975, Edward John Dent I bought in 1977, The Frodshams, I bought in 1981.
    So on that point, he was correct. Though there are many good books out there from the period say 1950 to 2000 that can be bought for only a few pounds. Cumhaill´s book included. Around that early period, there were not too many books on horology in the shops, and if there was they were in a dusty corner somewhere. A little later that was the time for the professional book suppliers. You might add Libraries, but at that time I was still in the army abroad, so it took a while before my books took over the house. To be cont...........
     
  13. Allan C. Purcell

    Allan C. Purcell Registered User
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    Another aspect of reading about quality horological items are of course, are the catalogues issued by Christie's, Sotheby's, Dr Crott and others. These catalogues are worth having if only for their photography, though I do know that the Dr Crott descriptions are very knowledgable, and they go to some trouble to make the reader happy at what he is looking at. The photographs, sometimes are so good, you get the feeling you can pick them up. (maybe wishful thinking). The great problem with these catalogues (for me) is how to get rid of them, later. It takes me years to decide, but I did manage this year to get rid of, (I don´t know) a huge pile to other enthusiasts. Mostly German-I find very hard to get rid of any in English. Another catalogue I like is "Antiquorum" nice photographs and the descriptions are in French, German, and English. The ones I have kept started in the eighties.

    e-24.JPG e-25.JPG

    e-26.JPG Thought you would like this photograph-its from a Charles Allix & Associates catalogue No1. 1994

    . e-27.JPG A very nice touch in the Allix catalogue is all the items are in alphabetical order.

    e-28.JPG really simple to look at. Please take note, those who print catalogues.


    To be cont........
     
  14. Allan C. Purcell

    Allan C. Purcell Registered User
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    Moving on to one of the best books to have on your shelf, is "Clocks & Watches An Historical Bibliography" by G. H. Baillie. The forward by Sir Harold Spencer-Jones F.R.S. (AstoonomerRoyal). says;" Books of this type are usually dull, but this one is nowhere near dull", and he ends his letter, "the book can be opened at random and it is almost certain that something of interest will be found. It will undoubtedly remain for many years a standard work of reference for horologists."
    Though lets us look at what the author said about his book in his Preface.

    "A BIBLIOGRAPHY is always useful and nearly always dull. A few are saved from complete dullness by giving a little more than the titles and collations of the books they list. I know of only one that is not dull.
    In the sixties of the last century (He was writing in the twentieth, century, and his list ends at 1800) Augustus de Morgan, founder of the London Mathematical Society wrote a long series of articles in The Athenaeum. They formed a bibliography of the books he collected, written by mathematical cranks, the circle-squarers, the angle trisectors, the cube duplicators and others. The subject is excessively dull. The art of circle-squaring never developed or progressed. The circle-squarer of the nineteenth century differed from his colleague of the sixteenth-century only-and not always - in the particular device he used to deceive himself.

    De Morgan, however, was an able writer, and he wrote something about each book, sometimes a little and sometimes a lot, and managed to make it interesting, so much so that after his death, the collected articles were published in a large volume, A Budget of Paradoxes, in 1872. It was re-published in Chicago in 1915. "

    "I have ventured to follow de Morgan only because I have a far better subject- Time and its measurement".

    To me, a book worth its weight in Gold, but can be found for 6 pounds in the UK. The first edition, 1951, is cheaper than the 1978 copy at 22 pounds.

    Allan.
     
  15. Allan C. Purcell

    Allan C. Purcell Registered User
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    How is your collection coming along now.
     
  16. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    I have reduced the total number of watches and clocks, but the average standard and condition has gone up. I am concentrating on getting the ones I have restored even though they will be unlikely to run. Still some gaps in the collection to fill, and always tempted by a Dorset signature. Passage migrants are on the rise.
     
  17. Allan C. Purcell

    Allan C. Purcell Registered User
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    The only chap I knew in Dorset was Tom Tribe and of course the book he wrote with Philip Whatmore on Dorset makers. It all started with my copy of "Watch and Clock Making" by David Glasgow. I had bought my copy from (Who else) Rita Shenton, and as you will see, the copy was Stamped for Philip J. Tribe, Toms father. So I dropped him a line or two, and then I let him borrow it for a while. Later I came across an old indenture, with a map of Dorset and Tom put me in touch with a young lady there who translates these old documents and wills. They were very pleased when I said they could keep it, they had always wanted to know where the white Bear Pub had stood, and the owners, which the indenture showed. Sorry, I cannot help with your collection, but you never know. The world can be very small sometimes.

    e-37.JPG e-38.JPG e-39.JPG Best wishes, Allan
     
  18. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    I use the Tribe book a fair bit, it has the odd mistake in it and it could do with updating, but it is still a useful resource. I think he had a shop in Sturminster Newton.
     
  19. Allan C. Purcell

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  20. Allan C. Purcell

    Allan C. Purcell Registered User
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    Last Sunday-I was invited for lunch at my in-laws home, and while the ladies were cooking, we men read the Sunday papers. While doing this, I came across the photograph shown here. g-11.JPG

    It says Micheal Palin's "EREBUS" One Ship, two journeys, and a worldwide Puzzel at sea" Will be published by the Mare-Verlag (Printers) on the 8th of October, 352 pages 28Euro´s. On reaching home that evening, I looked it up in Amazon Uk and got it cheaper and in English. I am so pleased I did that, it arrived yesterday.

    g-13.JPG I am only about halfway through, but I just have to say it is one of the most exciting books I have read in years, and a true story about men we all know something about, but not all-now is the time to find out, if you don´t have a copy buy one now, you will not be sorry. Ross, Fitzroy, Darwin, Hooker, Franklin, Crozier, Banks, Sabine, Booth the Gin man, and many, many more. Sorry, I have to go now the book awaits me. Allan.

    PS: Don´t put ice in your drinks while reading, it will be cold enough.
     
  21. Allan C. Purcell

    Allan C. Purcell Registered User
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    Have you read the above-if not I would say it was written just for you.
     
  22. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User

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    Will have a look. Some guys I know have just sailed the first sailing ship ever through the North West passage. More a problem of climate change than a triumph for sailing ships but an achievement none the less. They are currently sailing down the west coast of the Americas.
     
  23. Allan C. Purcell

    Allan C. Purcell Registered User
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    Yes, read it in the papers. The comparison just proves how inept the human race is. I think you will see why when you have read Erebus. Example, Capt Ross thought it cruel to shoot penguins, so experimented with poison, and found one that could kill them, in under two minutes.
     
  24. zedric

    zedric Registered User

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    Hi Allan. Just wanted to say thanks for the recommendation to read Erebus. No real horological connection, but an interesting and well researched book.
     
  25. Allan C. Purcell

    Allan C. Purcell Registered User
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    Hi Zedric, That was the only crib I had too, I think his book would have benefited if he had taken the time to have read a few pieces on the ship's chronometers. If only he had read "Chronometers fabricated By Parkinson & Frodsham: Advertisement. With Testimonials" he would have seen that the main actors in those Arctic and Antarctic trips were given chronometers to test on their Journey´s. Ross, Sabine, Parry, and the Franklin journey, as one of the Frodsham chronometers, was found later, but not explained. Sorry to say the poor men were never able to say thank you to the firm.

    Allan
     

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