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REVIEW: Doerr/Baumgarten: Faces of Time (2010)

  • Thread starter Fortunat Mueller-Maerki
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Fortunat Mueller-Maerki

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The Faces Behind some Highly Individual Watches

Twelve Faces of Time – Horological Virtuosos. By Elizabeth Doerr (Text) and Ralf Baumgarten (Photography). Published 2010 by teNeues Verlag, Kempten (Germany). ISBN 978-3-8327-9373-9. Hardcover, dustjacket. 208 pages, 34 cm x 27 cm, ca. 300 black & white photographs. Text in English. Available from www.amazon.com , List price $95, available for ca. US$65 plus postage, or borrow from the NAWCC library.

The most fascinating sector of contemporary watchmaking – even if numerically insignificant – is made up of the watch brands that are purely the expression of the values, style and thoughts of an individual watchmaker. The book under review introduces us to twelve such individuals; they come from seven different nations (although nine now practice their art in Switzerland). In twelve chapters of 16 pages each we meet (in order of their age):
• Philippe Dufour (*1948, Switzerland), the pioneer in the rebirth of the independent artisanal watchmaker,
• Paul Gerber (*1950, Switzerland), who started adding unique complications to individualize high grade watches in the 1980s before that became fashionable,
• Ludwig Oechslin (* 1952, Italy), the scholar who after getting degrees in archeology, classics, physics, the history of science and astronomy started an apprenticeship as a watchmaker
• François-Paul Journe (*1957, France), the Geneva based fan of Antide Janvier and dual oscillator resonance timepieces,
• Kenji Shiohara (*1958, Japan), who created a small ‘haute horlogerie’, individual pieces workshop, within the giant Seiko conglomerate
• Kari Voutilainen (*1962, Finland), who started out as a teacher of watchmaking skills and found his calling in creating one-of-a-kind watches only at age 40,
• Vianney Halter (*1963, France), considered a genius in the world of horological mechanics, who insists that he just “creates the watches that he dreams of”.
• Beat Haldimann (*1964, Switzerland), with his central axis visible tourbillion wristwatches and the flying dual balance Resonance H2,
• Volker Vyskocil (*1964, Germany), the completely self-taught watchmaker and programming wizard who makes watches on his self-designed, self-built CNC machine,
• Thomas Prescher (* 1966, Germany), a boyish looking former Navy Captain turned watchmaker enamored with triple axis tourbillions,
• Roger Smith (*1970, United Kingdom), the only watchmaker having been personally trained by the great George Daniels, who goes on building masterpieces in the tradition of Breguet and Daniels.
• Felix Baumgartner (*1975, Switzerland), the 35 year old newcomer to this select group who embodies the perfect marriage between high-tech and individualism.

The chapters, both in their text and in their photographic images, don’t attempt to deliver copious amounts of hard facts, but strive to create an impression about the artisan, about his style, on how he works, about what motivates and excites him. Of course there are some images of these individualistic masterpieces, but the focus is on showing these masters in their environment, as people, in the landscapes they life in, the workshops where they create. The texts are sparse; the pages have much empty space.

This is not a technical book on how technological wonders are built, but a human interest story of what drives these geniuses to create and what inspires them to make unusual watches. It is a book that encourages the reader’s mind to wander and to contemplate the issue of what accounts for high quality horology.

This reviewer has been fortunate over the years to personally meet several of the characters described in the book and feels that the two authors – both in the text and through the images – captured the essence of what each person is about rather well.

“Twelve Faces of Time” is an unusual but useful addition to a horological library if the reader has an interest in the human story behind the recent resurgence of artisanal watchmaking at the highest levels.

Fortunat Mueller-Maerki, Sussex NJ 20 August 2010
 
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Dr. Jon

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I found the book to have some worthwhile material but overall I found it infuriating.

The good stuff is the material on Seiko's Credor division.

One annoyance was the extravagant waste of space with artsy phiotographs showing nothing of the watches of the nature of the locales.

A particluarly galling section is an interview with a maker who states he has invented a new escapement without any follow up of what it does, drawings or pictures.

Another annoying development is that it looks to me that the publisher had several "shills" write favorable reviews on Amazon

I respectfuly disagree with Fortunat on the value of this book and his review at Amazon is a great contribution (not one of the shills).

It's not too expensive, but the new edition of Daniels Watchmaking is due out about the same price as is Clarizo's Masters of Contemporary Watchmaking both which are much better values.
 

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