REVIEW: Gluch et al: Simple and Perfect – Saxony's Path into Internat.Watchmaking

Discussion in 'Horological Books' started by Fortunat Mueller-Maerki, Jul 13, 2015.

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  1. Fortunat Mueller-Maerki

    Fortunat Mueller-Maerki Registered User
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    #1 Fortunat Mueller-Maerki, Jul 13, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 31, 2017
    A broad new perspective on high-grade watchmaking in Saxony, on the Adolf Lange brand, and a superb exhibit catalog
    Book review 2015 by Fortunat Mueller-Maerki

    Simple and Perfect - Saxony's Path into the World of International Watchmaking By Sibylle Gluch and Peter Plassmeyer, with contributions by David Thompson, Jonathan Betts, Matthias Ullmann, Eduard Saluz, Pierre-Yves Donzé and David Penney. In Celebration of Ferdinand Lange's 200[SUP]th[/SUP] Birthday. Published in 2015 by Deutscher Kunstverlag, Berlin, Germany (for Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden) . ISBN 978-3-422-07309-8. 200 pages, 285x220mm, hardcover. Fully bilingual edition German/English (German title: Einfach - Vollkommen - Sachsens Weg in die internationale Uhrenwelt). 180 illustrations (majority color photographs and reproduced historic documents, comprehensive illustration credits). Foreword by Willhelm Schmid, preface by Hartwig Fischer. Available through Amazon at: http://www.amazon.de/Einfach-Vollkommen-internationale-International-Watchmaking/dp/3422073094/ for € 29.90 including postage.

    Most serious scholars of horological history are probably aware of the pivotal role the "Mathematisch Physikalischer Salon (MPS)" in Dresden - the flagship horological museum in former Eastern Germany - has played over centuries in preserving core elements of the world's horological history. Such cornerstones of mankind's horological history as Zech's small clock-watch (1527 Prague), the Baldewein Planetary Clock (ca. 1565, displaying a high precision geocentric view of all then known planets), one of Jost Bürgi's cross-beat escapement observatory clocks (1725, Prague), Mudge Blue (1778, London), and many more have been displayed there for centuries.

    Less people realize that the MPS was recently closed for six years (2007-2013) for a complete renovation, and the musty, overstuffed display cases of the communist era have made way for a modern, highly attractive, well labeled (fully bi-lingual GER/ENG) presentation of its treasures. In its current incarnation the museum has again become a must visit point on any horological tour of Germany. Creating special temporary exhibits and publishing scholarly catalogs understandably have not been a priority in recent years. The book under review and the eponymous temporary exhibit (18.February to 14.June 2015) it refers to keep up the high standards horologist have come to expect of the MPS. Both the book and the exhibit commemorate one of the most important horological personalities of the region, Ferdinand Adolf Lange (* 18. February 1815 in Dresden; † 3. December1875 in Glashütte), who was the key person to bring the industrial making of high grade pocketwatches to the Saxony region by establishing the watch factories of the nearby town of Glashütte.

    The book is fully bi-lingual (all texts appear as a pair of columns, in both German and English, in different fonts) and explores the story how the small mountain town of Glashütte (about 29 miles south of Dresden) became a center of high grade watchmaking in the middle of the 19[SUP]th[/SUP] century. After an introductory overview piece (12 p.) by MPS Director Peter Plassmeyer on 'The MPS and Saxony's Path to the World of International Watchmaking', the core of the book is organized into seven chapters in roughly chronological order. Each chapter opens with a one page introductory text on the subject by Gluch, the curator of the exhibit, and then has one (in one case two) essay(s) by one of the global top authorities on the chapter subject.
    These are the chapters and their associated essays:
    1. Keeping Time - by David Thomson (British Museum): Watchmaking in England in the 18[SUP]th[/SUP] Century - 18 p. - 12 ill. - On the role of Graham, Mudge (incl. first detached lever escapement watch, i.e."Queen Charlotte Watch" 1769) Arnold, Earnshaw, Emery.
    2. Time at Sea - by Jonathan Betts (Greenwich): The Birth of the Precision Watch - 16 p. - 5 ill. - primarily on Harrison, but also Jeffries, Le Roy, Breguet.
    3. Transporting the Precise Time - by Sibylle Gluch (MPS): The Beginnings and Challenges of Precision Clock- and Watchmaking in Dresden - 26 p. - 29 ill. - Seyffert, Count von Brühl, Weisse, Gutkaes.
    4. 4a: Quality in Series - by Mathias Ullmann (Glashütte): The Journey from Dresden to Glashfile:///C:/Users/FORTUNAT/AppData/Local/Temp/msohtmlclip1/01/clip_image002.pngtte - 14 p. - 1 ill. - F.A. Lange, Adolf Schneider, G.A. Lehmann, Richard Lange, Moritz Grossmann, Julius Assmann, F.A. Lange.
    4 4b: Quality in Series - by Eduard Saluz (Furtwangen): Not only in Saxony / On the Fabrication of Pocket Watches in Germany in the Second Half of the Nineteenth Century - 21 p. - 16 ill - Silesia: Eduard Eppner, Lahn, Freiburg, Silberberg; Black Forest: Grossherzoglich Badische Uhrmacherschule, J.H. Martens.
    5 The Right Measure - Pierre-Yves Donzé (Swiss Historian of Horology, Osaka University): How Switzerland became the largest Watchmaking Nation in the World - 11 p. - 3 ill. - Artisans & guilds, Geneva fabrique, Jura Etablisseurs, specialization.
    6 The Glashütte Watch - David Penney (UK watch historian): Ingold, Nicole and Lange - A new Way of Making Watches - 15 p. - 14 ill. - Ebauches, Friedberg 'London fakes', opposition by guilds, Nicole, Capt, Dent, Versailles, USA.
    7 Lange's Long Road to Success - by the curator - 12 p. - 12 ill. - A portfolio of eleven superb Lange Pocketwatches, 1850 - 1878,

    This reviewer considers several of these essays to be some of the most insightfull and enlightening articles on pocket watch history he has ever read. Particularly the pieces by Betts, Donzé and Penney describe crucial turning points in the history of the pocket watch. These essays alone are worth the cost of the book.

    By taking a decidedly broad and global perspective of the subject "Saxony's Path into the World of International watchmaking" the MPS created a very interesting storyline - and a great book - but created a problem for setting up the exhibit. Some of the key timekeeper featured prominently in the "story" of the exhibit (like Queen Charlottes watch, or Harrison's H3 and H4) are British national treasures and are as unlikely to be available for borrowing by a German museum, as the USA National Archives would allow the Declaration of Independence to leave its display vault in Washington DC. I applaud their decision to stick to the broad story line and make do during the exhibit with only photographic images of some of the 'main stars' of the story. The British institutions [British Museum, Greenwich Observatory], and Museums in Europe [Beyer Museum, Deutsches Museum, Deutsches Schifffahrtsmuseum, Landesmuseum Stuttgart, Uhrenmuseum Glashütte], as well as corporate and private collections were very generous by lending the MPS 39 of the 64 objects selected to tell the story. The 64 objects in the exhibit include 13 which were made in Glasshütte, and/or by F.A. Lange, or the company he founded there.

    The 122 images (mostly high resolution color photographs of one-of-a-kind watches) include many objects not shown in previous publications and probably by themselves make this book a must buy publication for any horologist interested in one of a kind or very rare pocketwatches from the years before 1880. The serious horological scholar will also appreciate the extensive and detailed endnotes, and comprehensive image credits.

    Peter Plassmeyer and Sibylle Gluch deserve the gratitude for setting a high benchmark for both the intellectual standards of future exhibits at the MPS and the quality and comprehensiveness of future exhibit catalogs.

    Fortunat F. Mueller-Maerki, Sussex NJ 07461 12 July 2015

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