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Review: Gruen – The 1930’s -The 1940's, The 1950's; by Mike Barnett

  • Thread starter Fortunat Mueller-Maerki
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Fortunat Mueller-Maerki

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Bookreview

Gruen Watches – A New Reference Tool by Decade

Gruen – The 1930’s - A Decade of Watches from the Daily News, by Mike Barnett & Shari Barnett (and similarly: Gruen- The 1940’s, and Gruen – The 1950’s). Published by Second Hand Press, Books, in 2013. ISBN number: 978-1-Not yet assigned.Volumes vary 278 to 350 pages each, 28 x 22 cm, paperbound. Countlesss b&w illustrations, glossary,. Indexed by Group and Model names. The book is available from
http://www.gruenwristwatches.com/gruen-books.php and other sources at US$ 27 each, plus postage (Discount if you buy all three at the same time). NAWCC members may borrow a copy from the NAWCC library in Columbia Pa..

Wristwatch collectors who specialize in a particular brand or era have an insatiable appetite for authorative data concerning model names and numbers and related facts such as model launch dates, original sale prices etc. A cottage industry has developed serving this need. Predictably the high end/high visibility brands like Patek, Rolex, IWC, Omega etc. are covered in glossy, high cost books that often cost many hundreds of dollars. But the publications on more affordable brands are often produced by dedicated specialized collectors as a labor of love, like the series under review. The author, Mike Barnett, is probably best known as the creator and host of the Gruen website at ‘GruenWristwatches.com’, but he is also the author of “Gruen - Watch Model Identification Guide - Volume 1 [Wrist Watches]published in 2010.

While the new series at first appears to duplicate ‚Volume 1‘ it is in fact quite different, because it utilizes a different set of source materials. Volume one reproduced (and indexed) original images (mostly color) from magazines or glossy company catalogs, while this new series systematically harvested black & white line art from the advertising pages of local newspapers. Typically these small display advertisements were placed by local watch retailers (with some financial support from the brand). They therefore document what the local jewelers were actually offering to the public, when, and at what price. In the 1930’s volume for instance the main section has approx. 1275 reproduced images, arranged into 10 chapters corresponding to years. Many watch models apear multiple times in a given year if different images were used, and some models reapear year after year throughout the decade. These primar listings (at 6 to a page) fill 214 pages for the 1930‘s volume (and 278, and 285 pages in the 1940‘s and 1950‘s volumes).

Of course without some good indexing such amassed data would be nearly useless, but the author has thankfully included multiple comprehensive indexes (by Model name and by year, in each of the volumes. These books are clearly ‚WORKING TOOLS‘ for the serious Gruen afficionado and not meant for leishurly reading.

Creating such tools for fellow collectors is an inherently thankless job, but this reviewer for one appreciates the countless hours and the effort author/publishers like Barnett and his wife put into creating such tools. The market for them is small, and nobody will get rich doing that work. Therefore all collectors need to remember to say ‚Thank you!‘ once in a while for those who rise to the challange and actually do this work.

Fortunat F. Mueller-Maerki, Sussex NJ, June 2013
 
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