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REVIEW: How the Watch was Worn – A Fashion for 500 Years - By Genevieve Cummins.

  • Thread starter Fortunat Mueller-Maerki
  • Start date

Fortunat Mueller-Maerki

NAWCC Star Fellow
NAWCC Life Member
NAWCC Fellow
Sep 23, 2001

Note: this book is NOT published yet, it will be available in June 2010

The First Book Ever on the Fashion of Wearing a Watch

How the Watch was Worn – A Fashion for 500 Years. By Genevieve Cummins. Published 2010 by Antique Collectors Club, Woodbridge, UK. ISBN 978-1-85149-637-2. Hardcover, 272 pages, 30x24 cm. Fully illustrated in color (over 1000 images). US$ XX plus postage. Available at www.nawccstore.org or consult at the National Watch and Clock Library in Columbia Pa.

It has been about 500 years since people started carrying timekeeping devices around with them on their bodies, so it is a bit surprising that until now there has never been a publication dedicated to the question of ‘How to wear a watch?’. Thanks to the Australian author Genevieve Cummins and the British publisher Antique Collectors Club that void has just been filled.

The book will be formally launched in context of a special exhibit at the 2010 National Convention of NAWCC in Columbia PA in June. Ms. Cummins is the author of the definitive book on ‘watch chains’ (“Chatelaines – Utility to Glorious Extravagance”, 1994, Antique Collectors Club, 311 pages, out of print), horological accessories which take a prominent position in this new title as well. But unlike in her first book, in her second book on the subject she takes a much broader view, going beyond just the object of the watch chain, and examining all the ways in which watches can be worn. In 13 chapters she explores all aspects of the watch as a fashion accessory, covering various watch forms and watch attachments, including various styles of chains and fobs, pouches and pockets, brooches, wristbands, rings, watch guards, watch belts, pendent watches, cufflink watches, etc.

The core of the book is made up of over 1000 images (most of them in color, many in large format) illustrating historic watches in the context of appropriate period dress. These include historic images (both historic paintings, drawings and engravings showing people with watches, and historic photographs) as well as many newly created photographs combining historic costumes (both for ladies and gentlemen) accessorized with appropriate watches and chains. Separate chapters are dedicated to the 16th and 17th centuries, the 18th century, and the Regency and Victorian eras. There are special sections on such subjects as: Watches for dolls, accessories to store the watch at night, and - the last chapter – the development of the wristwatch as a fashion accessory.

While this book obviously will appeal to the horological collector with a special interest in the decorative arts aspects of watches, it also offers much new material to other, broader horological enthusiasts: By showing watches in their proper context of people and clothes over the ages it offers countless tidbits of information of the role of watches (and timekeeping) in a broader societal context. Furthermore this book may – in some instances - be just the publication that triggers some interest in watch collecting from a collector’s spouse, who hereto had dismissed these objects as only technical toys, oblivious to their aesthetic charms.

This book is an unusual, but most welcome addition to the horological literature, proving – once again – how multi-facetted learning and studying horology can be.

Fortunat Mueller-Maerki,
Sussex NJ, March 2009


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