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Review: second worst book that I have read

Richard Watkins

NAWCC Fellow
May 2, 2004
Purdom, Charles "Watchmaster watchmakers" (200 pp, ill, the author, 1949)
Like Purdom and Hagans “Scientific timing”, this book is meaningless rubbish.
Much of it is simply wrong. Three examples are the description of the lever escapement (the diagrams are wrong and the explanation borders on ludicrous), balance poising (Purdom has no idea of static and dynamic poising), and detecting mainspring power variations (which are not visible from the instantaneous rates produced by timing machines). In addition, the basic principle, of “center lines” is irrational.
Some of it might contain correct statements, but the approach is superficial, largely unintelligible and of no practical use. In particular, the few timing machine charts shown are meaningless because the principles of timing machines are not discussed and no explanation of chart analysis is given.
The most interesting feature of the book is that balance spring needling, prominent two years earlier in “Scientific timing”, has disappeared; presumably enough ridicule was directed at it to force Purdom to dump the idea.
As it is impossible to understand his books, I wondered if it might be possible to understand Purdom. This book gives us a few hints. First, he was an employee of American Time Products, the company which manufactured the Watchmaster rate recorder and the book suggests he was a travelling salesman. Second, he wrote “If it were not for the Watchmaster, in all probability I would know less about all of this than any other person”. So we can reasonably conclude that he never trained as a watchmaker and his knowledge of watch repair was picked up from visits to watchmakers as he tried to flog timing machines. Third “The only reason that I write books is to make money”, a rather startling admission.
So it is likely that Purdom’s ideas are the result of listening to watchmakers and reading a book or two on adjusting; and, not surprisingly, failing to understand any of it. Then, with this background and the need to glorify the product he was selling, he produced a couple of books which try to explain what he did not comprehend by utterly incorrect pseudo-science. The result is bare-faced, incompetent advertiing.
In one respect this book is better than “Scientific timing”; it does not contain Hagans’ incredibly stupid statement.


Registered User
May 20, 2003
In a perverse way your review make me curious about both works.

John Nagle

Those books are stinkers. There have been so many books written by people with little if any experience or true knowledge that it isn't funny.
What is even sadder is that some actually have developed a following who believe in the writings!
Having known some of them I could tell you some interesting stories! I had thought of listing the top ten of the worst horological literature I have ever read but didn't because some authors {a term used very loosely}are still alive, are members, and did not feel it really kept in the spirit of this board.


NAWCC Member
Dec 16, 2001
Zephyrhills, FL
Well Richard, you have made me feel much smarter! I have most of Purdom's books and just assumed I needed more experience to understand what he was trying to communicate!


Julian Smith

Registered User
Sep 1, 2000
Visit site
I asked Henry Fried about Charles Purdom and needling hairsprings and such. He smiled and told me he knew "Charlie"and that he was a very good "soft soap" salesman,and not to put much depemdance in what he wrote.
J Smith

What is the worst book you read on Horology?

Richard Watkins

NAWCC Fellow
May 2, 2004
Ah! Fried has more tact than I could ever muster up!

My worst book is probably Purdom and Hagans “Scientific timing”. A bit unfair giving Purdom both, so maybe I should be kind and instead choose Immisch "Prize essay on the balance spring and its isochronal adjustments", but Immisch simply isn't THAT bad!

I have flagged 11 books as "poor" in my database (Immisch is not one). 3 are Purdom, and several are modern so I am reluctant to disclose them. But I am inclined to choose McCarthy "A matter of time, the story of the watch" which should never have been written, let alone published.

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