REVIEW: The Gruen Horological Text (Facsimile), by Mike Barnett(Publisher)

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Fortunat Mueller-Maerki

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

A Course in Wristwatch Repair by the Gruen Watchmaking Institute

The Gruen Horological Text; by the Gruen Watchmaking Institute. Facsimile edition, published 2009 [based on the 1948 originals] by Second Hand Press (Mike Barnett); paperback, perfect bound, 105 pages, 28x22 cm; ISBN 978-0-578-03078-4, illustrated. Text in English. Available directly from the publisher for $19 plus postage at

The years immediately following World War II saw resurgence in horological education in the USA. During the war years training had virtually stopped and many training courses for watchmakers emerged, some good, some of questionable quality. The American watch manufacturers were eager to plant their brand image on the new generation of horological professionals. The horological ‘textbook’ under review is a recent (2009) facsimile re-edition of a series of 14 pamphlets (2 to 11 pages each) on basic watch repair techniques prepared by the Gruen Watch Company around 1948 for use in this context. Topics start with ‘A Brief History of the Watch’ (2 pages) and ‘Tools’ (8 pages), followed by sections on: Turning (2), Balance (3), Hairspring (6), Jewelling (4), Mainspring (2), Escapement (6), Train (4), Winding & Setting (3), Cleaning & Oiling (11), and Adjusting (4). Two ‘reference’ parts (Misc. Repair data with 2 pages, and a 4 page ‘Trouble Chart’ conclude the series.

This text was created by top notch professionals at a high grade watch company, but they took care to keep things very simple. This clearly is an introductory textbook, aimed at an audience with no or minimal prior knowledge of watches. Professional watchmakers will scoff at the notion that you can say anything useful about adjusting watches in three pages, when there are many specialized textbooks on watch adjusting that run for hundreds of pages. But this down to earth, even if at time simplistic approach makes the text particularly accessible to the novice, or to the watch collector who is not really trying to learn a profession, but merely to learn a bit of watch technology so he can enjoy his hobby more.

It appears that few original copies have survived of this publication, and it is commendable that Mike Barnett, an avid collector of Gruen watches took the initiative to recreate the publication, which he augmented by reproducing a selection of other Gruen ephemera, including four undated typescript product changes notices signed by George Gruen, a six page note on fitting and adjusting watchbands (a Gruen training unit targeted at retailers), as well as eight ‘Technical Bulletins’ issued by Gruen around the same time.

As a person more interested in in horological literature and clocks than in watches, I personally found the collection of late 1940s printed Gruen ephemera mainly of interest as a socioeconomic milestone illuminating a relatively undocumented period of corporate horological USA history, and as a fascinating data point on ‘horological training’ in America around 1948, but other readers may well appreciate it for the basic watch servicing knowledge it contains. One way or the other it is good that another nearly forgotten horological text is available once again due to the efforts of horologist enthusiast turned self-publisher. These people will barely break even for their efforts, and they deserve the gratitude of horological collectors.

Fortunat Mueller-Maerki, Sussex NJ September 2009
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Registered User
Nov 26, 2008
Near Chapel Hill NC
Re: BOOKREVIEW: The Gruen Horological Text (Facsimile), by Mike Barnett(Publisher)

Sorry for the confusion, I missed the pagination during my review of Fortunat's draft

Higher level summary for pages are
Entire document has 109 pages if the Forward & TOC are included. Amazon lists the book as having 113 pages due to the requirements of retail publishing's inserting blank pages at beginning and at end. B&N shows 112. Real answer is 109 pages with actual type on them.

The meat of the book as follows:
Gruen Horological Text 1-66 (this includes the troubleshoot chart)
The 4 notices from George Gruen 67-71
Fitting & band adjustment (also describes the types of bands) 72-77
The Technical Bulletins 1-8 are as appendixes and total 28 pages 78-105
(the forward, title page, ISBN / publisher pages, etc, fill out the other 4 pages)

Appologies for any confusion caused.

Fortunat Mueller-Maerki

NAWCC Star Fellow
NAWCC Fellow
NAWCC Life Member
Sep 23, 2001
Re: BOOKREVIEW: The Gruen Horological Text (Facsimile), by Mike Barnett(Publisher)

Sorry for the typo (The nine and the zero are to close together :) ), as I counted I got 105 pages (excluding Tabel of content and foreword. I corrected my review

Dr. Jon

NAWCC Member
Dec 14, 2001
New Hampshire
Re: BOOKREVIEW: The Gruen Horological Text (Facsimile), by Mike Barnett(Publisher)

Thanks to Mike for doing the book and to Fortunat for bringing it my attention.

I bought and received my copy and it is a nice addition to my library.

1) Despite the title, the book is very general without much specific information on wrist watches until you get to the addenda, which indeed cover a lot of wrist watch specific topics

2) I do not recommend this as a beginner's book. It glosses over some very difficult stuff.
For example it devotes a paragraph to filing flat. This skill normally occupies a beginning student for several months at a full time school.
It features a couple of paragraphs to staff making and a few exercises. There are much harder than they look and still do not fully prepare anyone to make a staff.
This problem is enhanced by the similarly brief treatment of graver sharpening.

In this area it is the only book I have seen that advocates "breaking" the corners of gravers. I learned this after seeing that Bergoen gravers are sharpened this way.

This is an excellent review book and often gives useful added information but a beginner would have great difficulty learning by them selves with only this book. This is true of all books since a lot really needs instruction, but the DeCarle book, Daniels, and Bulova and Chicago courses provide a lot more detail on the critical skills, These books cost a lot more so I am not departing from being glad to have the book.

I applaud Mike for having rescued the book anddoing an excellent job of printing it and making available at a steal of a price.
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