Review: Van Rompay: G. F. Roskopf – Pioneer of the popularly priced watch

  • Thread starter Fortunat Mueller-Maerki
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Fortunat Mueller-Maerki

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Sep 23, 2001
The Inventor of the Watch that was affordable for Everyone
G. F. Roskopf - Pioneer of the popularly priced watch - [published in Flemish: G.F. Roskopf -Pionier van het volkshorloge] - By Paul Van Rompay& Armand Augustijnen. No ISBN - 28cm x 21cm - Paperback - 99 pages - 253 illustrations (mostly in color) - Includes Index to all of all patents concerning Roskopf style watches. Available only directly from the author: Paul Van Rompay (e-mail: [email protected], payment by PayPal). Price: 21Euro plus postage.

There are unfortunately pockets of horological history that are grossly underrepresented in the horological publications (books and articles) and one of them is the early history of the watch as a mass produced item. Therefor many students of horological history are barely familiar with the role a young German watchmaker/inventor (later naturalized Swiss citizen) played from the 1860s to 1889 in making watches affordable to the masses.[1]

George Frederic Roskopf (* 1813-1883) apprenticed in La Chaux-de-Fonds (Switzerland), established a small watch manufacturing operation there and in 1861 conceived a simpler, more robust watch movement, one that had a pin pallet platform escapement, with the hands driven directly by the mainspring. Bringing the retail price of a pocket watch down to the level of two weekly salaries of a factory laborer radically changed the nature of the watch manufacturing industry, first in Switzerland, but eventually globally. The mechanical, industrially produced pin pallet pocket watch was globally -together with the alarm clock- the most popular portable timekeeping device in the early 20[SUP]th[/SUP] century. But few horological aficionados today know anything about this chapter of horological history.

Paul Van Rompay is a recognized authority on the history of the Roskopf type pocket watch (he contributed several essays to the scholarly catalog of the 2013 temporary Roskopf exhibit at the Muse International d'Horlogerie in La Chaux-de-Fonds). Finally he has published a monograph on his area of expertise. Unfortunately it is written in Flemish, his mother tongue.

I am under no illusion that his new book will be a horological bestseller in the English speaking part of the world, but anybody interested in pin-pallet watches should consider buying it, not only does it have 253 high quality illustrations, mostly of pin-pallet watches not seen anywhere else in the horological literature, but in the era of Google translate it is easy to translate image captions or selected passages of interest. It takes a little bit of effort, but offers a chance to broaden our horological horizons.
Scholar/researchers like Van Rompay who self publish such books deserve not only our gratitude, but our active support.

Fortunat Mueller-Maerki, Sussex NJ

[1] The only two other existing monographs on the Roskopf watch that I am aware of are: 1: Albin Schaeder: The Proletairian Watch: Published in Swedish (ISBN 978-91- 631-9609-6) and in English (ISBN 978-91-631-9608-9) editions in 2007. 2. Jean-Michel Piget & Paul Van Rompay, et al., La drole de montre de Monsieur Roskopf , 2013 (ISBN 978-2-940489-44-2). In addition there exists a French language magazine article from 1914 (Journal Suisse d'Horlogerie) by Eugene Buffat, that was translated in 2007 by Richard Watkins (No ISBN): History and Design of the Roskopf Watch [available at:].

roskopf image.jpg
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