Not all watch books are the same. You have the ones commissioned or written by the brand about the brand. These are usually very interesting to read with tons of photos, old newspaper ads and extracts. But also often lack a certain depth. Then, you have the watch books written by collectors. These authors are usually crazy about the topic and go extremely deep into details. A prime example would be Moonwatch Only, the ultimate Speedmaster book that came out a few years ago. Chronographs for Collectors is the book I’m talking about today. The publication in front of me does not cover one brand or one model line but a certain type of watches we all love; chronographs. In particular; vintage chronographs.
This is a topic we have dealt with many times in the past. As you know Mike’s #TBT feature covered a wide variety of vintage chronographs. He also wrote this and this article, about the market for vintage chronographs today. Our weekly Speedy Tuesday also often features watches from the previous decades. Funny enough, nowadays vintage chronographs are hot. The book we are reviewing today however, Chronographs for Collectors, did not born to ride this new wave. The purpose is actually very romantic; two watch lovers and vintage chronograph collectors with in-depth knowledge and background information join forces.
The authors collected a vast selection of chronographs they find significant and they tell us why. They position themselves in a different perspective to think about what like-minded people would be interested to read. Sébastien Chaulmontet is a familiar name to watch lovers; he is the head of innovation at Angelus S.A. You might also know him from Arnold & Son as he previously was working in that team. Among many things Sébastien is a collector of vintage chronographs. His co-writer and friend for 20-some-odd years is Joel Pynson. An ophthalmologist by trade but a veteran in the watch field with pedigree in publications such as Chronométrophilia and Klassik Uhren as well as the writer of the book Le Chronographe de poche Suisse (Swiss Pocket watch chronographs). So as you can see both gentlemen are extremely knowledgeable in this field and know what they are talking about. But what is it actually? Let’s look at how the book builds up.
Chronographs for Collectors has a very simple yet clear structure. The writers chose 30 (actually 38 – I’ll explain later) chronographs, watches that are for one reason or another, significant. You can imagine how hard it is to pick a handful out of the thousands. Nevertheless I feel that the ones Pynson and Chaulmontet chose are excellent examples. You will find well-known brands but also companies you probably never heard of. Pieces that are still easy and cheap to find, and watches that are becoming quite collectible hence expensive also found their ways to the book. Regardless of the thickness of your wallet, there is something for you inside. Keeping things balanced is definitely a troublesome task however the authors managed to find the right ratio between cheap and expensive, rare and easily acquirable. Both Pynson and Chaulmontet are respected and well-known collectors in the watch world. Their love for these wonderful timepieces is undoubted.
The very first page of Chronographs for Collectors contains the 30minChrono Index an easy to understand and useful pictogram chart. Three categories are listed such as Technology, Rarity and Price. Each category has an icon (gear, magnifying glass, $ sign) and based on how rare, complicated or expensive a watch is the icons multiply up to 4 (in case of price up to 5). This is a great indicator for the readers to determine whether that piece is actually interesting for them or not.
The “Introduction” tells us about the history of chronographs but also explains why and how this book came to life. We then move on to the actual watches. Every watch is either an exact model, like the Angelus Chronodato, or a specific movement used by a brand, like the Longines 13 ZN. Sometimes the watch is only highlighted by the brand name, in case of Pierce for example.
The first two pages give you a quick run-down on the history of the brand but also on the model or the movement. You can find wonderful high-resolution images of certain examples with the aforementioned pictogram.
The second part of the chapter is the “Expert Opinion”. This section talks about rarity of the watch, discusses if parts are still available, what the owner should take in consideration or even avoid. In one word, it is something that every watch collectors wants: advice on the exact model by people who know what they are talking about. They do not want to sell you anything, just give an honest opinion of the watch.
The last part is titled “Family resemblance” and it tells us about similar models or other brands that used the same movement. It also has a bit of extra history still this section brings other watch companies to our attention.
The very first watch the authors describe is an Omega from 1913. Then comes a Breitling from 1915, the Lémania 13CH, 15 CH from 1932 and so on until we reach the last watch in the timeline. That is the TDBK chronograph from 1973. As I already mentioned choosing 30 out of many is a hard task. The 30th watch is a bit of a cheat as it is not 1 but another 9 further examples the authors thought the book has to contain. These are smaller one-page sections without the “Family resemblance” or the “Expert Opinion” parts. It is very similar to the first section of the previous 29 chapters, telling us the history of the watch.
The last few pages of Chronographs for Collectors contain the terminology with a nicely illustrated chronograph movement and its parts. Then comes a small but useful two-page French/English glossary with photos for easier understanding. The last part is the Index, for your convenience.
Chronographs for Collectors, besides the target group that is mentioned in the title, we think it deserves a larger audience. Anyone who is interested in various watches but also in the history of brands and how their technology evolved should buy a copy. I have seen many books dealing with similar topics and I’m comfortable to say that this is one of the best examples so far. The versatility but also the easy-to-understand explanation of certain technical elements makes the book enjoyable to read. It contains tons of useful information. For collectors as well as for those who just started getting into this topic. You can order the Chronogrphs for Collectors from the Time2Tell.com website for €145 + shipping. It’s a must-have for any watch enthusiast’s library and a great reference for building your collection. Oh, and how cool is that hologram picture on the front cover?
Balázs joined Fratello Watches in 2014 and he has been a fan of watches as long as he can remember. His passion for watches really took off in 2007 when he purchased his first fine Swiss timepiece. From 2007 up... read more