Everyone appreciates a good read – and watch enthusiasts are no different. If you’re in need of a gift for the watch lover in your life, consider gifting them a wealth of information in the form of a fascinating watch book. Unsure what book to get? Some of our magazine contributors have selected their favorites to get you started.
The Vintage Rolex Field Guide
Swiss luxury watch giant Rolex has introduced some 1,400 models to the market since its foundation in 1905. It’s no easy task keeping track of all the editions, but The Vintage Rolex Field Guide is a good place to start. It packs an impressive amount of Rolex info into its 244 pages, making the search for your dream Rolex much easier, regardless of whether you’re a novice or seasoned collector.
The book primarily focuses on vintage models, i.e., watches released between 1950 and 1979. However, the anonymous author, who goes by the pseudonym Morningtundra, also covers watches from 1980 to the present day, the so-called “modern classics.” There’s even a whole chapter dedicated to antique models and pocket watches from the manufacturer’s early days.
The author describes each model in a clear and informative manner, touching on the watch’s history and any notable features. The text is complemented by numerous detailed photos, technical drawings, and other graphics. Every chapter ends with a comprehensive table listing the reference number of each model and any characteristic features. The tables come in handy if you want to see what movement powers a specific reference or what year a particular model debuted.
Other sections detail various movements, hands, and dial variations, as well as Rolex straps and bracelets. There is even an overview of the company’s spring bar tools.
This book isn’t an elaborate coffee table book full of beautiful glossy photos; it’s a serious reference tool and a great companion when you’re searching for the perfect Rolex. It is available in paperback or as an e-book (Apple iBooks, Google Play Books). While the book doesn’t claim to be a complete guide, chances are even the most knowledgeable experts will learn something new from this tome.
About the Book:
Title: The Vintage Rolex Field Guide
Price: $45 (e-book: $14.99)
The Wristwatch Handbook by Ryan Schmidt
Most people associate watch books with typical coffee table pieces (i.e., heavy books filled with high-gloss images that stand out in any living room or study). There are numerous classic works and bestsellers that fall into this category.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are technical texts about watchmaking or repairing antique timepieces. These are perfect for watch enthusiasts who would like to go a bit deeper into the subject and maybe even try their hand at watchmaking. Buyer beware: Before purchasing this kind of book, you should be sure the recipient won’t nod off when faced with pages of text chronicling the nature of gear wheels.
The book I’d recommend strikes a healthy balance between these two extremes: ‘The Wristwatch Handbook’ by Ryan Schmidt. As a massive book with over 400 images across its 352 pages, you’d be forgiven for mistaking it for another nice picture book at first glance. However, beneath the cover, you’ll actually find a compact yet extensive overview of mechanical timepieces. The first third covers basic movement construction and the main watch components, while the remaining sections feature information about nearly every complication you can think of – and then some. Whether you’re curious about how a power reserve indicator works or simply want to see close-ups of timepieces and their mechanisms, this book is the ideal reference point for novices and veteran watch fans alike.
The range of information, as well as the diversity of brands, will impress even the most experienced watch enthusiast. You will find A. Lange & Söhne, Patek Philippe, Andreas Strehler, and Zeitwinkel featured among the over 90 watch brands.
About the Book:
Title: The Wristwatch Handbook
Author: Ryan Schmidt
Patek Philippe in America – Marketing the World’s Foremost Watch
I’ve been a watch lover, collector, and industry observer for more than ten years, and Patek Philippe has consistently remained one of the most fascinating brands in an industry full of fascinating brands. How did they secure such a lofty position in the industry? How did they market themselves so successfully, creating an unimpeachable legacy other brands can only dream of? And why are certain models from decades ago still so sought after?
Most of us know the famous tag line, “You never really own a Patek Philippe…,” but that’s a relatively new development. In fact, it’s barely twenty-five years old, which seems like a long time until you consider Patek Philippe has been around for almost two centuries. However, this book clearly demonstrates that the company had mastered the art of marketing well before their now-famous campaign.
Written by John Reardon, Christie’s former International Head of Watches, the first volume of this three-volume series chronicles the rise of the famed Swiss watchmaker in the American market. Of particular note are the reproductions of numerous vintage advertisements that offer a rare insight into how the “world’s foremost watch” was successively marketed in the United States during the 20th century. You will also learn about pivotal moments in the brand’s history and discover how its success in the 21st century has been shaped by historic decisions.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a seasoned collector looking to expand your knowledge or a complete novice to the world of Patek Philippe, this book is a great resource and an enjoyable read. Best of all, there are two additional volumes, covering men’s and ladies’ watches respectively, for when you inevitably catch the collecting bug.
About the Book:
Title: Patek Philippe in America – Marketing the World’s Foremost Watch
Author: John Reardon
Price: 395 USD
Moonwatch Only – The Ultimate OMEGA Speedmaster Guide
It was relatively easy to choose my top watch book, but there are some other great reads that deserve a mention. I don’t like books that just sit on the coffee table and collect dust. In my mind, a good watch book is one that I want to pick up and reference all the time.
Some honorable mentions that fit the criteria above are: ‘Nomos Glashütte – Das Große Universallexikon in Farbe und mit beeindruckendem Kartenteil,’ ‘Grand Seiko Through Three Photographers’ Eyes,’ ‘A Man and His Watch,’ ‘Patek Philippe Steel Watches,’ and both ‘Watch Ads 1900 – 1959’ and ‘Watch Ads 1960 – 2000.’ Each of these books contains interesting stories and tons of info, making them amazing reads.
My favorite book about watches, however, is ‘Moonwatch Only.’ It’s not only the ultimate book on the iconic Omega Speedmaster, it’s also the perfect blueprint for a serious watch book. The book chronicles the story of the original Omega Speedmaster, as well as that of every subsequent Speedmaster reference. It gives you a closer look at each watch’s specific details, and also touches on the astronauts that wore Omega Speedmasters during their various missions. I could go on for hours about this book, but go buy it for yourself if you are serious about vintage watches in general, and Speedmasters in particular. Although it is relatively expensive at 290 USD, it is worth every penny. If you are looking for a great watch book, ‘Moonwatch Only’ should be your first choice.
About the Book:
Title: Moonwatch Only – The Ultimate OMEGA Speedmaster Guide
Author: Grégoire Rossier and Anthony Marquié
Price: 290 USD