For decades, books about watches consisted of single brand profiles (often offered by the brand), unglamorous phonebook-like catalogs of vintage watches for collectors and dealers and impenetrable tomes on mechanical watchmaking. Some of us serious about watches read these books with interest, if not joy. But for the most part, we turned to magazines to indulge our love of watches. The internet did little to change the situation, other than increasing the frequency with which we digested short-form watch writing. Meanwhile, books about watches generally continued to offer relatively dull reads around niche interests.
In the past few years, however, a new type of watch book has emerged. This new breed breaks yesteryear’s paradigms by: 1) addressing the watch enthusiast, as opposed to the dealer, collector or mechanic seeking scholarly taxonomies; 2) remaining brand agnostic; and 3) celebrating how watches, en masse, enrich our lives. For any watch lover, this new breed of watch book should provide perennial enjoyment.
THE IMPOSSIBLE COLLECTION OF WATCHES By Nick Foulkes
NYC-based French luxury publisher Assouline has been issuing their Impossible Collection series for some time, and when they decided to do one on watches they brought in legendary luxury writer, Nick Foulkes, who literally wrote the book on Patek Philippe, among many other significant works. Foulkes curated 100 watches into the book, which range from pocket watches made for royalty, to first editions of Mid-Century classics, to jaw-droppingly beautiful grand complications, to the best sports watches ever created. Not only is his curation bullet-proof, but his opening essay is also one of the best overviews of watches ever written. The book is physically enormous, employs many hand-tipped prints (separate leaves pasted onto the book’s pages), and is the kind of book you’d hand down, like a watch itself.
A MAN AND HIS WATCH By Matt Hranek
Like most great ideas, Matthew Hranek’s was quite simple: Ask a number of interesting men to single out their most meaningful watch and tell us about it. Nothing like this book existed before. Whether it’s Sly Stallone’s gold Daytona that he bought after seeing one on Greg Allman’s wrist, Ralph Lauren’s Cartier that he mounted on a solid gold cuff from Andy Warhol’s estate, someone’s grandad’s watch, or simply a cherished childhood toy, the reader comes to realize that the true value of a watch resides in its personal connection to its owner. These stories unite the reader with the people featured in this book (famous and obscure alike), and A Man and His Watch may have you looking at your own watch collection through a whole new lens. Photos and packaging are exceptional.
THE WRISTWATCH HANDBOOK By Ryan Schmidt
Say goodbye to the snooze-inducing mechanical watchmaker’s treatises, and say hello to Ryan Schmidt’s fantastic overview of mechanical watches for the layperson. Refreshingly accessible language makes the complexity of the topic not only penetrable, but downright palatable. Schmidt’s command of metaphor and simile will draw you deeper inside the watch movement than ever before, and the incredible images—including many of “exploded” movements—make sure you don’t get lost in the works.
DRIVE TIME by Aaron Sigmond and SEA TIME by Aaron Sigmond and Mark Bernardo
Cigar expert Aaron Sigmond is also an avid watch collector and writer, and his two books out via Rizzoli are joyful celebrations of sectors of the watch world. In Drive Time, you get those watches that are associated with motorsports in one way or another, and in Sea Time you get watches meant to be in the water. Neither book narrows its topic too much, however, and you’ll find yourself realizing there are far more engine-and water-oriented watches than you might have imagined. The authors keep it light on the mechanical analysis, and heavy on the history and cultural significance, making for a truly engaging read. The visual presentation—from photos to vintage advertisements and even pictorial meditations on beautiful scenery—will have you leafing through over and over.
THE WATCH, THOROUGHLY REVISED By Gene Stone & Stephen Pulvirent
When THE WATCH came out in 2008, it signaled a change in what a watch book could be. The revised edition, which includes Stephen Pulvirent as the second author, is an updated version. The book is essentially an alphabetized encyclopedia of watch brands, with no omissions worth mentioning, let alone complaining about. What originally set The Watch apart—and what continues to—is its concise yet thorough brand profiles. The authors’ spot-on curation of watches spells out each brand’s ethos so clearly, that it reveals the horological brain trust at work here. For someone new to watches, The Watch is a must, and for the expert, it is an essential reference as well as a joyful read.