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Editorial - Reading Time

Editorial Reading Time

Writing about watches leads to… more writing about watches!

A book is a gift that keeps on giving. It’s something you can revisit again and again, and each time you do, you get something new from it. And it’s not because the book itself evolves between readings — it’s because you do. Different things resonate with you each time you come back to a loved book, because you are not the same person you were the last time you opened its covers. Books are useful when they tell us things we didn’t know before, but they become infinitely more valuable when they help us discover things we didn’t know before about ourselves.

My approach to books is pretty much identical to my approach to watches. The books (and watches) that remain a part of my life for any extended period are as marked by me as I am by them. What do I mean by this? Trigger warning for any bibliophiles out there: I write in my books. I jot down observations in the margins; I underline paragraphs that I find particularly significant; I annotate the pages with references to other books, bits of poetry, works of art.

This goes against everything we were taught as children, of course. We were taught to respect books, and part of that respect includes keeping them whole, clean and free of defacement or scribbles. I agree with that to a certain extent. Acts of literary destruction such as censorship or book-burning are absolutely abhorrent to me. I’m not careless with my books, leaving them out in the rain or allowing them to fall within reach of toddlers armed with crayons. I cherish them, and things that are cherished will always show signs of it.

It's the same with watches. If your watch has remained perfect and pristine over all the years that you’ve had it, indistinguishable and interchangeable with a model fresh out of the boutique, it’s hard for me to believe that you actually care about it. Certainly you don’t care enough about it to allow it to share your life in any visible sense. I’m not saying you should abuse your watch in order to show you care about it — that’s toxic behaviour in any context and I object to that. But if you love your watches, you should wear them. You shouldn’t fear the well-aged leather strap, the buckle scuffed by contact with your writing desk, the case dulled or patinaed from family beach vacations. My Panerai Luminor Marina has a rather unsightly dent on the bezel; I’ll never get it fixed, because it happened when I was babysitting my nephew (who is now a young man of 12) and accidentally slammed my wrist against a metal door while I was chasing him about in a game of catch. (And if you have a story like this, about your watch getting marked as a result of participating in one of life’s precious moments, I’d very much like to hear about it in the comments section.)

Watch books therefore represent the confluence of two of my greatest passions in life, and it’s safe to say that 2022 has been generous with me in this aspect. If you’re casting about for Christmas gift ideas (or just gift ideas in general), you might consider acquiring some of the horological publications that have been released this year.

As far as watch icons go, I think we can all agree that the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak is right up there at the top of the pyramid. The Royal Oak collection celebrated its 50th anniversary this year with a slew of exceptional pieces, which we’ve documented right here on WorldTempus over the last 11 months. A commemorative book was also released, published by Assouline — a 292-page illustrated tome containing the definitive story of this legendary watch. Royal Oak: From Iconoclast to Icon is not the first book to be published about this watch, and it certainly won’t be the last. But it is surely one of the most important.

Reading Time

Royal Oak Selfwinding © Audemars Piguet

In February this year, MB&F released their catalogue raisonné, a concept borrowed from the art world that describes a volume dedicated to the work of a noteworthy artist. A catalogue raisonné is part biography, part history record and part critical analysis. A full accounting of MB&F’s creations is contained in this book, including pieces that were previously unknown and not communicated by the brand. Modern independent watchmaking would not be what it is today without MB&F, and any serious watch enthusiast will recognise the impact of the brand and its founder, Maximilian Büsser. (Full disclosure: I co-authored this book, together with my esteemed industry colleague William Massena.)

Watchmakers are generally not writers — their skills lie in the mechanical rather than the literary field — but Denis Flageollet is perhaps this generation’s exception to the rule. His just-released book Horological Alchemy is his attempt to distill and elucidate upon his watchmaking philosophy and takes us on a journey of knowledge that spans the history of this glorious craft. As a watchmaking visionary, his insights and observations are key markers of how the industry might progress and increase its relevance and value to 21st-century audiences. And this is perhaps a foretaste of what we can expect from De Bethune, one of the most exciting (yet under-recognised) watch brands of today.

Last but not least, 2022 is the year of the dive watch, according to the latest volume in the Millennium Watch Book series, the ambitious project conceived by GMT Publishing founder Brice Lechevalier. This comprehensive look at the innovative area of dive watches celebrates the profundity and variety of amphibious sports watches that are designed to perform under extreme conditions, echoing the intrepid spirit of those who wear them. As a little end-of-year bonus, we’re offering a 10 per cent reduction on the price of the Millennium Watch Book: Divers Watches for readers who order online with the code WT-READERS-10. What more do you need to take the plunge into this 10-year-series of reference books?

Reading Time

The Millenium Watch Book © GMT Publishing

 

 

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