The Watch Thoroughly Revised (TWTR) by Gene Stone and Stephen Pulvirent.
It may seem odd to start a review of a book by writing about its photographs but that is what I am about to do. I am doing this for a reason I hope you will agree is valid.
Far too many watch books feature pages filled with, admittedly gorgeous, images that are available for free on the internet. This practice is unfair to book buyers. Why should anyone pay good money for a book full of photographs viewable on the web? Yes, there is the convenience of low-tech, all in one place, super-fast access a book offers but that feature hardly seems to validate the north off $100 price tag of many watch books.
If you expect people to hand over hard earned cash then provide some original photography. A new book The Watch Thoroughly Revised (TWTR) by Gene Stone and Stephen Pulvirent does exactly that. Yes, of course there are photographs easily findable on the web – that is unavoidable. There are also lots of photographs by collectors, professional photographers and others that are unique to the book and will be new to the eyes of readers. So, the-value for-money proposition of TWTR with a jacket price of $50.00 (less on amazon) is excellent.
One more point about the photographs – each one has a caption. How can any author let a book be published without explaining the photographs? The answer is laziness and a lack of concern for the reader. Photographs provide information and provide even more if accompanied by a few sentences.
Perhaps it will seem odder still that the next item I’ll mention is the index. Someone once said that a non-fiction book without an index is like a city without addresses – impossible to find your way around. As with captions so with an index – failure to provide one shows laziness and a lack of concern for the reader. TWTR boasts a comprehensive index.
The next item on the list is a glossary. Writing about watches requires using hefty helpings of technical terms and dollops of esoteric vocabulary – which may be unfamiliar to some readers. A conscientious author will explain things in the main text and/or in a glossary. A glossary gives an author an opportunity to enhance the knowledge of the reader. Authors worth their salt do not pass up such an opportunity. The glossary in TWTR is lucid, substantial and precise.
It is impossible to write a book about watches without consulting the work of other writers. The literature about the subject is so expansive and now available in many different formats: books, magazines and on-line that anyone who claims to write a book about watches without consulting other sources is being dishonest. Yet books are published without bibliographies.
The bibliography of TWTR entitled ‘Miscellany’ covers all three formats. Importantly the book section of ‘Miscellany’ lists the following volumes: Timepieces: Masterpieces of Chronology, by David Christian, Watchmaking by George Daniels, Michael Korda’s Marking Time, David Lander’s Revolution in Time and The World of Watches by Lucien F Traub. These books and the others in the bibliography indicate a depth and breath of research that should be a part of writing every book about watches.
Now, about the writing. Both Mr Pulvirent and Mr Stone possess interests and intellects that stretch far beyond the world of tourbillions and chronographs. This is evident from Mr Pulvirent’s frequent on-line posts about art, architecture and design and Mr Stone’s able advocacy of animal rights and veganism. Both are writers able to maintain a gracefully flowing prose packed with an abundance of facts – not the easiest stylistic outcome to achieve.
For example, this is how the writers sum up the appeal of Rolex (which appeared in slightly different from in the first edition): “…the company’s strength lies in its research and its engineering. Rolex continually upgrades its products from a purely functional standpoint – making testing standards more stringent, upgrading the quality of its stainless steel – and it does so with little or no fanfare.”
Or describing the offerings or Roger Dubuis as “They’re technically brilliant and extremely well made, but not for the faint of heart.”
Or on Patek Philippe “The firm also maintains a relatively tight distribution network and the experience of buying a Patek Philippe has maintained a particular type of mystique in an age of instant gratification.”
The book also contains somethings I did not know but am grateful to learn. Such as: Tissot’s Banana watch found “…success in Russia on the eve of the October Revolution.”
Or that Baume & Mercier back in the day (mid 19th-century) at the apex of the British Empire set up a subsidiary in London focused on …”making gold watches with chronometer-grade movements in them, which perfectly suited well-traveled Brits moving between the various colonies.”
Or this about NOMOs “The watches are favorites amongst Dwell-reading, Apple-loving types, and have becomes a bit of a secret handshake among certain design professionals as well…”
There are also sections on the history of timepieces, complications, as well as buying collecting and maintaining. Sidebars cover other subjects: “8 Brands Whose Watches Are Less Expensive Than They Look”, and “10 Small Independent Brands To Look Out For”.
Some people will complain that TWTR does not offer a detailed analysis of the physics of a watch movement or other highly technical subjects. Well, there are plenty of books on the market that do that. TWTR has other virtues.
One of those virtues is plainly stating basic truths about watches. The opening sentence of TWTR says: ‘The world of watches never stops changing.’ I agree. That constant change is one reason why the subject of watches excites an increasingly large number of people. It is also the reason why we need a book like TWTR – because a proper horological education never ends.
In the interest of full disclosure Hodinkee has reviewed and sells my books and I have known Mr Pulvirent for several years.