Reviewed by Jay B. Siegel
I love watches. In a day and age where young people largely refer to displays on their mobile phones to tell time and watch sales are down worldwide, there are those of us who consider watches to be elegant, functional, sophisticated pieces of fine jewelry. A fine watch can accurately tell time in a way that no mobile phone can. The pride of ownership of a fine timepiece is unmatched by any other means of timekeeping. It’s for people like us that this book was written.
Watches are very visual, and sometimes even visceral objects. All watches can tell time, some more accurately than others, but that’s not what they are all about. Watches are jewelry, and watches can be art. Fine watches are feats of engineering, ingenuity, miniaturization and finely crafted handiwork.
There are several ways to appreciate the beauty, elegance and marvel of a fine watch. Whether it’s on the wrist of the proud owner, in the window of a jewelry store, or from afar on another watch-wearer’s wrist, the lover of fine watches will always take notice. Another way to appreciate the art and design of watches is through a book like “Vintage Wristwatches” by Reyne Haines.
This book is not insubstantial at over 250 pages; it measures approximately 8 ½ by 11, weighs in at over two and a half pounds, and is printed on quality stock. But even though it’s a hefty text, this book lets the watches do the “talking.” Rather than a lot of verbiage to read through, the book consists mainly of high quality photographs of what timepiece aficionados want to see: watches. After a brief forward, the author introduces the reader to identifying and evaluating watches as well as valuing them. After those eight pages, it’s on to the watches.
The watch section of the book is laid out in a very simple, easy to follow format. In alphabetical order, Haines takes us through a brief textual overview/history of each watchmaker. After the overview, the reader is treated to the mostly excellent photographs of watches representative of each particular brand. The captions consist of a description of the watch, a value and an acknowledgement crediting the owner of the watch. All the major watchmakers of note are represented. There is a short glossary of terms and index after the watch section.
It’s also important to note that as the author points out, and rightly so, values are a tricky thing. A watch, like almost anything offered for sale on the secondary market, is worth what someone is willing to pay for it on any given day. That being said, Haines informs us that most of the values quoted in her text were taken from auction results. Considering that the copyright of the book is 2010, most of the values should be pretty recent but we should always keep in mind that auction results can vary from coast to coast and can easily be skewed by bidding wars.
And truthfully, what this book comes down to is eye-candy for the lover of fine vintage watches. It’s all about the photographs. The book is well laid out and the design is uncluttered, neat and presented in a way that nothing detracts from the pictures of these fine timepieces. The background of every page is white allowing the watches to stand on their own. Picture sizes vary, as does their layout on the page. This keeps the book interesting from a design perspective, yet it looks neat and orderly. The person who appreciates fine watches will look forward to the adventure and excitement of turning each page and seeing what awaits their discovery.
Paging through this book, the person who uses their mobile phone as a watch won’t “get it” and that’s perfectly fine because this book wasn’t created for them. It was created for someone who gets excited viewing a vintage Patek Philippe or Rolex. Omega fans are also in luck, since this brand gets the widest coverage in the book along with a huge cover photo featuring a classic Seamaster.
In conclusion, I really enjoyed this book. It is informative, well thought out and nicely designed. The company overviews are just long enough to give some insight into the brands and they would be a good starting point for further research, if one were so inclined. The photos are well done and let the reader get a good feel for what the actual watch looks like. I recommend “Vintage Wristwatches” as a valuable addition to the library of a watch collector, or even the more casual watch enthusiast.