Monday, June 5, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: The Wristwatch Handbook by Ryan Schmidt

Last Christmas, I got an incredible present. Someone very special to me (literally me) sent it with a bow and a note reading "I hope that you enjoy this!" Man, that guy (me) sure knows how to buy great presents. It's like he could read my mind. ha ha.

Merry Christmas to me!!! I bought "The Wristwatch Handbook"
As I opened the gift box, I was happy to see that it was just what I always wanted... an amazing coffee table book about my favorite obsession... wristwatches. The name of the book is "The Wristwatch Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Mechanical Wristwatches" by Ryan Schmidt. The title is a mouthful, but is highly descriptive of what you can expect. It is published by ACC Art Books and available on the web site here: and Amazon. It is available in English and French.

Thick, heavy paper and hardcovers add to the perceived value of this wonderful book
Coming in at 5 pounds, 6 ounces, and measuring 10" x 11.5", this hefty work of art exudes quality. There is nothing like sheer weight and size to make an impression. The hardbound book has a full color glossy dust cover and a matching glossy hard cover underneath. The inner pages of the covers show full color macro photos of mechanical watch gears setting the tone for the rest of the book. It's as if these pastedowns say "buckle up... we are about to embark on a quest for horological knowledge."

You will find yourself jumping from one set of photos and captions to the others
There are many books on the subject of horology so you could easily spend thousands of dollars creating a reference library of your favorite brands. If the watches you collect are expensive, then having the right knowledge can save you from buying a fake or spending more than you should have (I'm looking at you "Moonwatch Only" by Grégoire Rossier and Anthony Marquié, the pricey reference book for Omega Speedmaster collectors).

Large full page images can appear next to page layouts of smaller images, photos and captions
However, "The Wristwatch Handbook" is not about any single watch. In fact, it is not even about a single brand of watch or time period of watchmaking history. Instead, it is a beautiful primer to introduce the world of mechanical watches to a wide range of people. This means that a complete newbie could start at the beginning and work his way through all the chapters or a seasoned watch collector could jump to different parts of the book for quick reference or a refresher on a key concept.

Over 90 watch brands are included in the book and it tries very hard to be brand agnostic
But it gets better than that. Even if you could not read a single word, I believe that the world class photography and illustrations would keep you flipping the pages. The references shown in the book are likely high-end product photos provided by various manufacturers who want their creations to be shown in the best light, pun intended. As such, each photo is rich in depth, clarity, color and detail. While some watches appear silhouetted on white pages, others emerge from inky black backgrounds for maximum drama.

Professionally photographed images of some of the world's prestigious brands and models.

Many of the photos are virtually framable... they are gorgeous!
A coffee table book is designed to completely immerse you into a subject matter, without committing you to long complex chapters. The beauty and power of this book is that the information that you need is usually printed right next to the picture that it describes. This means that nuggets of information appear on each page as photo captions along with longer form text.

While it can be helpful to read the book in the page order that it was printed, it is not necessary to understand or enjoy the content. I have found myself jumping from one stunning image to the next in a meandering non-methodical kind of way.

A watch nerd's daydream starts with diagrams like these.
"The Wristwatch Handbook" covers a full range of subject matter. Just take a look at the contents shown below. The first chapters are dedicated to how a mechanical watch movement works and the anatomy of a watch. I consider this essential information that every serious watch owner should understand. The later chapters deal the the many types of complications that can be added to a base watch movement. These complications can be ubiquitous as a date window or technically complex chiming minute repeaters, automatons or perpetual calendars.

The book's Table of Contents
I will keep my opinion light because there are several fantastic reviews by huge names in the watch industry who have reviewed "The Wristwatch Handbook" favorably. You can see what they had to say on the book's web site. However, my favorite review comes from Amazon and it rings true...

A funny review title
I often read the reviews on Amazon to the the average Joe's opinion on anything that I plan to purchase. This book is universally loved with 100% 5-star ratings. I am not sure that I have ever seen that before.

A 5-star rating on Amazon so far.
I can easily recommend this book as the perfect present for the watch lover in your life (even if that is yourself). I would bet the cost of the book ($83) that they will love it. The quality, execution and value cannot be understated. Books like this might soon be a thing of the past in future decades.

Holding a book of this quality is completely different than reading about watches on the internet. Imagine the reaction if you handed someone a card reading " I looked up this website address for you". Now imagine that same scenario with you handing the recipient this artistic and informative book with some serious thought and weight behind it... Case closed.