Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Holy Grail of Watch Books

Swiss Timepiece Makers 1775-1975 by Kathleen H. Pritchard

In watch collecting we hear the term “Holy Grail” thrown around quite a bit. To most collectors, their “Grail” watch is something in their area of collecting that is hard or damn near impossible to find, not to mention the cost that comes with it. To a Rolex collector, this might be a Paul Newman Daytona. Okay, probably a bad example. That one might be almost all collectors’ “Holy Grail” watch or holiest of holy. For another collector, though, it may be something else. Now, as far as reference books go, there truly is one Holy Grail book (except for those who had the foresight to buy them when they came out). That book, actually a two volume set, is Swiss Timepiece Makers 1775-1975 by Kathleen H. Pritchard.

I searched for these books for over 2 years and I only saw them up for sale twice, out of my price range, in all of that time. I finally found a set in Germany for 350 euros and I ordered them through an Abe books company. The next day, I got an Email saying they were already sold. About a week later, what appeared to be the same set came up on Ebay, in Germany, and I finally got my coveted books at a hefty cost (around $900.00 with shipping). Someone who’s not familiar with all of the variables that go into researching timepieces might ask, “Are these books worth that kind of money?” You bet they are. These books pay for themselves in just the amount of time saved during research of a watch, let alone the information contained in them that you just don’t see anywhere else.

Published by Phoenix Publishing Company for the N.A.W.C.C. in 1996, these books are about 1800 pages and are packed full of information. All of this information is meticulously crossed referenced and the books include trademarks, hallmarks, key figures in the various companies and bios of many companies. These books are truly encyclopedias of Swiss watch makers and I can’t begin to explain how useful they are in research. Although no endeavor of this magnitude is without errors and omissions, they are few and far between and I, personally, have not encountered any yet. These have now become some of my most used books and I refer to them on an almost daily basis.

The author, Kathleen H. Pritchard, passed away in 2005 and is sorely missed in the horological community. In the past, she published numerous articles in the N.A.W.C.C. Bulletin, as well as other periodicals. She spent over twenty years compiling the material for these books and had been updating and compiling more information for a revised edition when she passed. Hopefully this research will eventually be published. The watch community as a whole is indebted to her for her contributions.

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