Book Review: ‘The Wristwatch Handbook’ By Ryan Schmidt
Fans of the art of watchmaking are in luck: not only can they read a beautifully written and comprehensive overview of what goes into the making of a watch and what is available, but they’ll be able to read it in the words of a new watch addict, and one that has taken the word research to a new level.
Ryan Schmidt is a newly engrossed watch enthusiast – and his enthusiasm and knowledge permeate the tone of his book.
The Wristwatch Handbook is a substantial coffee table book designed to be something of a map or a compass for the budding enthusiast, for the beginner, as well as for the seasoned enthusiast – this is how well the information is presented.
Schmidt’s thirst for knowledge shines in his excellent and truly comprehensive research, which backs up the subtitle of this book: “A Comprehensive Guide to Mechanical Wristwatches.”
The book is divided into two sections: one helping the reader to understand the mechanical movement, the other going into complications (this obviously builds on the basic movement information).
Schmidt’s sense of humor and enthusiasm, evidenced as well by his contributions and comments here on Quill & Pad, were put to good use in describing what can truthfully at times be a rather dry subject. Schmidt, however, finds interesting ways to describe the various technical elements.
The last three chapters are for whimsy – which is not something often talked about loudly in mechanical watchmaking, but something that definitely (and thankfully!) exists for the discerning watch lover. I love that Schmidt made room for this subject.
I particularly like the section in which he highlights the very rare watches that do not provide time displays, rightfully describing these controversial timepieces as “horological art.”
“This is a full commitment to the abandoning of time, no background timekeeping is brought back to the dial when the wearer becomes anxious,” he describes the Romain Jerome Titanic DNA Day & Night Tourbillon, which does not provide a time display, but only shows whether it is currently day or night, even though two tourbillons connected by a differential are visible on the dial. And it is a perfect example of his lovely sense of humor.
Lots of illustrations
The foreword by John Reardon, Christie’s international head of watches, makes it clear why Schmidt embarked upon the adventure of writing a book on a subject he is newly passionate about. The foreword ends with: “On a personal note, when I first saw Ryan attend watch auction exhibitions, it became abundantly clear that his passion and knowledge for watches put him in a class of his own.
“His countless hours spent closely inspecting all types of watches, from modern Patek Philippes to vintage Omegas, made it clear that his appreciation and thirst for knowledge of all types of wristwatches made him a scholar of the highest order hungry to find answers to horological mysteries from the past to the present.”
The book itself has not been backed by any brands, and no brands are showcased in a particular way (the book’s press release describes it as “brand agnostic”). Despite that, the tome displays a multitude of watches and technical diagrams from more than 90 brands.
Most of this photography has been supplied by brands, but where the sourcing of a certain press photo became impossible, Schmidt turned to photographers working in the field – including our own Ian Skellern and GaryG – which makes for an interesting mix of beautiful images.
This is definitely a reference work for both the beginning and the seasoned watch enthusiast. I recommend you check it out; you won’t be sorry you did.
You can purchase The Wristwatch Handbook at Amazon and anywhere else fine watch books are sold.
Publisher: ACC Art Books
Illustrations: 470 in color, most press photos and some original photos sourced from interesting photographers
Price: $85 / £50