Book Review: ‘The Magic Of Watches’ By Louis Nardin
It is not widely known that watch journalist, author, and The Watches TV presenter Louis Nardin comes from one of the most famous watch families in Switzerland. If you’re a regular reader of Quill & Pad, you surely get it now: “Nardin.”
So it’s no great surprise that Louis Nardin has watchmaking in his blood.
However, like most descendants of a line of traditional craftspeople and entrepreneurs, and despite growing up in his native La Chaux-de-Fonds, Nardin first went his own way, studying subjects like history, sociology, and journalism, which have nothing at all to do with watchmaking.
As it turned out, though, watches won him over in the end, and he ended up in horology anyway, though in perhaps a more unexpected way: writing about watches rather than making them.
My own career trajectory crossed his – where else? – at an event thrown by Ulysse Nardin. This was surely no accident (and I say that even though I do not believe in destiny or any such thing). I just think that good people with common interests and similar passions will find each other. Just look at where I’ve ended up with Ian Skellern, for example (kind of proves my point, doesn’t it?).
What struck me about Nardin from day one – and in case you are curious, we did end up working together closely for a few years after this meeting, a time I still treasure in my long career – was his enviable energy and passion for the subject. I felt like I had met a kindred soul.
Next, Nardin met the love of his life and he knew somewhere deep inside him that the serious part of life might soon begin. So instead of continuing on what he had thus far built career-wise, he did something totally unexpected. He and his future wife quit their jobs in the watch industry and traveled the world for almost a year, going places that most westerners never venture – and in a way most would never think to do.
You are surely beginning to wonder what in the world all this preamble has to do with a book review. Bear with me: it has everything to do with this book review.
Why a book, why this one?
While on this monumental trip, Nardin had to explain again and again to people he met from various cultures what he did for a living. And through these conversations featuring a multitude of incredulous questions that I am completely familiar with – yes, this happens to me over and over when I tell people what I do for a living – he began to understand outside conceptions of what watches are.
And then it hit him: a book was needed, one that explains everything you’d ever want to know about a watch. A Lonely Planet-style guide to timepieces for the beginner if you will.
And so began the path to The Magic of Watches, something I can truly say is a monumental work matching the feelings he’d experienced about his new-yet-not-so-new relationship to horology during his once-in-a-lifetime trip.
Not the only comprehensive overview
I recently reviewed The Wristwatch Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Mechanical Wristwatches by Ryan Schmidt, which was released at the same time. While this is also an overview-style book, the two are completely different. Both books are equally designed to be something of a compass for the budding enthusiast and for the absolute beginner, but they really couldn’t be more different in looks and content.
Nardin is a young but experienced watch journalist, while Schmidt is a newly engrossed enthusiast – and happily the tones of both of their books are equally enthusiastic and knowledgeable and reflect both styles of enthusiasm.
The big differences become apparent in the content, in particular because Schmidt uses brands as his examples for the in-depth descriptions of mechanics, while Nardin prefers to keep his text neutral, only singling out a brand where he deemed it necessary to make a point – with the exception of 15 pages on Nardin’s choices of a handful of icons of the twentieth century. His text is kept factual, to-the-point, and very easy to understand.
For both, these books were complete passion projects. And the reader wins. Do note they are meant to be read in bits and bobs and not straight though like a novel. Unless you prefer to do it that way, that is.
As Nardin has meanwhile found out, watches “subtly express who you are.” He has known who he is for quite a while now – and that is why he can teach you so much about watches and why they are so magic. Because they really are.
But sometimes you need to go out into the world to find what’s right in front of you.
Languages: English and French (La Magie des Montres)
Price: $44.99 / €39.99 / 39.99 Swiss francs