Book Review: ‘Chronographs For Collectors’ By Sébastien Chaulmontet And Joël Pynson
Vintage timepieces are a hot topic right now.
But that is not the reason that Sébastien Chaulmontet and Joël Pynson chose to write and publish a book on vintage chronographs: they wrote this book because they love these little objects stuffed not only with gears, wheels, and springs, but also history, tradition, and artistic craftsmanship.
Vintage chronographs, one might say, is their thing. And spreading their love of these objects and their knowledge of them is the sole purpose of this book. And it shows!
Chaulmontet, a trained lawyer, is a collector of both vintage chronographs and Angelus timepieces. He also has a brilliant horological mind as evidenced by his work with La Joux-Perret and its wholly owned brands Arnold & Son and Angelus (well, actually, they are all owned by Citizen now). Chaulmontet is head of innovation for all three entities.
Co-author Joël Pynson, a French doctor of ophthalmology and aeronautical medicine, has been friends with Chaulmontet for years. Also interested in vintage timepieces, Pynson authored 2015’s Le Chronographe de Poche Suisse, published by Antoine Simonin, which is the story of the Swiss pocket chronograph told in encyclopedic manner. It puts more than 160 calibers and 800 total illustrations on display.
Chronographs for Collectors is blessed with exceedingly clear structure.
This begins with “The 30minChrono-Index” on page 2, a useful chart explaining the rating system of each of the 30 historical chronographs described in this book. Technology, rarity factor, and price make up the rating criteria.
After the table of contents comes an introduction that includes a brief history of chronographs.
Then the bulk of the book comprising 30 chapters is illustrated by the authors’ choice of 30 historical chronograph wristwatches. These 30 watches do not necessarily include famous or rare historical timepieces, but rather watches that are “characteristic” of their era. Today these are of course somewhat underestimated and underappreciated timepieces.
And this is the best thing about this book: it’s very obviously driven by “real” choices proving the authenticity of the authors’ passion; there is no Patek Philippe in sight and only one Rolex model. A very refreshing state of being.
The premise of this book, in fact, is to list the historical chronographs that the authors find significant and to tell us why using four-fold chapter organization: a short-but-sweet summary of the chosen brand, original photos taken by Pynson of the chosen watch, an “expert opinion” section, and a related watches/calibers section called “family resemblances.”
Finally, there is the end matter, which includes the French-English glossary of watch terms used, an index, a bibliography, and an illustrated chronograph movement to help explain component terminology.
And the hologram illustration on the front cover is an inspired detail that is sure to attract buyers in a brick-and-mortar bookstore. As someone who already has the pleasure of owning this book, I also very much appreciate this playful detail.
There are some chronographs described in this book that I would have expected to find here, and there are some that I may not have expected, but whose presence really thrills me personally because they were so outstanding at their time, yet meanwhile almost completely forgotten.
I would have expected to find entries for Omega, Breitling, Lémania, Vénus, Longines, Valjoux, Minerva (though Minerva’s inclusion is something I also find thrilling), and the Angelus Chronodato – as I said above, Chaulmontet is an avid collector of that brand.
One of the more forgotten chronographs included here is the Dubey & Schaldenbrand Index-Mobile from 1943. This particular model may have also remained hidden from me as well – since I’ve only been working with watches since 1991 and am not particularly versed in deep vintage – if it weren’t for my own friendship with Cinette Robert.
Robert, an acknowledged expert on vintage watches from Les Ponts-de-Martel, built her collection and reputation mainly during the years of the quartz crisis. In 1995 she became owner of Dubey & Schaldenbrand, reviving the brand and even the Index-Mobile in the form of a watch called Spiral One, for which she used the original springs visible on the dial.
The authors begin the Index-Mobile’s chapter as follows: “If there is a single prime example of ingenuity applied to the chronograph then it has to be Dubey & Schaldenbrand’s Index-Mobile.”
I’ll let you discover the reason for this statement yourself in the book. I just wanted to put it out there as an excellent example of the type of not-your-average material this book offers.
As for the book mechanics, the layout, printing, and binding are excellent quality. Time to Tell is a new publishing company founded to accommodate the publishing and distribution of reference books like this. Particularly, I assume, those that the duo intends on publishing.
Its website is interesting as it also accommodates a data base of 120 calibers. I hope the authors plan on expanding that part of the site.
This book was originally written in French, so the English is translated material. The translation is good with only occasional awkward wording, which is the result of a lack of copyediting (a common general plight for all book publishing these days).
The extensive photography was done by Pynson, an apt photographer. The inclusion of vintage advertisements is an interesting touch that adds a great deal of interest.
This is a true product created from the authors’ passion for the subject. It is a great read for connoisseurs and collectors and also for those newly interested in horological history.
For more information and to purchase this book please visit time2tell.com.
Quick Facts Chronographs For Collectors
Publisher: Time to Tell
Page count: 232
Illustrations: 450 previously unpublished photographs
Binding: hardcover, 24 x 28 cm
Languages: English and French
Price: €145 / 160 Swiss francs / $199