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Swiss timepiece makers, 1775-1975

by Kathleen H Pritchard

  Print book

'THE" reference directory of the historic watchmakers of Switzerland   (2012-10-18)


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by horology

<h3>Book Review</h3> <h1 style="line-height: 200%;">Swiss Timepiece Makers, 1775-1975</h1> <h2>By Kathleen H. Pritchard, published in 1997, for the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, by Phoenix Publishing.  ISBN 0-914659-79-0, approx. 1800 pages, 2 Volumes, hardcover, in cassette, approx. 16x24 cm. Available at NAWCC (for North America) or Antoine Simonin, Neuchatel – Switzerland (for Europe), US$ 125.  Numerous b&w illustrations reproducing trademarks and advertisements, Bibliography, Foreword by Henry B. Fried.</h2>


“Swiss Timepiece Makers, 1775 – 1975” is destined to become a “must-have” reference book on the shelf of any serious collector of watches and the dedicated student of horological history.  The two encyclopedic volumes list -- in strictly alphabetical order – detailed entries for about 2000 Swiss based makers of timepieces, covering a 200 year timespan.  The entries are fully cross-referenced covering individuals, companies, brand- and  model-names, trademarks, as well as names of the US importers that often appeared on the dials.  A typical entry will include  name, location, dates active, personal or corporate history, logos and brand names used,  model names, types of timepieces produced, as well as bibliographical references.  The majority of entries, of course, are cross-references  from brand-, trade- and model-names to each  maker’s main entry.  Most main entries are about a dozen lines long, but they range from the the short, such as  e.g. “Patenoste, Jean: Geneva, Master watchmaker, 1775-1792”, to a 25 page monograph on e.g. “Patek, Philippe & Co”, which includes 8 variations of their corporate name, a list of 30 model names, its own two page bibliography and an extensive history of the maker, including the names of key executives and craftsman.


This book is the result of a 30-year labor of love by one of the most knowledgeable and diligent scholars of the history of Swiss horology. Kathleen Pritchard is a well-known author and researcher in U.S horological circles; she is a Star Fellow of the NAWCC, and a longtime former Trustee of the NAWCC museum.  Ms. Pritchard is clearly aware that the broadness of her topic is such that the listings are not complete – they never can be complete, one can always find one more source, one more name.  But after assembling this information for several decades she felt that the time was ripe to share her data with her fellow horological enthusiasts.  She states in the introduction that she intends to continue her reading of the horological literature, to correct, update and expand the book (incorporating  readers' suggestions) in the future.  Given today’s computer technology there is no longer any need for the big print-runs that used to cause decades to pass between successive editions of such specialized books.


It is my impression that the book in its current form is more thorough on the watch side than regarding clocks, which, given the smaller production runs and how little has been published on them,  are a lot more difficult to research bibliographically. The physical presentation of the books is good and solid:  These are not flashy volumes for the coffee table, but serious reference and research tools, which are sturdily bound (the 2 volumes held in an attractive cassette), using small typeface, and  jam packed with useful information, logically presented.


Pritchards’ Swiss Timepiece Makers are destined to become a perennial classic on the researcher’s bookshelf, a tool nobody will want to miss, taking their well deserved space of honor besides -- and complementing – such classics as Britten, Baille, Loomes, and Kochmann. 


Book review by Fortunat Mueller-Maerki, Sussex, NJ, USA- 1997

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