TIMEPIECES  Masterpieces of Chronometry


Pros:  well written, very readable,  author is expert in the field, many and beautiful graphics, glossary and index

Cons:  very small print, niche market, historians, watchmakers and the like will enjoy, others  may not

Horological historian David Christianson has been a certified Master Watchmaker for more than a quarter century. He brings his expertise to bear with his publication TIMEPIECES Masterpieces of Chronometry.

Timepieces Masterpieces of Chronometry is a work of 176 pages and the book  even has a timeline depicting the commercial evolution of the watch set onto the inside and back cover pieces.

A table of contents listing introduction is found on page 6,   8 chapters, beginning on page 18 and continuing to page 161 is followed on page 162 with a Glossary ,  page 173 begins a section having Sources and Further Reading for the interested, Acknowledgements and Index features a two page spread 174 – 175, and Picture Credits are provided on page 176.

The Celestial Clock, the natural timekeeper in the sky telling the passage of time is explained. The text is highlighted with many graphics depicting some of the methods early man used to show the passage of time.  From water flow to sun dials to astronomer priests to armillary spheres and more, humans have wanted to track time from the earliest days.

Chapter 1:  A Call to Prayer, monastery bells regulated every part of the day for the Christian community.   Other religions including Judaism and Islam have long called for prayer during the day, nature often plays a part, sunup, dusk etc. in determining when to pray. At other times devices are relied upon.

This chapter too is filled with many graphics showing early time devices including astronomical compendium, clockwork gearing, early clocks some dating to 945, a 1345 astrarium and more.

Chapter 2The Priceless Possessions of a Few chronicles early domestic clocks of the 14th century. These smaller versions of the huge clocks of earlier days became popular as various of the ruling class developed interest in the devices.

Watchmaking guilds developed, ornate clocks were all the fashion. With the origin of the pendulum tracking time became more precise.

Chapter 2 is replete with graphics, photos and the like of clock makers and some of the clocks they developed.

Chapter 3:  From Tabletop to Waistcoat and Beyond chronicles the introduction of the coiled mainspring during the 15th century and the impact it had on time pieces.

Craft guilds flourished in England throughout Europe. Guilds were begun to protect guild members from competitors and to control wages, market prices and the market itself.

Chapter 3: features many graphics including a copy of an oil painting, the portrait shows a wealthy man holding a pocket watch circa 1558. Numerous watches are shown with case open to allow the early balance wheel and hairspring to be seen. A progression of watches allows the reader see how the watch has changed.

Chapter 4The Craft Era in Watch Making. Watch Making distinct from clock making was concentrated in a small area for the first 300 years of its history. Beginning in central Italy during the 15th century watch making began expanding near the turn of the 18th century.

Small portable timepieces, to be carried in the pocket became highly decorative pieces. Graphics featuring everything from a 17th century clockmaker’s shop, to many pocket watches, to table top models are scattered in the pages of Chapter 4.   Also included is a copy of the Geneva Rules of 101 (Abridged) with rules and regulations governing the Corporation of Watchmakers. Watches featured run the gamut of very early to modern.

Chapter 5The Industrial Revolution brought necessity for the work force to be in the factory or other place of work. If the whistle from the factory’s steam engine did not waken employees; then factory bosses sent around window tappers to get the workforce on their feet.

Timing the Industrial revolution launched mass production methods for producing many watches with various shops responsible for turning out specific portions of the whole.   Eli Terry, master clockmaker of Plymouth Connecticut turned out 4,000 wooden gear clocks between 1807 and 1810; this was the first successful mass production America of a product having interchangeable parts.

Graphics include wood cuts showing factories producing watches and watch parts, as well as a copy of a painting of Eli Terry.   A photo of an Eli Terry mass produced wooden gear movement, mantle clocks, watches, and even a, 1896 photograph showing a group of workmen hard at work in the press department of the movement shop belonging to Wm. L. Gilbert Clock Company’s factory in Winsted, Connecticut.

Chapter 6A Mountain Industry Explodes details how families began specializing with each working on specific watch components in the mountain range forming the boundary between Switzerland and France. From copies of watch factories to pocket watches, this chapter is filled with beauty, and detail

While most of the early paintings, wood cuts and the like show only men producing watches or other time pieces, Women have had a role during nearly the whole of the history. Especially during the Industrial Revolution women and children too began working in the factories. During the 20th century women were accepted fully and began to seek training and pursue employment as watchmakers.

Chapter 7The Standardization of Time and the need for solving the scientific problem regarding to decipher exact position at sea came to the fore. With the advent of the first sextant crafted by John Bird 1757 and the steadfast dedication of John Harrison, who is pictured with his H-4 chronometer which could keep time so accurately at sea that a ship’s longitude could be determined the conundrum plaguing seafaring nations began to become more manageable.

Many copies of painting showing various of the early inventors, sea farers and such are interspersed into the text where they add much to the narrative.

Chapter 8The Quartz Revolution saw great advancement in the perfecting of precision timekeeping. 1928 Bell Telephone Laboratories in New York State saw the development of the first quartz crystal clock by Warren A Marrison. For 4 centuries the standard of portable timepieces had been the balance wheel, and then in 1960 Bulova Watch Company developed a vibrating tuning fork, the invention of Swiss engineer Max Hetzel.

Smaller size and inexpensive cost have caused timepieces to become common place. From many beautiful watches showcased in detail to carefully drawn gears and the like labeled How the Mechanical Watch Works, and the similarly detailed How the Electric Watch Works, this chapter is a treasure trove for those enjoy the minutiae and history of stuff. I do.

The multi-page Glossary begins with Analogue display and ends with Zodiac. The glossary too is filled with photographs, tables, and drawings.

The Bibliography allows the reader to pursue more research should that be a desired option. The Index allows the reader to locate specific areas of interest.

I found this work to be filled with plenty of scientific information presented in a straight forward, easily read manner.

I enjoyed reading the book, and contemplating the evolution of time pieces from earliest days to the present.

Knowing that Writer Christianson is a skilled craftsman who has served as president of the American Watchmakers and Clockmakers Institute, that he not only educates regarding clock and watch restoration, and is a Fellow of the British Horological Institute, but that he also writes for Professional Jeweler and Watchmaking publications lends much to his credibility.

TIMEPIECES Masterpieces of Chronometry is a lovely work filled with the dedication to detail, and result of research presented by a renowned craftsman.

Fascinating read          Happy to Recommended         5 stars



Title: Timepieces Masterpieces of Chronometry

Author: David Christianson

Hardcover: 176 pages

Publisher: Firefly Books

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1552976548

ISBN-13: 978-1552976548

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