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Masters of Contemporary Watchmaking

by Jordan Ficklin

A while ago J. Edwards let us know about a Wall Street Journal preview of the Masters of Contemporary Watchmaking by Michael Clerizo. Having read the book I thought I would review it here.

As the title suggests Masters of Contemporary Watchmaking is more about the people who make the watches than it is about the watches themselves. I think that is why I liked it so much. Clerizo conducts thoughtful and insightful interviews of the greatest independent watchmakers of our day in a quest to answer the questions: are watchmakers artists? and are watches art? These are the individuals who sit down and make watches from start to scratch, mostly by hand, discovering new techniques and inventing new complications along the way. Clerizo interviewed George Daniels, Svend Andersen, Vincent Calabrese, Philippe Dufour, Antoine Preziuso, Franck Muller, Aniceto Jimenez Pita, Alain Silberstein, Marco Lang, Vianney Halter, and Roger Smith and includes gorgeous photographs of their works inside and out.

From the outside the book looks like an oversized picture book, the kind that belongs on the coffee table and merely starts a conversation, but inside the book is full of text. When it comes to the watches a picture is worth a thousand words, but when it comes to the watchmaker the words are worth a thousand pictures. At the end of each chapter I felt like I had been in the room with Clerizo and the Masters. I have come to appreciate these great watchmakers, their genius, and their insanity. I enjoyed the photography, it portrays the level of skill these watchmakers posses, but I enjoyed the text even more because it illustrates what is necessary to achieve the level of mastery these greats have achieved.

The book was a fantastic read, I recommend it to anyone with an interest in horology, but I will warn you it can be difficult to read. It is way too large to hold in your hands, so be prepared to sit at a desk or table for this one. Be sure you have a reading lamp handy as well, the text is cream colored on a brown background, and on some pages a light brown image hovers behind the text making the book quite difficult to read, especially in lower light conditions. Each and every page is a beautifully composed work of art, but at the price of legibility.

So, you ask, did Clerizo determine if the greats are artists, and if their works are art? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

One Comment

  1. Posted September 10, 2010 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    I couldn’t agree more. It is definitely one of the favourites in my library. I always enjoy reading Clerizo’s pieces in Robb Report and other magazines, as well.

    An interesting, and unusually revealing, article on George Daniels was recently published in the UK, too: http://j.mp/bWGFjU

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