My Primary Sources of Watch Knowledge
I have learned over the years not to trust the folklore found in watch forums or coverage in blogs or even respected periodicals. I prefer to look to primary sources for information, especially industry publications and directories. And period advertisements can be quite helpful to uncover dates of introduction and company information.
My favorite primary sources for watch history include the following:
- The various publications in the Europa Star club archive, which has recently been expanded to include their Trade Bulletin since 1936 and Latin American editions since 1942. These include excellent contemporary coverage of the industry, photographs, and period advertisements. It is well worth joining the Europa Star Club to access their excellent searchable online archive!
- Indicateur Davoine, an annual trade magazine dating back to 1842 and available online from Réro Doc. It is quite spotty after the 1960s but is a tremendous resource when paired with the Europa Star archive. Focused at first on La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle, it later expanded to include the entire Swiss industry and even features some non-Swiss content in later issues.
- La Fédération Horlogère, a twice-weekly newspaper for the watch industry dating back to 1886. Also available from Réro Doc, Fédération Horlogère is some serious “inside baseball” but excellently covers the industry from the turn of the century to the 1940s. The Réro archive ends in 1947, just where Europa Star picks up with their expanded archive.
- The WatchTime and QP magazine archives can really help with modern watches. WatchTime’s online archive back to 2000 is searchable for subscribers and is worth the price of subscription! QP is no longer online but included downloadable PDFs of most issues from 2003 to 2016, and many issues and articles are available from other sources if you Google them.
- Historic documents from the companies themselves are widely available online, including a vast trove of technical documents about historic watch movements. For example, Plus9Time maintains a wonderful collection of historic Seiko catalogs and OnTheDash is invaluable for Heuer research.
- Historic postcards and photos are sometimes available from sites like Mémoires d’Ici and even eBay! And the Confédération Suisse has a “Journey Through Time” feature for historic maps.
- The archived history of watchmakers own websites on Archive.org are illuminating if you know how to search. Sadly, many were Flash-based in the 2000s and are no longer usable.
- Annuaire des adresses pour La Chaux-de-Fonds et Le Locle is essentially the phone book for La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle. The Réro Doc archive extends from 1899 through 1988, with a few later editions. Although most of it is irrelevant, there is a solid list of “Adresses Professionnelles Horlogerie” in most volumes. Sadly, it is limited to La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle. Another excellent resource is E-Periodica, a service of ETH. It is also helpful to consult the Illustrated Professional Dictionary of Horology to learn the meanings of watchmaking terms.
- New York Times “Times Machine” is a searchable archive of the New York Times for over 150 years. Although coverage of the Swiss watch industry is scarce, what is included tends to be golden, like their coverage of Bulova and the Accutron or the rise of Japanese quartz watches.
You will notice that I do not have much of a library of watch books, and these would not be searchable if I did. I simply have not purchased many books, though the ones I do have are excellent.
I also could not possibly list all of the wonderful industry contacts I have built through friends like Serge Maillard, Fred S. Mandelbaum, Sander Peeters, Charlie Dunne, Eric Wind, Jeff Stein, Todd Levin, Bill Sohne, Roy Davidoff, Alon Ben Joseph and so many others. They are a wonderful source of inspiration and information, and I am truly lucky to have them as fellow travelers in my journey through watch history!