J. Beringen, Horloges van Nederlandse Uurwerkmakers, Labor Grafimedia B.V., Utrecht, 2012, 90 pages (ISBN 978-90-818942-0-3; € 25); C. Peeters, Hollandse Horloges, Breda/Nijmegen, 2012, 327 pages (ISBN 978-90-74083-03-4; € 115), both in Dutch.
Since 1973 no books on watches had been published in Dutch until earlier this year, when two totally different books appeared. Contrary to previous books in Dutch, these two concentrate on Dutch watches only. Peeters states in his apology for writing the book that he will not say much about the technical aspects of the history of watchmaking, but that he mainly intends to please. Beringen’s book, on the other hand, takes the form of a catalogue with a myriad of technical details. I will first discuss Peeters.
Hollandse Horloges is mainly a picture book with descriptions and explanations. The author distinguishes three watch categories: necklace watches, pocket watches and coach watches and after having mentioned the roots of Dutch watchmaking, he deals with various examples from the late sixteenth century to the late eighteenth century (1580 -1786) in chronological order, which forms the bulk of the book. The final chapters include one that focuses on some interesting movements, which have lost their cases and/or dials, short biographies of the makers, a page dedicated to the Huguenots and a bibliography.
The author’s goal has been achieved: the photography is good, though not always consistently so, the texts are interesting and easy to read, especially when enamelled scenes on the cases are described. The Dutch is almost colloquial and betrays the author’s love for his subject on almost every page. The wealth of Dutch watchmaking from the various centres, Amsterdam, Haarlem, Leeuwarden (Friesland), The Hague and Rotterdam becomes abundantly clear, complemented by the products of provincial makers. Not only watches from museums and private collections in the Netherlands are included but also from sources abroad, such as the Louvre Museum, the British Museum, the Patek Phillippe Museum in Geneva and the Historisches Museum in Basel. However, the book could have been so much better, if an outsider had gone through the manuscript to purge it of the inevitable mistakes (Wybrandi’s watch (pp. 20-22) does not have an alarm contrary to what is said; the enigmatic Liedt (‘Leeth’, p. 49), which the author has no explanation for, is discussed in the Horological Desk Diary 2012 (p. 152); a repeat is very often activated by pulling a cord, especially in the case of coach watches, not only by pressing the pendant; the relation between date ring and number of days of the month indicated on the watches is unclear (p. 71), most of the time inscriptions in French or Latin are explained but not always, etc., and it would have benefited from being bilingual.
There are very brief summaries of most watches in adequate, though not quite perfect English on the last few pages of the book, but it would have been better if they had been at the bottom of each relevant page, together with basic details such as the thickness of the watches, whether or not there is a fusee, etc. I also missed a general index as the author makes very interesting side steps to enamellers or silver or goldsmiths, which are now difficult to retrace.
Having looked at this attractively presented and highly readable book, let’s now turn to the other by Beringen, which covers the same period but has a much more technical content.
The author starts out by describing the history of watch collecting in the light of the collection housed in the Nederlands Zilvermuseum (Schoonhoven), which forms the basis of this book, followed by a brief history of Dutch watchmaking in the 17th and 18th centuries and the role of the Huguenots. Subsequently, the outward appearance of watches as well as the technical construction are discussed, with each component separately highlighted and the terminology explained. Thus, setting-up systems, regulation, back cocks, pillars, and hands pass in review. By the time we come to the catalogue itself (p. 28) it has become clear that the photography is not nearly as good as that in Peeters’ book. Surprisingly, there is very little overlap between the two books and where there is, they complement each other. The catalogue is more than just an enumeration of facts. Indeed, after the standard introduction of data there sometimes is an interesting supplement, either about the object itself, or the maker, or about a general aspect of watches, such as technical innovation, dial character or historical background. The presentation of the data is very systematic, from identification, through case, movement and embellishments to dial. It seems somewhat odd that the entry for a watch with a striking train is ‘repetition’, even if it concerns self-striking watches. Amongst the data the thickness of a watch is never given. The reason for this might be that movements without a case are also included in the total of 90 watches. The book concludes with a list of makers with page references, a very useful glossary of technical terms and a bibliography, but sadly a general index is missing.
In conclusion, it should be said that horological literature related to watches has been done a favour with both of these books, but together they form a great team, not only for those who have mastered Dutch, but for all who like to look at and study Dutch antique watches.
Wim van Klaveren, Garford