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The Mastery of Time: A History of Timekeeping, from the Sundial to the Wristwatch: Discoveries, Inventions, and Advances in Master Watchmaking [Hardcover]

Dominique Fléchon , Franco Cologni

Price: £65.00 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

10 Oct 2011
This book recounts the history of telling time from the dawn of civilization to the present. More than a simple chronology, it explores the technical resources used to measure timewhether solar, hydraulic, mechanical, or electricaljust as it explains the key factors behind the major breakthroughs in the science of horology. From ancient astronomical observatories to atomic clocks, instruments for telling time have always been closely linked to the cutting-edge sciences of the day, ranging from medicine and navigation to aeronautics. Inventions in timekeeping have been crucial to the organization of human society and to activities such as farming, industry, and trade. Each new development was based on the needs and accomplishments of its day yet spurred further discoveries. Writing a history of time means viewing human genius through the prism of the steady mastery of a crucial technology. The patient, long-term conquest of accuracy has been the result of successive advances from sundial to wristwatch up to the recent exploits of the heirs to this age-old quest, namely master horologists of the twenty-first century.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb illustrated history of all matters temporal 24 Mar 2012
By INTFP92 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I received this book as a gift and I found myself drawn to reading every page. It's a marvelous history of how time has been perceived and measured over the years, with a particular emphasis on the mechanical details of both clocks and watches. If this is a subject that fascinates you - then this is the book to read.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good overview of horological history - although a bit biased 9 Sep 2013
By Fortunat Mueller-maerki - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is a nicely produced book where no cost was spared to locate the right pictures to illustrate the history of timekeeping and produce a thorough overview of timekeeping instruments throughoput the ages. It was an expensive production and resulted in a high quality book.

But a potential purchaser should be aware that the publication of this book was financed by the "Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie" a Swiss based not for profit entity that is funded and financed by the high grade / luxury watchmaking companies of Switzerland. The author, Dominque Flechon, is a recognized writer and horological journalist whose earlier booklength works were brand histories, coffee table books describing a specific brand. The first half of the book (dealing with timekeepers up to the end end of the eighteenth century), is the only recent thorough, global perspective, high publication value publication summarizing horological history including all all recent discoveries and insights. The book is worth buying for that part (and for its gorgeous illustrations ) alone.

The second half is slightly more problematic, the closer we get to the present the more the author's perspective seems to narrow both geographically and regarding types of timekeepers covered. The focus gradually shifts to the - objectivly very significant - Swiss contributions to timekeeping history, and to the luxury/high quality segment of timekeepers. Contributions from other countries (like the introduction of interchangable parts in horology by Terry, or the importance of early machine made watches by e.g. Waltham) are not ignored, but in the opinion of this reviewer are not covered in as much detail as they deserve. Similarly subjects like the Dollar watch/Roskopf watch are glossed over, as is - in more recent times the impact of Asian manufacturing (first Japan then China) on world watch production.

Given that numerically the vast majority of current collectors collect wristwatches a focus on that segment is understandable, but a broader coverage of electronic watches, and mass appeal brands would have increased the scholarly credability of the book. The final quarter of the book does provide a good overview of the last 100 years of (wrist) watch history, although heavily focused on Swiss made, presitige branded, expensive timekeepers.

Fortunat Mueller-Maerki
August 2013
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tempus Fugit 8 Mar 2013
By Sinohey - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The book begins "Some 13.5 billion years ago....." and proceeds to lay out the progression of the development of time keeping through the ages until the present.
It is a monumental work based on vast research by one of the leading experts on horology. The book is well organized in six sections, each composed of several chapters. In the opening section <Horlogy, A child of Astronomy> it sequentially describes the evolution of chronology from the need of early Homo Sapiens to understand the annual cycles, to the massive stone calendars of the Ancient civilizations, to the sundial and ultimately to the mechanical devices.
The next section <From Clock to Watch> spans two centuries when mechanical clocks became more sophisticated, and with the advent of the spring mechanism, shrunk down to a size easily carried in a pocket.
In the section <Achieving Precision>, Flechon delves into the minutiae of technical progress and artistic styles of watchmaking until the beginning of the 19th century. A paragraph is included about the Englishman John Harrison and his work on the Primary Meridian and Longitude lines that helped mariners sail the seven seas.
The remaining half of the book from the chapter<During the Industrial Revolution 1790-1918> to the final chapter < Precious and Technical Fine Watchmaking from 2000 to the Present Day> is dedicated to the watchmaker's craft, describing in details with illustrations and photographs simple mechanisms to Quartz precision and the rebirth of highly sophisticated and complicated (and very expensive) watches.
At a public reading for his book, Dominique Flechon said : "because we wanted this book to reach the widest possible readership, it was only natural to go beyond the first mechanical clocks of the late thirteenth century and to explore the history of humanity; to return to the origins, first to the early calendars, then to non-mechanical clocks and ultimately Fine Watchmaking whose timepieces are works of art and which, when worn, are the very essence of an art of living."

This 450 pages tome has accomplished its author's goal, but has a few deficits that prevent me from giving it 5 stars; namely the dearth of information on the contribution of specific American watchmakers and the superficial treatment of Harrison and his momentous contribution to chronology, geography, seafaring travel and commerce, which deserved a much more detailed description.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent book 1 Feb 2013
By Cristian Salariu - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I got this book as a gift for my wife, she's a big watch fan, almost a specialist and she loved it. It's worth every penny!
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Made a great gift! 3 Jun 2014
By dfr - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
My friend is a collector of clocks and timepieces so this was the perfect gift for him. He's finding it to be very interesting
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