back to top

The Wristwatch Handbook By Ryan Schmidt

The Wristwatch Handbook By Ryan Schmidt Watch Releases Sponsored Post written for aBlogtoWatch by advertiser

The Wristwatch Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Mechanical Wristwatches is a newly released book designed to be your map and compass to the world of watches. Hardbound, with 352 pages and 470 images from more than 90 brands, it goes where no book has gone before: to the precious space between horological tome and coffee table eye confectionary.

The Wristwatch Handbook By Ryan Schmidt Watch Releases

The Wristwatch Handbook is written by Ryan Schmidt, who in addition to being a watch enthusiast and regular commenter on many an online forum, including aBlogtoWatch, also happens to be me. Not surprisingly I am something of an authority when it comes to talking about myself and what makes the book so special. It is therefore my great privilege to be doing a bit of both today. There are already independent reviews of the book, and there will continue to be more over the coming weeks and months, so the focus of this article is to bring you a closer insight into some of the ‘why’s’ and ‘what’s’ of the book that you won’t find elsewhere.

The Wristwatch Handbook By Ryan Schmidt Watch Releases

© 2016 James Katt

What’s in the book?

Putting the book together required that I scale two mountains: First, and obviously, was the writing of the book. Most of the 165,000 words felt like they had already been written in my mind, they simply required some editorial tuning. Others were a little harder to form, such as the subchapter on sidereal time in the Astronomical Complications chapter. For these highly specific and often scientific topics it was not uncommon for me to disappear into books, websites, or into rambling dialogues with experts, only to emerge with one sentence for the final cut.

At times it was a little maddening, but my absolute priority with the book was to deliver complex subject matter in an accessible yet accurate manner. It is one thing to gain a basic understanding of a complex topic, but to explain a complex topic in a basic manner you need to really understand it, and that sometimes meant going back to school in order to craft a single paragraph. This was my first mountain, and I may have lost some extremities to frostbite along the way, but the summit was worth it and it’s the greatest source of pride that I have in the book. I hope you will find that to ring true when you read it. Even if you are a seasoned enthusiast you will find bits and pieces of information that simply aren’t anywhere else in the public sphere.

The Wristwatch Handbook By Ryan Schmidt Watch Releases

The Wristwatch Handbook is illustrated with some of the most compelling wristwatches ever made, such as the MB&F Legacy Machine Perpetual. © 2016 MB&F

The second mountain was the pulling together of the images. It was extremely important to me that the book be illustrated with the highest quality images out there, and I wanted to demonstrate the sheer variety that the industry has to offer. The book features over 470 images from more than 90 brands. What this translated to was a 90-layer dialogue that I had to engage in with the industry. Almost without exception the brands were very happy to participate, but many had to get a sense of what the book was about. This was a brutally time-consuming process that required the negotiation skills of a lawyer and the excel skills of an accountant. Fortunately I have qualifications in both of these areas so it was a brutal, but ultimately fruitful, experience! Those images that I was unable to obtain straight from the source, I tracked down from auction houses and a handful of independent third party photographers. I was committed to completing the book without losing a single watch from my list, and to have successfully done so is the second greatest source of pride that the book provides me with today.

But what exactly is in the book?

The Wristwatch Handbook By Ryan Schmidt Watch Releases

The table of contents. The back of the book also contains a technical index and brand index.

The book has two distinct sections. Section 1 is entitled ‘Basic Watch Mechanics and the Watch Movement.’ Here you will find an introductory overview of the mechanical movement. Then the book moves deeper into a substantial chapter for each core principle: Power, Transmission, and Distribution & Regulation. In the ‘Power’ chapter I explain the role of the mainspring, the supporting components, manual winding, winding rotors, movements with independent power sources, and extra power. The ‘Transmission’ chapter looks at the way power is translated into a gear train of ever increasing speed, covering topics such the motion work and keyless works, hacking, dead seconds and constant force mechanisms such as the remontoir d’égalité and the fuseé and chain.

In the ‘Distribution & Regulation’ chapter I consider concepts like amplitude and isochronism, and provide an overview of some of the more important escapements of the past and present. This is where you will find the gimbal escapement, the detent, the tourbillon, high frequency balances and those that transcend the horizontal plane. Briefly, so as not to invalidate the title of the book, I touch upon some of the more important and fascinating alternative movements out there, such as the tuning fork, the atomic movement, and spring drive.

The Wristwatch Handbook By Ryan Schmidt Watch Releases

Dead seconds and independent seconds are featured in the Transmission chapter of the book.

The Wristwatch Handbook By Ryan Schmidt Watch Releases

The gimbal escapement, with associated diagrams, is featured in the Distribution and Regulation chapter.

The Wristwatch Handbook By Ryan Schmidt Watch Releases

A subchapter entitled ‘Beyond 5Hz’ takes you on a journey of mechanical frequencies from 5Hz to a blistering 1,000Hz.

Section 2 is entitled ‘Complications’. Each chapter provides a theme for any given complication to be categorized into. The chronograph, for example, is featured in ‘Recording Lapses of Time’; the torque indicator in ‘Power and Performance Indicators’; the phase of the moon indicator in ‘Astronomical Complications’; and the sonnerie in ‘Chiming Complications.’  Some of these complications provide the user with an objective reading; others are a little more flamboyant. In the ‘Novelty Indication’ chapter, for example, you will find regulators, retrograde indicators, orbital and digital displays.

This is the chapter where time is indicated by the meniscus between two coloured liquids, by telescopic hands, or magnetically suspended spheres. The penultimate chapter is entitled ‘The Whimsical and Playful.’ This is where the bird chirps, the music plays, and the casino floor comes to life under the translucent ceiling of a sapphire crystal. The final chapter brings out the big guns, the super-complicated watches, the monsters that provide an all-in-one platform for many of the complications covered earlier in the book.

The Wristwatch Handbook By Ryan Schmidt Watch Releases

The GMT/UTC complication is featured in the ‘Additional Time Zone Complications’ chapter.

The Wristwatch Handbook By Ryan Schmidt Watch Releases

Repeaters and sonneries are featured in the ‘Chiming Complications’ chapter.

The Wristwatch Handbook By Ryan Schmidt Watch Releases

The ‘Super Complicated Watches’ chapter is set aside for some of the most complex watches ever made, including a handful of iconic pocket watches.

Every complication and every subheading is illustrated with high quality shots of the models that best represent the subject, whether they are vintage or current day, elegant or avant garde, low cost or expensive (or extremely expensive), mass-produced or built by one man in a workshop the size of a large shed. This is a ‘brand agnostic’ book with an intentionally diverse range. It’s not my intention for the reader to love every watch in the book; what I hope is for them to appreciate each watch has having a rightful place in the halls of horology.

Images are largely front-facing, but when necessary the book features shots of the back, of the uncased movement, or of isolated components. Occasionally labels are added; otherwise the watch is shown in its untouched glory and on a scale that does not require a loupe to appreciate the smallest of details.

The Wristwatch Handbook By Ryan Schmidt Watch Releases

Some complications, such as the hour angle, have been lost in antiquity and therefore a vintage model provides the most apt illustration.

The Wristwatch Handbook By Ryan Schmidt Watch Releases

Daniels No1 watch movement by Roger Smith, Isle of Man. © 2012 Roger W Smith

What makes the book unique?

The excitement of deciding to write a book was almost immediately followed by the fear that, somewhere out there, there already existed one that was everything I had in mind. As a result, the early days of this journey started with a nervous but detailed assessment of the competition. I had already read with great interest the foundational texts, such as Theory of Horology and Watchmaking, and owned a handful of the coffee table watch books. My experience of the textbooks is that they, quite intentionally, are only suitable for the most cerebral of enthusiasts, whereas the coffee table book speaks volumes in visual aesthetic but rarely matches it with content. I wanted to create something that delivered the essential subject matter for an enthusiast, collector, or budding watchmaker, but that transports them from the classroom into the boutique, the manufacture, and right onto or under the dials of hundreds of watches.



Disqus Debug thread_id: 5342963019

  • CognacSocialist

    I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I only wish that it had been available when I first got into watches. It fills a genuine gap in the market.

  • BrJean

    I don’t own any books about watches but this has a very high chance to be the first one I’d buy.

  • SuperStrapper

    Love my copy, been through it entirely 3x now. It sits beside Ariel’s book, and on the other side is George Daniel’s tome. As far as I’m concerned, the essential trifecta of watch-related books.

    About time this article came out!

    Ryan, how do I get your autograph in my copy?


    • Where are you based Mr Strapper?
      If you want to discuss on email, there is a contact form on my website (link at end of article) – just make it clear its from SuperStrapper and we can work something out sir.

      • SuperStrapper

        The Grande City of Canada. So, likely nowhere near you.

        But, I travel a lot both personally and professionally, and I would be happy to take this with me on a trip that could result in us crossing paths. I’ll find you via email and open a line of communication.

        Nice to have, not need to have, so don’t burn too many calories over it.

        • Yojimbo

          you live in Grande Prairie!? I used to work out in the patch way back, I haven’t been up there since back when Weibo was blowing well heads and ppl would insist on using their horse at the drive thru

          • SuperStrapper

            Lol Grande prairie.

            No, just the humble pit of liberal fuckwits known in the south as ‘Terranah’.

          • Yojimbo

            I’m a reformed liberal fuckwit, however I doubt you’ll approve of my green with feet in the ndp affiliations any moreso.

            I presume you meant to write grandest and not ‘grande’ then? I like my GTA in small doses no larger than the delicious bowls of pho at Pho Tien Thanh (accept no substitutes!)

          • SuperStrapper

            No, I was trying to be funny and suggest that Canada itself was the city.

            I actually liked Leyton, but Tommy the Commie is a problem. We are all hurt by our current PM Shiny Pony Selfie Haircut.

          • Yojimbo

            Mulcair the man who started NDP went to the Libs, cockteased the Tories and went back to the NDP after a hot moment with the Libs? He’s no threat to anyone. I was speaking strictly provincially. Federally I’m Rhino party all the way

          • SuperStrapper

            Anything’s better than Lieberal…

          • I think city is overstating it – Canada, Kansas that is:,_Kansas

            Or were you thinking of some other Canadas?

    • Looks like we will have matching 3 volume sets (Ryan’s, Ariel’s and George’s tomes).

  • ??????

    I want it badly. Cannot imagine a better companion for my morning coffees 🙂

    • Marius
      • ??????

        I imagine Margot Robbie reading me about complications..

        • It worked for structured finance in The Big Short. This could be a game changer for horology. What’s her number? I will go ahead and call her.

          • ??????

            I was hypnotized by her explanations of structured finance. A series of videos of her explaning watch complications would go viral!

          • G Street

            Her explanation of Lange’s hand engraved balance cock would launch a thousand horological wet dreams…..

          • Steve Bowden

            I was going to say I was in a relationship with Margot Robbie on Facebook…but the real truth is that ‘it’s complicated’.

      • egznyc

        Nothing wrong with that to be sure. Then again, not all gentlemen prefer blondes.

    • DanW94

      I ABSOLUTELY love watches and books about watches, but yeah, I gotta go with Marius on this one…..

  • Yojimbo

    I will buy this book if you can decisively defeat Louis Nardin by submission or k.o. inside the octagon


    • Actually we are on the same tag-team, one-two knockout horological punch…

  • Marius

    I also wrote a book. Here is a picture of me before a book signing event. Excuse my haircut; my hairdresser is currently out of town (tax evasion charges from what I’ve heard).

  • Shinytoys

    Pretty darn impressive, Ryan !!! Congratulations and much luck with your book !!

    • You beauty! And just as well, hats almost always look silly on me 🙂

  • MEddie90

    I’ve only just heard of this book and already it has shot up near the top of my reading list. While i’m well acquainted with the working of a wristwatch its always nice to get a new perspective and I cant even imagine how helpful something would have been as a newcomer.

    Congrats to Ryan on what sounds like an engaging and well structured read, looking forward to having a flick through.

    • Thank you! That’s exactly what I hope the book to be – the thing I would have liked to pick up early in my own journey. We are the machete men of the horological jungle.

  • IanE

    Well I have a copy (and was impressed enough to give it a plug on another, UK-based blog/forum). An impressive achievement, with Tour de Force coverage of the watch universe!

    • I appreciate that Ian – I know the very thread!

  • DanW94

    Bravo Ryan. It’s on my Christmas list. Look forward to reading it over the Holidays.

    • Enjoy Dan! Not a lot of puns in there but some fun awaits…

  • “Honey, are you spending more money on watches?”

    “Pffft, no. This is a BOOK about watches.”

    –a conversation I can see myself having in the near future.

  • GhostlyProduct

    Just ordered mine today on Amazon! I’ve heard so many great things about the book I went ahead and took the plunge. Quill & Pad plus A Blog to Watch really twisted my arm on this one.

  • Tõnis Leissoo

    Just ordered! These kind of Sponsored posts are the most useful 😉

  • Timestandsstill

    I’ve had my copy for about a month now but haven’t time to really delve into it but I can say without any hesitation that it’s a fantastic book, thoroughly researched and well written. A true labor of love! Well worth the money for anyone serious about watches and haute horlogerie.
    Congratulations Ryan!

    • Very kind words, and I wish you well with the move!

  • Shinyitis

    Appreciate a lot of your informative comments on here, Ryan – so ordered it immediately upon hearing through the grapevine! Looks a beastly book..

  • Juan-Antonio Garcia

    Well Mr Ryan, I have to tell you that by reading your post, I was immediately hooked, and if this is just a tease, I want the whole enchilada. I will buy this book. Congratulations.

    • Thank you! I wanted to write something special for this special site; but make no mistake there will be enchiladas and extra sauce.

  • Beefalope

    I bought this book about a month ago and am gradually working my way through it. Very enjoyable and well worth the money. Great photography, too.

  • Lincolnshire Poacher

    I’d like to buy this. Especially as the author posts here, and appears to have a healthy helping of the organic cogs and sprockets that make up a persons gray-matter movement.
    I’ve bought more watches in a shorter space of time than usual. So I might just get past xmass and then see about getting a copy.

  • G Street

    My copy arrived last Thursday and i echo what has already been said. It is a very handsome tome with excellent photography. An additional benefit is the upper body workout you receive when you pick it up! 🙂

    • When I received my preview copy the FedEx guy chucked it at my door and the whole house shook!

  • Great – I’ve been waiting for your book to become available Ryan. Just now ordered on Amazon. Christmas present to myself – not that I deserve it, but hey my Skyscraper watch was successfully funded on Kickstarter so I can’t claim my usual watch poverty for a week or two!

    • Congrats on the funding Mark!

    • Berndt Norten

      You deserve a book today

  • Berndt Norten

    Last Christmas I gave Wife a book
    And the very next day
    She gave it away
    This Christmas I bought ME this book
    I think that it’s something special

  • David Williams

    Clearly a tremendous book – as a writer myself, I appreciate the effort it took – I’ll be buying!

  • Andrew Hughes

    My copy is in the mail from Amazon and I simply cannot wait to dig in. So many sources of online information assume that their viewers all know the basics or even the more complex aspects of horology, but that simply is not the case. This book should fill the need I have been feeling since I started collecting watches and trying to write my own blogs. I felt your pain when you talked about hours of research resulting in a single sentence. Been there and done that too!

    • Thank you Andrew, I hope you enjoy it! I wanted to create something that was like a swimming pool with a very nice shallow end, but that had a very satisfying deep-end!

      • Andrew Hughes

        ha ha. That is a great analogy. It’s time for me to leave the pool’s edge and dive a bit deeper. I am very excited about this because I have felt that I sometimes lack the technical expertise to comment or critique, but that never stopped me from trying. I plan on writing a review on Amazon and my own blog. Now… you deserve some time off… or have you already decided to write something else. You must be really bored with all this spare time now.

        • Lol – actually I have a day job so I haven’t regained spare time, just sleep time!! I do however have a couple of projects that I am excited about slowly developing. Any reviews would be very welcome, many thanks Andrew.

          • Andrew Hughes

            It will be my pleasure to review. Sleep… yes, catch up on that for sure. Soon, the writing bug will infect you again and thinking about the day job will get in the way of your real obsession. Just a prediction…

  • awildermode

    I just convinced the wife to let me buy this…so she can ‘give’ it to me for Christmas.

  • B W Wooster

    No plans to translate it into Swedish in the near future I presume. or?

    • I would love to get a publisher on board for that. The French version is out now and we expect it to be in German next year too. If you can recommend a good Swedish language publisher that might want to license the book let me know!

      • B W Wooster

        I have to think about that, would be awesome, otherwise it has to be the hard way – study English, oder Deutsch lernen.

  • Jasper Nielsen
  • Jasper Nielsen

    I just got this as a christmasgift from the missus, and I’m totallty blown away….I just cant seem to put it down! A first, skimmering through the glossy pages of the most beautiful watches outhere, to getting in a little deeper. Discovering, and putting the puzzels of my somewhat limited knowledge and understanding together, to form a complete image of the marvoulous that is mechanical watches. I look forward to spend the next many evenings, memorized and awed, by overflow of information and stunning pictures of all those mechanical wonders I still haven’t even hear about.
    Thank you so much Ryan, for creating this amazing encyclopedia of the whole concept of mechanical watches. I am a fan!
    On a personal note. Since I first saw, and later got to hold and try, the Jaeger-LeCoultre – Extreme LAB2, I haven’t been able to get it out of my head, seeming the to be the perfect mechanical watch for me. What is your thought on this piece?
    Much appreciated, Jasper Nielsen

    • Thank you Jasper! I love the extreme lab 2 – no lube, crown position indicator, and that superb power reserve indicator – it’s a very cool piece from a very cool brand.

      • Jasper Nielsen

        Thanks for your reply Ryan, glad to hear your opinion (you made my newyear)
        Happy newyear to you!

        • You too jasper!

          • Jasper Nielsen

            Hello again Ryan! Now 10 month down the line from receiving your amazing book, I just felt compelled to let you know how much I appreciate it. Reading, looking up and just enjoying the beautiful pictures, on a weekly basis, it is an absolutely amazing piece of literature and I can not recommend it enough!
            For the past 10 month I have been going through an exponential learning curve thanks to your discriptions and explanations, which you relay in a very easy-understandable way…even for one, for whom English is the second language.

            Are you planning on making updates to “The wristwatch handbook” when big steps are taken in the industry, such as the Zenith Defy Lab movement, so that we can enjoy your perspective on it? Or do you have other publications in the works?

            Again thank you, and all the best to you. You’re a great inspiration!


          • Hello Jasper! Thank you very much for your feedback. One day it will make sense to update the book but it will be on a slow cycle. Until then I am now writing quite regularly for a few outlets so keep an eye out and you will get a feel for where I am on these innovations. I am going to reorganize my website so all my articles are tracked so watch this space! R

  • Vuk

    Took two months to arrive, but its finally here!!! ?
    Can’t wait to dig deeper, beginning was more than promising…

    • Gosh – where are you based and where did you buy it from?! Enjoy it sir.

      • Vuk

        I’m based in Serbia, and we are known for problematic import regulations. I’ve ordered it directly from the publisher. Thanks, will do! 🙂