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Marie Antoinette's Watch: Adultery, Larceny, & Perpetual Motion Paperback – April 15, 2015
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About the Author
John Biggs lives in Brooklyn, NY and writes books. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Gizmodo, Men’s Health, Popular Science, Sync, The Stir and he's written multiple books including Black Hat and Bloggers Boot Camp. He is also writing a young adult series about a secret train system called Mytro.
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The book combines several narratives:
- About A.L. Breguet, perhaps the most iconic individual watch maker of all time, and his life and career. I enjoyed this a lot. I did not know that Breguet created the first wristwatch in 1810, for example. I wish there was more detail about his work on escapements and springs.
- About Marie Antoinette, her lover, and Revolutionary France. Fascinating mention: she and the king bought and owned hundreds of timepieces in their lifetimes!
- About the theft and eventual recovery of the largest Beguet collection which happens to be in Israel. This I found to be by far the most dry and least interesting part of the story, wishing it weren't a major part of the book.
- Documentary style exposes about horology or the watch industry. This part was most frustrating in its lack of detail and accuracy.
I think that as a novel for general audiences, the book falls short of the fluidity and historical suspense one could find in the DaVinci Code.
For watch and clock aficionados, this is a rare treat and glimpse into history. I admit I wasn't aware that Paris and France were the center of watchmaking in the late 1700s. Or that watches were so important back then. So it was a fascinating read and I learned a lot.
However, as I was filling the blanks in my own knowledge of horology, I realized one needed some prior knowledge to appreciate the book (which I had) and I also found inaccuracies which were annoying.
Some problematic examples:
"Rolex ... is now joined by relative upstarts like Panerai, Omega, and Breitling" -- hmm, Omega and Breitling are older than Rolex, and especially Omega has been bigger than Rolex in many respects throughout most of its history until the quartz crisis.
"Seiko with its Seiko Grand watches and Citizen ... with their higher end wrist computers with features including barometers, altimeters" -- the brand name is Grand Seiko, and Citizen is not known for their altimeter watches.
"Omega, Breitling, and Movado all use ETA movements in even their most expensive watches" -- not entirely true for Omega in the past 10+ years with coaxial. In general the history and role of the Swatch Group and Swatch quartz watches are brushed over with a very, very broad brush.
"When Rolex began using silicon ... collectors sold or shelved their old models and picked up new ones - the equivalent of a Lexus owner selling or or garaging his hat because the company added a different trunk release button" - where do we even begin on this one? First of all, many people prize their old Rolexes and view silicon with suspicion, and secondly silicon is a major upgrade to the "engine" making the mechanical watch more accurate and less susceptible to magnetic fields, so it's worth an upgrade.
Lastly, George Daniels is not given much credit as a watchmaker and is instead referred to mostly as a Breguet historian.
Recommended only for watch lovers who can read with a critical eye. Overall, I expect you will enjoy it.
Many people are not aware that Marie Antoinette was greatly enamoured of me, despite my repeated rebuffs. Indeed, my friendship with her husband the king would never have permitted me to perform such an act, nor would the fear of my wife somehow finding out about it through the 200 year space/time gap that separated us.
My memoirs: Why I Didn't Like the French Revolution
It is not four stars because while the author leary has done research and spoken to experts, he does not seem to have talked to many avid collectors. In his writing on more mundane watches and their collectors he has made what I consider some very minor but significant errors.
I doubt this reflects on his treatment of the title topic but he should have stayed with it and not gone off into other areas.
In the watch itself, it technology and history it's a wonderful book. A lot os speculation but very well informed and thought out.
Most recent customer reviews
Not only do we get to understand the many complexities and history of such an important time piece, we get to...Read more