The short version of this review is simply: buy this book if you are a watch enthusiast and have not already read it. Written by a watchmaker and aimed primarily for others working in the watch industry, there is so much useful and relevant information here for anyone interested in the watch hobby, that this is no-brainer purchase.
The author, Anthony L, has been fixing watches since he was 12. Pressured into watchmaking by his parents at such a young age he quickly learned to resent the profession. However, it is a profession that he persevered with in order to fund his further education and now, many years later, he is still a watchmaker. Along the way Anthony has received Rolex, Breitling, Omega, and Jaeger-LeCoultre training and now has accumulated, literally, a lifetime of experience in the watch business.
Anthony’s early experiences and his subsequent negativity towards watchmaking lends the book a direct, objective tone that, while not necessarily negative, definitely steers well clear of the romanticism often extolled when talking of watchmaking. As the title proclaims, there is no BS here. Here is a book that gets right to the point and does not mince its words.
Anthony, if that is indeed his real name, does not state the reason for not revealing his full name in the book but it is mentioned on his website. By staying anonymous, the author is able to remain within the heart of the industry while giving us enthusiasts his honest and sometimes close to the bone opinions.
The books is organized into tips dedicated to a single question or concept, for example, tip 66 covers the ‘Benefits of Buying at Authorized Dealers’ while tip 25 answers ‘How Often Should You Service Your Watch?’. Most tips are a page or two while a few require a couple pages more to fully explain the concept and justify Anthony’s point of view. As a result it is very simple to dip in to the book, find an answer to a question and then dip back out again.
Don’t expect to necessarily agree with all of his points however. On more than one occasion when reading, I found myself internally debating his viewpoint against my own. Most of the time however, the advice is thankfully clear and often just common sense combined with his horological insight and experience. There is no magic or secrecy here – all of Anthony’s reasoning is laid bare. I was especially happy to read that his view on watch winders aligned perfectly with my own (spoiler alert: they are unnecessary and prematurely damage your watches).
For all the useful information in the book, there is no real flow to the tips at the beginning and the information seemingly comes from random directions. The tips are numbered, but they are not in presented in numerical order, the reason for which is not disclosed. Each tip stands on its own so this lack of flow is not a hindrance. Anthony encourages the reader to flit around and pick topics as and when they see fit. The contents page is sufficient for the reader to navigate the book in this manner. As the book progresses, related tips are grouped together and several themes are revealed, for example, watch precision, water resistance and how to become a watch maker.
This is no stuffy horological textbook. The language is conversational and while not particularly well-edited, the text never gets in the way of the point Anthony is making. Even a seasoned watch enthusiast will probably learn something from each and every tip, such is the depth of the information provided. Having been in the industry so long, his viewpoint can be caustic but very rarely seems far off the mark.
Each reader will find their own nuggets of wisdom within the book depending on the background knowledge and this is perhaps the book’s major strength… anybody, and I mean anybody, can pick a tip and learn something they did not know. From the seemingly obvious ‘your automatic watch does not wind without you moving’, to the much more obscure ‘why do in-house movements often have longer guarantee periods’. And it is not because the in-house movements are more reliable… just in case you were thinking that.
The information is not only technical as it covers the whole gamut of the watchmaking industry. There is some real behind the curtain, almost conspiratorial, insight in the book as well. For example, we learn that the watchmaker is often the least respected member on staff even though their presence is vital to the dealer being in business. We read that budding watchmakers should hide their tools when they are away from their desk as the sales staff regularly take, break and misuse tools that are left out. Stories from the author’s retail experience are sprinkled liberally enough to give credence to the insight.
The last few tips in the books center around becoming a watchmaker. The tips are loaded with advice for anyone considering a career in watchmaking from how to get your foot in the door of a local watchmaker, to what you can expect to be tested on during your bench exam, to how to survive in the (typically hostile) retail environment.
While the quality of the content is generally high, there are a few areas that could be improved. For example, many pages are given over to a method to assess your own watch’s precision without a timegrapher, but the presentation is marred by confusion in the text between minutes and seconds. A number of the anecdotes seem contrived and a bit of a stretch, but if they aid understanding I am willing to give them a pass. Also, the text on case finishing seems a little out of date given what some watchmakers are currently able to do with laser welding. However these are all tiny complaints on what is, on balance, an excellent source of information.
However, there is one tip in the book that jarred me considerably. Tip 94 gives details on how to get a free service out of a manufacturer by lying about the reliability of your watch as it approaches the end of its warranty period. Anthony’s defense here is that he’s just pointing out that ADs don’t do their due diligence when accepting warranty claims, so it is justifiable to bend the truth, and he contends to not be condoning lying. Except that is exactly what the author is doing with this tip – asking the watch owner to lie in order to capitalize on a hole in the AD’s expertise. I was always taught ‘just because you can, does not mean you should’ and, if you will forgive my priggishness, this concept definitely seems to apply here. Also, I’d argue that this tip is in contravention of the author’s own ‘Tip 12 – Don’t be an Asshole’. However, one perceived moral mis-step does not devalue the rest of the book in my opinion.
If you have not read this book (it was first published in 2019) and you have the slightest interest in watches and watchmaking, then you will find useful information here presented in a no-nonsense, accessible and efficient manner… despite the bizarre tip numbering. 100+ No BS Watch Tips comes highly recommended.
100+ No BS Watch Tips can be purchased from amazon.com for $30.