Military Timepieces - 150 Years Watches and Clocks of German Forces, by Konrad Knirim, 2002, Verlag Peter Pomp, Bochum-Essen (Germany), ISBN 3-89355-232-4, Second expanded and bilingual edition, 625 pages. More information at: [...]
The first edition of this book (1998) quickly became not only the undisputed reference work for anything involving the timepieces of the German military forces 1870-1990, but with 1400 color illustrations on 440 pages, set new standards for the comprehensiveness, thoroughness and visual details provided in a specialized horological monograph. It's only drawback for the military horology enthusiast in the Anglo-Saxon world was that all the text was in German. The new second edition has not only added much material (it grew to 625 pages), but the text is now fully bi-lingual German/English, and must have close to 2000 images.
Knirim is an Engineer/Physicist by training, but a collector by passion. Some 25years ago he acquired at auction a lot of surplus military aviation timekeepers just as the RAF was starting to replace its mechanical timepieces with electronics, and immediate got helplessly hooked as this specialized area of collecting exploded. Eventually he specialized in timekeepers used by the German military. Knirim is a self-admitted compulsive accumulator/collector, who has amassed ephemera, images and information about his subject at a rate commensurate with his specialized timepiece collection.
Quite accurately the frontispiece of the book describes it as "A Photo Documentation", and that is precisely what it is. The book is organized into 7 chronological sections, made up of 41 chapters (mostly by branch of service). Each chapter starts with about a half page of introductory German text (faithfully translated into English in the right column), and the remainder of the chapter is made up by a dazzling array of images and their bi-lingual captions. The images are virtually all in color and are very good; most pieces are pictured from front and back, plus movement shots as appropriate, supplemented by close-ups of labels, markings or technical details as warranted. While some of the images are reproductions from auction catalogs, the vast majority were taken by the author. The aim was clearly to provide as much visual information as possible, rather than strive for the artistic beauty of a coffee-table book. A significant portion of the pictures are reproductions of ephemera related the specific timepiece or the category, including advertisements, technical drawings, test sheets, military inventories and photos showing the timekeepers in their intended original settings. Knirim deserves high praise for his perseverance in collecting and researching these additional materials.
While a translator was employed to produce the introductory English text for each chapter, the author himself has supplied both the German and the English image captions. In the introductory remarks he apologizes for his limited English skills, although there is no need to do so. It is noteworthy that the English captions are NOT always literal translations of the German ones, but rather free translations. Sometimes details are added either the German or the English text that are not part of the other language version. E.g. this reviewer noted one page mentioning "Sapphire bushings" in the German description of a chronometer which were not mentioned in the English text; and elsewhere a "brass bezel" was part of the English description without being mentioned in the German caption. I do not find that these idiosyncrasies distract from the value of all the information presented, but I would advise any reader who has even a rudimentary command of the other language to scan both texts on apiece one is particularly interested in.
Nobody is going to read this book cover-to-cover in one sitting. Its nature as a "Photo-Documentation" makes this hefty volume more suitable for "browsing" or as a reference book, the latter function being augmented by a substantial index. As a further service to his readers Knirim - in the appendix - reproduces the concordance tables of serial numbers and manufacturing year for selected manufacturers.
"Military Timepieces" is a must for even a casual collector of military timepieces (including marine chronometer enthusiasts), but will provide a most pleasant browsing experience for almost any horological collector or researcher.