He collected every bit of literature he could find about watches...
Charlie Dunne is a lover of horological literature. Although he spends much of his free time researching and sharing his interests, he does not consider himself an expert in the field. While he loves to enjoy his watches, he does not identify as a “watch collector”. His eagerness to share information is outweighed by his willingness to learn from others. He considers himself fortunate to have a network of authors, dealers, collectors and enthusiasts to call friends.
How and when did your interest for watches start? And do you remember your first watch?
I think I began getting into watches during highschool. More flashy watches, like the Rolex Datejust and the Breitling Bentley. I look back and laugh at this when I compare it to what I currently like.
My first proper watch was a Baume & Mercier Capeland. My father had worn the same watch for a number of years. One day his work colleague offered to sell him one. We each contributed half of the requested amount. I have had this watch since my early 20’s.
A noteworthy anecdote or particular feelings with one of your watches?
I just recently found out my vintage Baume & Mercier’s case is by Ervin Piquerez. They were a very large manufacturer back in the day and supplied numerous brands with their “Super Compressor” cases. I want to learn as much as I can about EPSA now!
What is your approach to acquire knowledge about a model?
I personally prefer to learn about watches through books.
I work on a computer everyday, with the exception of Sunday’s. I try to commit that day to be as “un-plugged” as possible, but I am a bit addicted to Instagram (laughs). I enjoy the experimental aspect of going through a book, looking for answers that I am curious about. Of course I will use Google or watch media outlets to hunt for answers, but it is a bit more enjoyable to discover information. The Amagnetic books by Wulf Shultz & Mstanga are a great example of this. I’ve loved the Ref. 3417 for a few years, but never really felt determined to learn about it online. When the book came to my attention, I decided it was the time to begin researching it.
Right now I am getting familiar with Speedmasters through the Moonwatch Only app. I know the Speedmaster is a watch that most people will look into at an early stage, so I guess I’m a bit late to the party on this one. I’ve begun to really appreciate the convenience of watch apps and think it’s great to see these being introduced by Watch Books Only, John Goldberger & Mondani Books.
What is your favorite complication?
That’s a great question. When I first began wearing watches I loved a date window. Now that I have a few, I think I’ve become more of a time-only guy. I would say alarm wristwatches are my favorite complication to use. There are so many brands and models that have evolved. I can’t get enough of them.
The 3 most iconic watch models?
These are three specific watches that I think are fascinating:
– The Audemars Piguet Perpetual Calendar Reference 5516 sold by Christie’s in 2015.
– J.B. Champion’s Observatory Chronometer Patek Philippe Reference 2458.
– The Dalai Lama’s Patek Philippe Reference 658 gifted from President Franklin Delanor Roosevelt.
Are you more modern or vintage? And why?
I’m personally drawn to vintage.
I enjoy tracing back watches to discover what period they were introduced and what designs were of the era. Vintage watches just speak to me a bit more. Imperfections, patina, case engravings. These characteristics are what appeal to me. However, I do love modern watches too. I love what guys like Chase, from Oak & Oscar, are doing. Recently I have been reading “Cartier – The Gentleman’s Files” by George Cramer and it has allowed me to appreciate so many watches, such as the Rotonde de Cartier Day & Night. They are doing a brilliant job at creating the next chapter of their story.
Your horological grail?
I am lucky to have some great watches. I try not to think about an “ultimate” or “must have” watch. I’d rather spend that energy appreciating what I have.
What would you answer if a friend tells you “I don’t need a watch, I have a cell phone that tells me the time”?
It wouldn’t evoke any real response. I don’t want to force my love for watches upon others. Some people will ask me what it is about Horology that fascinates me, and then I might go off on a bit of a tangent. Everyone has their own hobbies and I try to appreciate other people’s passions.
How do you consider a watch collection: an investment, just a pleasure, or both?
It’s completely for personal enjoyment. I can understand the investment perspective, but it couldn’t appeal less to me.
What’s on your wrist today?
I‘m wearing my latest watch, a Vulcain Cricket.
I absolutely love it. I had mentioned to Eric Wind a few months back that I was thinking about getting one. He is a bit synonymous with these (among several other) watches. The other day he sent me a photo and said he thought this example would be a great watch for me.
Before purchasing it, I called my father. We have been discussing financial responsibility for a few years. I explained to him the price and that I had sold one watch earlier that week. I also had received a reasonable offer for a second watch that I had not been wearing for a while. After a few minutes of us evaluating the situation, we agreed that it was an appropriate decision to pull the trigger.
A few days after the Vulcain arrived, Cam Wolf published an article on GQ. Interestingly enough, a photograph of President Lyndon B. Johnson wearing the same watch was featured in it! To me, President Johnson was the most passionate watch collector out of all the US Presidents.
I’m very happy to have such a beautiful watch and that my father was involved in the equation.
How many times a day do you watch… your watch?
I have never thought about it until today. I’m sure it is quite frequent. I’m gonna guess around 10-20 times a day. Most of the time it is just to admire rather than check the time.
What model would you like to be detailed in a future “ONLY” book?
Memovox Only or Calatrava Only!
Recent Additions to Charlie’s Library
“Time Tamed” by Nicholas Foulkes (Published by Simon & Schuster UK in 2019)
I absolutely love Nicholas’ writing. He takes on a multidisciplinary approach to everything he is involved with. I recall this book being published right around the time I was on holiday with my father in England. I was determined I would purchase this book while out of the country, as it was only available in the UK at the time. During our visit to London, I must have dragged my father along to over four bookstores with no avail. On our final night of the trip, I finally found a copy. I immediately began reading the chapter “The Howard Hughes of the Holy Roman Empire. The Moving Mechanical Musical Boat Clock of Emperor Rudolf II”. Later that evening, my father and cousin (Rowan) went to The British Museum. The experience of seeing Hans Schlottheim’s Galleon from 1585 was breathtaking. I will remember that day forever.
“Time For A Change, Discovering Vintage Enicar” by Martijn van der Ven (Self-Published in December 2019)
My interest in the brand Enicar is new. I think I first “discovered” these watches around October of last year. The title of this book could not have been more appropriate for me. I recall seeing the book for the first time earlier this year at The Original Miami Antique Show. Eric Wind must have just gotten the book that week. It was beautifully displayed adjacent to two Sherpa Super Compressors and a Chronograph, yet I couldn’t take my eyes off the book. I recall skimming a few pages, but I really wanted to sit down with it for my first impression. When I returned home from Miami, my signed copy was waiting for me at the door. Martijin’s book beautifully incorporates history, photography, poetry, advertising, personal reflections, the Enicar collector community and so much more.
“Audemars Piguet 20th Century Complicated Wristwatches” by The Audemars Piguet Heritage Team (Published in 2018)
When I attended Watches & Wonders Miami two years ago, I immediately went to look at the watch that stopped the world, The CODE 11.59. Some watches you just have to see in person. The team at AP couldn’t have been more friendly. They insisted I hold their watches and look at every example. The highlight for me was seeing the traveling museum. I thought I had died and went to Watch Heaven. When I was granted permission to take photographs, I must have sent my friend Roni over 20 pictures. At this point in time, I was unaware of the significant role Audemars Piguet has played in Horology. Upon my return from Miami, I was determined that I would learn everything there is to know about AP. Then I received the book and quickly realized this would be no easy measure. It’s remarkable that a brand had taken on a project as in-depth as this book. I wish more manufacturers would tell their story in this fashion. The book doesn’t shy away from acknowledging the contributions of outside movement, case or dial makers. In fact, they embrace these benefactors in the most transparent manner. The final page has a photograph of The Audemars Heritage Team at a table with watches, old notebooks and archives everywhere. Each person in the photo has the biggest smile on their face, as if they knew they had just contributed something very special to the watch community.
“The Cartiers: The Untold Story of the Family Behind the Jewelry Empire” by Francesca Cartier Brickell (Published by Ballantine Books in November 2019)
I recall sharing my interest in this book to my father months before it was published. He is a lover of books and antiques, so he can relate to my obsession to get my hands on every piece of literature on watches. Before “The Cartiers” was available online, he had somehow managed to give me an advance reader’s copy. I won’t lie, I read the first 100 pages over Christmas. However, I felt a bit guilty at the fact I was not the intended reader. Once the book was commercially available I purchased my copy. I restarted it recently to get the intended experience. I have been reading it at a very slow pace over the weekends during quarantine. This book is not exclusively on watches and that’s perfect. The author takes you on a journey that not only involves “The Cartiers”, but everyone from clients, to the jewelry designers. The insights are directly sourced through correspondence letters, conversations with family members, former employees, and I’m certain, many books. I am absolutely thrilled to become more familiar with the bigger picture outside of watches.
“Cartier: The Gentleman’s Files. The Paparazzi Book” by George Cramer (Published in August 2019)
I mentioned earlier that I favor vintage watches. There are exceptions for certain brands and Cartier is at the top of the list. They are able to create evocative reinterpretations from the past that play so well to their heritage. The book narrows in on watches from 1985 to 2018. I have to admit, I have totally overlooked modern Cartier until this point. This book has been eye opening to how incredibly poetic modern watches can be. I’ve been reading both George’s and Francesca’s book simultaneously. It brings a smile to my face while learning about 13 Rue de la Paix and correlating the significance of Cartier’s 13 piece Limited Edition Driver’s Watch. The photography is jaw dropping as well. While admiring the Rotonde de Cartier Mysterious one can’t help but acknowledge how captivating Louis Cartier’s imagination was over a century later.
“Patek Philippe In America: Marketing The World’s Foremost Watch” by John Reardon (Published by Cefari in 2008)
Few people in the watch industry have as many credentials as John Reardon. I had the pleasure of being introduced to him earlier this year by my friend, Jon Hochman of Qoventry. Everyone seems to be an expert on watches, but not everyone is willing to share their scholarship to the extent John has. I recall him asking me “How many hours do you spend on Instagram?” and being devastatingly embarrassed. Luckily he followed up by admitting he was hooked as well. John recently began the next chapter of his passion for Patek Philippe by creating Collectability. I’m always so excited by the “Education” section on his website. After reaching out with questions regarding his out of print book, he somehow managed to find me a copy. I’ve enjoyed so much time going through it. Whether it is appreciating the art of Suzanne Rohr, or trying to wrap my head around the Master Timing Systems, each time I open the book I am elated.
If you would like to follow Charlie or discuss books, you can find him on Instagram under the name @books_on_time. Feel free to contact him or use #BooksOnTime to share any books on horology!