WHY WATCHES? I am the son of a watch-collecting father. Some of my first memories are of going to pawn shops and auctions with my old man. I am 48 years, old at the time of this writing (November 2000), and although I didn't buy my first watch until I was around 25, I feel like I have been collecting since I was about 5. My father, a mathematics professor, was very interested in mechanical contrivances in general. His heroes were inventors like Eli Whitney, and Cyrus Hall McCormick. He often said that the best trade in the world was that of a machinist or tool and die maker. His love of machines passed down to me. From early on, it seemed to me that watches were some of the most fascinating and soul satisfying machines around.
I did not, as my father wished, become a tool and die maker. Instead, I went to college and studied history, with a slant toward economic history. So, aside from the sheer mechanical wonder of watches, I am fascinated by their place in history. I am facinated by the timeline of technological advancements one can trace by examining watches from different points in the production of the various American factories. The history of time-keeping plays an important part in the study of the development of the industrial economies of Europe, and later of the United States. The development of watch production in the United States is a fascinating part of our industrial and transportation revolutions.
MOTIVATION FOR THIS SITE: I am interested in sharing my collecting experience with other collectors, and would-be collectors. I feel that the best way to do this is to have a written and visual record of the kind of watches which appeal to me. This site started as a scrapbook of photos I put together of my collection, with additional photos of watches from other collections. This scrapbook spawned an audio visual presentation on collecting, and this site.
I am not a big watch dealer or a rich full time collector. I am a married, working guy, with a kid, and a passion for watches. I decided early on in my collecting career that I would have to focus on something different than the mainstream of collectors in order to be able to afford to collect. I hope this site, will be a good tool for stimulating a dialogue among like minded collectors.
PRODUCTION NOTES: The photos/images in this site were almost all made using various digital scanners, including an Epson 1200 and a Heidelberg Topaz-II, or Nikon digital SLR cameras. The scans/photos were first done for printing, at a resolution of 300 DPI at whatever the required magnification. They were then "res-ed" down for the web. Cropping and image manipulation were done in Adobe PhotoShop. This site was assembled in DreamWeaver and Fireworks by Adobe/Macromedia.
The watches in these photos are old, and most were used as tools by their original owners. As collectors, we know we are lucky to find watches which were well treated by their owners and serviced by good watch-makers. On occasion, however, even some of the better watches were ill used, and or serviced by hacks. The scanner is a good tool, but it is sometimes not kind to these old watches. It shows incredible detail, including details which are hard or impossible to see with your eyes looking at the real watches. It amplifies some details, including scratches and corrosion which you wouldn't normally see and which you don't necessarily want to see. I have taken the liberty of using the fact that these photos are digital, to digitally de-emphasize some of the unsightly artifacts that the scanner has emphasized. I will never take this liberty with watches which are for sale, but the unless plainly stated, the watches on this site are not for sale. The aim of this site is to show some examples of American watch making in their best light. De-emphasizing a few scratches or blemishes adds to my enjoyment of these pages and hopefully it will to yours.
THE FUTURE: This site will be an ongoing project. It will include watches from my collection and interesting watches from other collections, which can add to the story. It is not my aim as a collector to find just the most expensive or most widely desirable watches. What finds its way into my collection, or onto this site, may not be what the mainstream of collectors finds most interesting. For example, there is not a big emphasis on 16s Illinois Bunn Specials here, because, while I admire them as great machines, I can admire them in the collections of so many others.
I hope the pages that follow will be worth the time it takes you to examine them. If nothing else, I hope you might be stimulated to SEND ME AN EMAIL to tell me about your own collection, or just to let me know what you think of this site.
John Cote - November 28, 2000 (Updated December, 2012)