Cultural Perspectives • 26 Jul 2018

Summer Reading – Treatise on Modern Horology


It’s easy to forget that sometimes – especially when it comes to an old profession such as watchmaking – the best information can be found by hitting the books. Coming in at over 2 kgs and over 800 pages, Treatise on Modern Horology Theory and Practice is a hefty (and aside from the intimidating size) is a book well worth taking a look at. Aside from the comprehensive information contained within, the detailed seventy eight woodcut and twenty two copper plate drawings and diagrams are fascinating both from a visual and design perspective and as well as from a watchmaking perspective.

Treatise on Modern Horology

Translated from the French of Claudius Saunier, the Ex-Director of the School of Horology at Macon (Académie de Mâcon), by Julien Tripplin (Besançon Watch Manufacturer) and Edward Rigg (Assay in the Royal Mint). Side note: Assay offices test the purity of precious metals, often associated with coinage Mints).  Initially published in 1861, this edition was published in 1887 by Crosby Lockwood and Co.

There’s a tendency to look back and view 19th and early 20th century clocks and watches for their utilitarian function of time telling. Hence, it’s refreshing to see such a well regarded book look beyond the inherent use of these mechanical instruments and to promote the artistic and emotional elements behind horology. Watchmaking like many professionals relies on a mixture of formal written knowledge and the practical hands on experience provided by ones teachers. The Translators of the Treatise are well aware of this and see their contributions as but one of the sources for anyone vaguely interested in horology to rely on and draw learnings from.

“In all the mechanical industries great efforts are being made at the present day in the cause of technical education, but in order that such efforts may be successful it is the first importance that sound textbooks and competent teachers should be provided. We believe the present volume well supplies the first of these wants as regards the science and art of the subject”

The contributions (and the subsequent translation) of  the Treatise on Modern Horology made to the field of horology didn’t go unnoticed by the wider Horological community. It is first and foremost a technical book giving a broad and detailed description of what it calls a “mechanical art”. In 1867 the work was honoured with a First Class Medal and a Gold Medal and Honourable Mention followed in 1868. Additionally the work was honoured with the Translation by a Diploma of Merit in Melbourne in 1880 and a Gold Medal in Paris (1881), “For Services rendered to the Cause of Horology.”. For their efforts in translating the work, Julien and Edward received the Palmes of the French Academy in 1885 and the thanks of the British Horological Institute”.

Covering the theory, mathematics, preparation and advantages of each type – the section on escapements is particularly noteworthy and warrants a closer look. Pics below.

Theory of the dead beat escapement
Lever escapement
Chronometer escapement
Questions, questions…
Aside from containing written theory, the Treatise has pages of practical calculations



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