The present example is number 17 of 20 copies produced.
Privately published in 1912 by the Chiswick Press, this lavish book presents the watch collection of famed financier, philanthropist, and art collector John Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913). In 1910, Morgan commissioned G. C. Williamson to produce a catalogue of his collection of Jewels and Precious Works of Art in an edition of 40 copies on Japanese vellum. For this edition of 20 copies in Japanese vellum of the Catalogue of the Collection of Watches, Morgan commissioned the same team to present his collection of 242 timepieces in 1912, once again hand-colored and with many images painted with gold.
London based Hallet Hyatt, of 111 Oxford Street, engraved each image within the book. As the book describes, “All the photographs have been taken by [Hyatt], and the whole of the hand-colored facsimiles were painted under his supervision”. According to a New York Times article from November 25, 1912 titled “Mr. Morgan’s Watches: The Superb Catalogue of a Collection That Has No Equal”, the watch collection book was made in the same spirit as the jewelry book to show the most important watch collection of the time in private hands. Morgan’s vision was to create a watch book that was the most complete and instructive in the world “not only for its artistic value, but for its educational value as well”. The limited edition books were donated to the most important libraries in the world, including the New York Public Library, and sold to collectors who were intrigued by the treasures that Morgan amassed.
According to the New York Times, “In this catalogue Dr. Williamson conveys a great deal of information about watchmakers and watchmaking, the progress made in the mechanical and decorative art, and the place the early watchmakers filled in social and religious life in their time.”
Today, this book is considered one of the holy grails of any horological book collector. This example, number 17 of 20, is offered in extraordinarily well preserved condition with its original slipcase.