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Horological Books Review:
Knirim Military  Timepieces (2002)

Knirim Military Timepieces / Bookreview
posted April 01, 2003 20:38

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.
Order through: http://www.knirim.de

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.
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.

This book is available at the NAWCC Library for borrowing.

FortunatMueller-Maerki, Sussex NJ
NAWCC Life # 174 Chair, NWCM Library and Research Center Committee You can reach me at horology@horology.com
Posts: From: Sussex, NJ, USA Registered: August 26, 2000
Copyright © 2000-2002 National Association of Watch & Clock Collectors, Inc


Thanks for a GREAT review and steady diet of really informative posts. Dr. Jon
posted April 04, 2003 09:11
Not long ago I bought a copy of this book (2nd Ed) and I could not agree with you more! It is hard to put it  down. The vast number and types of watches and clocks covered is hard to equil. It was a pleasure dealing with Mr.  Knirim through his web cite. The book is a must for the military collector.  Best regards, Greg
Posts:  From: East Lansing, MI 48823 Registered: April 14, 2001

Horological Journal  September 2002
BOOK REVIEW by Alan Smith

Konrad Knirim:
Military Timepieces, 150 Years Watches and Clocks of German Forces
Dual language publication also entitled:
Militäruhren,150 Jahre Zeitmessung beim deutschen Militär.

Hard back with dust cover; 305 x 216 x 38mm; 625pp.;
text in German with English translation;
an average of about 7 colour photographs per page, around 4500 in total;
published by Verlag PETER POMP, Bottrop - Essen , 2002. ISBN 3-89355-232-4. €148*

'It is a large and heavy book, and it must be said that the scope and quality of its photographic illustrations is both extraordinary and superb...
Hours can be spent simply turning the pages and enjoying the pictures...
But above all it is the illustrations, in minute detail, of the enormous range of military timekeepers which render one almost breathless!...

For collectors, historians, military enthusiasts and people who appreciate horological excellence this book must be something of a 'landmark', and in my view one of the most important and splendidly produced books recording 150 years of mechanical timekeepers, even though they are all associated with military affairs...'

In front of me, as I sit at my desk writing this review, is a JUNGHANS J30 BZ 'blind flight clock' which was recovered from the wreck of a German bomber during the Second World War. It was given to me by an old clock repairer in Liverpool over 35 years ago as a 'box of damaged bits' which I was able to restore to working condition - it is still running today. The date 19 March 1941 is marked on the inside of the dial, and, with its centre-seconds hand and fly-back mechanism, it is an interesting and evocative reminder of the dark days in Britain during the early 1940s.

With Konrad Knirim's remarkable book I now have more information about this aircraft clock than I ever had before. I did not know, for example, that these clocks were known as Blindfluguhr mit Chronograph (blind flight clock with chronograph function), or what the pilots' cockpits were like where these clocks were installed in both fighters and bombers, or even where, in the cockpits, they were fitted. The clock, one of a long series, was classified as a BoUk 1, Fl. 23885, and I never expected to see a photograph of the fine movement with its protective cover, its bayonet clip back and its rotating bakelite bezel for 'elapsed time' checks. I am even able to see pictures of the types of aircraft which carried them, and to read details of the subsidiary factories used by the JUNGHANS concern at Schramberg in the Black Forest. There is information about the similar KIENZLE aircraft clocks, and ranges of photographs of all the models produced.

Military Timepieces is an encyclopaedic work to be used in exactly the same way as I used it for identifying my J30 BZ. It is a large and heavy book, and it must be said that the scope and quality of its photographic illustrations is both extraordinary and superb. Its author, Konrad Knirin, is currently cataloguing the complete range of timepieces of the German forces from about 1850, and if his present book is anything to judge by he will do it with exemplary thoroughness.

The book is divided into eleven basic sections, and it is worth naming these in detail to give an idea of the range of material in it. (1) The German Empire and WW I; (2) The Austrian Hungarian Forces; (3) The Weimar Republic; (4) The 'Third Reich' and WW II; (5) The Navy in WW II; (6) The Airforce in WW II; (7) The Army in WW II; (8) The Postwar Forces; (9) The Forces of the GDR; (10) The Federal Forces; (11) Appendix. To give some idea of the huge range of material covered here are just a few of the section subheadings: "Aviators in the Weimar Republic", "Bomb Timers in the 1920s", "Hour Angle and Sidereal Timekeepers", "Ship's Chronometers", "Navy  Wristwatches", "Aviators' Chronographs" "Communications Station Clocks", "Timed Detonators", "The Waffen SS", "US Timepieces in the Bundeswehr", "Aviators Chronographs of the Allies" - these last two coming in the section dealing with the Federal Forces of post-war Europe. Finally "The End of Mechanics" documents the demise of mechanical timepieces due to the introduction of electronic engineering. In case one wonders how the "Waffen SS" was included this subsection describes (and illustrates) the use of timepieces designed and made for aviators, such as the J30 BZ, for accurate launching of the infamous V1 and V2 missiles from Peennemunde, supervised by Himmler.

Whatever one's interest might be in clocks, watches and other timing devices associated with war, there are two aspects of this book which are of immense significance. The first is the vast range of military mechanisms listed, described and illustrated with methodical precision, and the second is the equally huge range of superbly printed photographs which illustrate each section. Rarely have I ever seen such a large number of consistently well produced photographs. Hours can be spent simply turning the pages and enjoying the pictures. Compared with the space devoted to illustration the text is minimal, but quite enough to introduce each section and type of timepiece shown, and also enough to follow the development of a particular device over the years. English translations of the German text (which are generally adequate but occasionally incorrect in terminology) are arranged side by side with the original, and significantly often describe actual events and the real circumstances of warfare when the timepieces described were used. As well, therefore, as being a documentation of the clocks, watches and other timing equipment, the book sets them in their real context. This aspect is developed further by using pictures of aircraft, ships, aviators, instrument panels, navigators, officers, cockpits, helicopters, submarines, personal decorations (medals and ribbons), political emblems, torpedo boats, documents, maps and, in the early pages, pictures of the Imperial Navy. But above all it is the illustrations, in minute detail, of the enormous range of military timekeepers which render one almost breathless! Even the famous Enigma encryption machine has found its way into the pages, with a succinct account of its invention, development and use.

Konrad Knirin, the author, describes himself in his introductory "A Personal Watch Collector's Story" simply as a 'watch collector', and this fascinating piece of personal reminiscence will  appeal to all watch and clock collectors, both for his account of his experiences tracking down elusive items, and also for the information he gives about the present situation in the collector's 'market'. He defines his role very clearly:- "Sometimes I stop and think about what I do as a collector. I deal with the past. I am not a creator but rather a collector of information. I am not blind to the purpose of the items I collect. They are the relics of war, but war is by no means my main concern. Submarine captains had more pressing things to do with than admire and enjoy chronometer mechanics. Perhaps someday I will sell my collection, pay off my debts, and collect rare types of flowers instead of timepieces..." This intimate personal statement is invaluable in characterising this book as a human, rather than purely mechanical document.

For collectors, historians, military enthusiasts and people who appreciate horological excellence this book must be something of a 'landmark', and in my view one of the most important and splendidly produced books recording 150 years of mechanical timekeepers, even though they are all associated with military affairs. Chronometer and watch enthusiasts will find it quite mouth-watering, but quite different from its namesake Military Timepieces by Marvin E Whitney published in the U.S. in 1992 which documents the American side of the story. This book has far more explanatory text, far more diagrams and exploded views etc. than the German work. In a curious way the two books complement each other, describing the similar products of opposite sides during two world conflicts, one being superbly illustrated and with human associations, while the other contains documentation and horological explanations which the German book perhaps somewhat lacks.

As stated at the beginning of this review, Knirim's Military Timepieces is really a detailed encyclopaedia for the collector, but it is more than that. It shows the horological beauty and certainly unintentional aesthetic quality of instrumentation designed to meet destructive and military ends. Some might feel that it is a purely functional and sometimes harsh kind of beauty, quite unlike that which we associate with domestic clocks and watches. Perhaps one could say the same about the beauty and quality of Mediaeval and Renaissance arms and armour, designed for the same purposes in a different age.
Alan Smith

*  Available in the UK from RITA SHENTON, 020 8894 6888.
 See also www.knirim.de

by K. Knirim

Without doubt one of the most splendid publications that has appeared on the market for many a year.

636 pages Around 4500 illustrations - mainly in colour  New much enlarged edition now with English as well as German text. Over 1000 timepieces described in great depth - each description accompanied by excellent photographs of any significant detail.

This is an encyclopaedic reference work - the dedication of the author both in his researches and his presentation of information is quite awe inspiring.
http://www.deutscheoptik.com, http://www.wartimers.com
Konrad Knirim,
2002, 636 pages, a remarkable work with literally thousands of full-color photographs, drawings, and specifications, text is in both English and German, coffee table-quality, hard cover.
www.iwc.ch: members forum
Posted by Michael Friedberg on 6.8.2002  at 03:32:10
One of the great pleasures I have is corresponding with other people throughout the world on watches --including the German military watch expert, Konrad Knirim. Konrad, as you may know, has written the book on German military watches, Die Uhren der deutschen Streitkräfte 1870 bis 1990. I highly recommend it; it is now available in a newly revised edition, with English translations.

Konrad provided me some assistance when I wrote my Ocean Bund article, which you can find at http://www.iwcforum.com/Articles/OceanBund/text.html

He's recently sent me a chart of the Bund models from his new book, which is depicted above on this post. He also sent me a great page from his book, showing the rare Amag Bund, which I will post below. I've also provided a link to Knirim's website for those interested in more information.
Regards, Michael
Posted by Hans Dr.Goerter on 6.8.2002 at 06:49:29
Since Konrad Knirim lives in the town where I live (Düsseldorf) I visited him some years ago to buy his book "online" and with a autograph. As it was a fine day I came with one of my motorbikes and after reading the foreword in his book at home I then understood his "melancholic" look in his eyes (also described on his website). The first issue of the book was all "selfmade": he mostly does it all by himself: photographing, layouting...

I spend some hours in his house and he showed me some of the watches which to my opinion lie around in a real mess (forgive me Mr. Knirim). So we finally found also some Mark XI's lying around unattended and other treasures. It strongly reminded me of my mess in my working room :=)

The book is one of the best I ever saw. It shows not only the watches but also the historical background of the time they were built. I can strongly recommend it even if I haven't seen the new issue.
Dr. Hans Goerter
Posted by earlyiwc on 6.8.2002  at 09:29:42
I would like to point out especially to our friends in Japan to this (15 pages) article of Konrad Knirim just published in the NAWCC Bulletin No. 339.
There you can see the touch of the expert again.
Friedrich Wagener
Jeffrey M. Stein
www.onthedash.com September 10, 2003

Military Timepieces -- 150 Years Watches and Clocks of German Forces
by Konrad Knirim

"Military Timepieces" is a magnificent book, and it is worthy of a comprehensive review. At this time, however, I believe that it is more important to provide this brief description of the book, so that our readers will be aware of this fantastic resource (which appears to have gone almost unnoticed here in the United States). This book will be valuable to anyone who is interested in vintage timepieces, generally, and chronographs and timers, in particular. Of particular interest to our readers, there is also significant content about Heuers in both these categories -- chronographs and timers.

The book is offered through the author's Website (www.knirim.de), where you can find additional reviews (in several languages), a gallery of photographs, a library of articles about military timepieces, and links to other resources. At $160, the book is expensive, but it is an absolute bargain in terms of the information and images offered for that price.

"Military Timepieces" is a magnificent book, ........ our readers will be aware of this fantastic resource (which appears to have gone almost unnoticed here in the United States). This book will be valuable to anyone who is interested in vintage timepieces, generally, and chronographs and timers, in particular. At $160, the book is expensive, but it is an absolute bargain in terms of the information and images offered for that price.

An Overview of the Book
Military Timepieces is a large book, in every sense of the word. From a distance, one sees the typical "coffee-table" volume, sized at 9 inches by 12 inches, with an attractive front cover. Lift it from the coffee table, using both hands, and you realize immediately that this book is very different -- 625 pages, with an average of 6 or 8 images per page, to bring the total count of images over the 4,000 mark. [By comparison, OnTheDash conatins approximately 1,500 images, as of this date.] But more than a "picture book", Military Timepieces is a comprehensive reference that covers a broad subject matter in extraordinary detail.
Let's begin with the subject matter -- Military Timepieces catalogs the watches, chronographs, clocks, timers and stopwatches that were used by the German military over the period from 1850 through recent years. The range of brands covered the the book is surprising. I had expected to see the major German brands -- Junghans, Tutima, Glashutte, Lange & Soehne, Wempe, etc. It never occured to me that I would find interesting models from Heuer and Leonidas, along with Omega, Longines, Minerva, Zenith, IWC, Rolex, Panerai and dozens of other Swiss brands. If it was a timepiece that was used by the German armies over the last 150 years -- whether in a cockpit, on a flight deck, in a submarine, by special naval forces, or in any other function -- then it is presented in Military Timepieces.
With the subject matter being so broad and the timeframe spanning so many years, one might expect that the coverage of any particular timepiece is rather cursory. Maybe a couple of nice photographs and a few captions?? This is the next wonderous surprise about Military Timepieces -- the images and information presented about each of the timepieces covered are comprehensive. For each timepiece, Knirim generally presents a photograph of the dial, the movement and the case (typically to show the military markings), along with identification of the reference number, movement and certain production information. The following page, presenting Lange navigation watches utilized by the Luftwaffe, is typical of Knirim's approach throughout the book.

To catalog, photograph and describe 150 years of timepieces in this fashion would itself be a wonderous creation. Knirim goes far beyond this presentation, however. Along with thousands of photographs of the timepieces, most of them taken by the author himslef, Miitary Timepieces presents additonal materials that either place the timepieces in their proper context or provide additional detailed information. We see not only the Flieger Chronographs, but the pilots who wore them (sorted by era and military unit); we see the bomb timers, and the aircraft in which they were used; we see the field watches, not only in detailed photographs, but also in the field. In short, we see the timepieces in their original settings, with archival photographs and related images.

As an example, the following plate not only shows a Lemania Flieger chronograph; it also shows us the pilots who wore this chronograph, the aircraft that they used, and the airfield that was the base of their operations (the Luftwaffe Testing Site, in Rechlin).

But wait, the wonder of Knirim's book don't stop there. In addition to all the timepieces, and all the images and all the ephemera, Military Timepieces also presents narrative text that tells us about the timepieces, their development and their uses. We learn the differences between particular brands and moels; why specific types of timepieces were selected for specific uses; how the companies that produced the timepieces related to each other; etc. Knirim is not a watchmaker, and technical details of the movements and mechanisms is sparse, rather he is a collector of watches and -- in his words -- a "collector of information".

Highlights for Heuer Collectors
Military Timepieces includes several sections that will be of special interest to Heuer collectors.
The most well-known Heuer timepiece associated with military uses was the chronograph designed for the Bundeswehr and introduced by Heuer in 1968. Knirim provides a detailed history of this chronograph, along with his customary ancillary images and ephemera. The following plates show a portion of this presentation.

Long before the creation of the Bundeswehr chronograph, Heuer produced chronographs that were especially designed for pilots. As shown in the photograph below, these chronographs used the same case and dial design as other pilots watches of the period. This photograph shows ten pilots watches from the 1930's; interestingly, the Heuer is the only chronograph included in the group ---

The following plate provides detailed photos of the two-button chronographs produced by Heuer from approximately 1940 through 1945. These chronographs served as the inspiration for the Targa Florio chronograph, re-issued by TAG-Heuer in 1996 as part of its Classics series.

In Summary
In his introduction to Military Timepieces, Knirim tells the story of how he made the transition from collecting self-restored classic motorcycles to collecting military timepieces, and he pauses to acknowledge that these timepieces that he pursues were, in fact, used for the purpose of waging war. He then suggests that just as his collecting shifted from motorcycles to military timepieces, perhaps someday his interests will shift to flowers or birds. As watch collectors, we can only hope that Knirim will continue to inform our collecting and expand his range of interests and information. If, at any time, his interests do move to any such subject and if he will create a similar masterpiece that so well captures this chosen subject, I can be certain that I will enjoy exploring that new subject with him . . . perhaps even as much as the subject of German military timepieces. But for now, we don't need to worry about where Knirim's interests may move in the future. We can enjoy his magnificent collection of information about timepieces.


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