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Book Review: Chasing Time

- By Dana Blevins (PA) 08/06/18

Chasing Time by Alistar Gibbons. Photo by Keith Lehman.

In today’s world, technology changes and evolves so quickly that most of us have a hard time keeping track of its advancements unless we are especially tuned in. The speed of change over the years has found many practical, functional, and otherwise innovative pieces of technology lost in the sands of time. Alistair Gibbons’s timepiece anthology celebrates exactly that. Aptly titled Chasing Time, Gibbons’s book details the vast collection of wristwatches that he accumulated in his 15-year adventure of buying, selling, and trading hundreds of unique and valuable pieces with countless collectors from all over the world.

Gibbons has a background in the film industry, so each listing in his collection is accompanied by high-definition, professional-grade photographs that highlight the features of each piece. From the case and dial to the wheels and weights inside, Gibbons analyzes the beauty and functionality of the most memorable timepieces in his worldly collection.

Zlatoust 1972 Military Dive Watch spread in Chasing Time by Alistar Gibbons. Photo by Keith Lehman.

One wristwatch that caught my eye was a Russian piece from the early 1970s. Officially called the “Zlatoust 1972 Military Dive Watch,” it is actually a converted pocket watch designed for underwater use, although Gibbons and his sources have their doubts about its ability to be effectively submerged.

Unlike many of the other timepieces in his collection, the design of the Zlatoust is simple and minimalistic. The black dial features only even numbers and contains no subdials. Its hands are slightly more ornate, with a look that echoes the Industrial Revolution. Overall, this piece values function over fashion, with large, easy-to-read digits and illuminated numbers and hands. Its simplicity and high functionality have made it a widely coveted timepiece in niche communities, and it is one of my favorites from Gibbons’s collection.

Memosail Regatta 1978 Manual Wind Chronograph spread in Chasing Time by Alistar Gibbons. Photo by Keith Lehman.

Another unique timepiece in Gibbons’s anthology is the Memosail Regatta 1978 Manual Wind Chronograph. This piece is a specialized countdown timer designed for use by sailors and boaters. The chronograph movement makes it easy to read and features a brightly colored, yellow and red countdown wheel that visibly rotates behind the blue dial. Gibbons’s Memosail piece has a round metal case, with brushed detail and a chrome coating. This popular 1970s style favors efficiency over flare. Sailing and yachting communities liked the simple, easy-to-use design of the Memosail Regatta, and years later, other companies, such as Omega and Aquastar, adopted the style.

Each piece is discussed in great detail, observing the physical appeal of the watch as an accessory, and delving into the technical prowess that makes each piece an effective timekeeper. The language with which Gibbons speaks to his readers and the beautifully detailed photographs that accompany each entry make this anthology an interesting and engaging read for savvy collectors and horological newcomers alike.

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