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Joseph Flores: Twenty-Five Years 1993 - 2018

A Tribute

25 years ago, in 1993, Joseph Flores published an article that would eventually change the way we view the history of self-winding watches: “Une page importante ajoutée à l’histoire de la montre automatique” (Horlogerie Ancienne, N° 33, pages 109-131).

In 1952, 41 years earlier, Alfred Chapuis wrote a book on self-winding watches in which the invention of the automatic watch with a rotor was attributed to the Swiss watchmaker Abraham Louis Perrelet. However Joseph’s article demonstrated that the design was in fact identical to a watch submitted by the Belgian watchmaker Hubert Sarton to the French Academy of Sciences in Paris, and he was probably the inventor of the mechanism. But no one was willing to overturn 41 years of history, and Joseph’s work was either ignored or rejected.

Over the following years Joseph continued to study early self-winding watches and he has published 25 articles and the book “Perpétuelles a Roue de Rencontre ou Montres Automatiques”. Although some people recognised the validity of his views, they did not have much impact.

Joseph’s persistence eventually paid off. About 8 years ago I was asked to review yet another piece by him, basically an updated version of his 1993 article. At that time there was an unfortunate communication failure and nothing eventuated. But I was struck by the obvious problem of attribution, and I decided to study the subject. For a few years Joseph continued to publish, and continued to be largely ignored or rejected, and I occasionally read and thought about the history of these watches. Until 2012 when I read a new book “The Self-Winding Watch, 18th - 21st Century” written by Jean Claude Sabrier. That book is an irrational, unsubstantiated view of history that almost completely ignores Joseph’s work! I was incensed and began collaborating with Joseph with the aim of producing a sensible study of self-winding watches. The result was “The Origins of Self-Winding Watches”.

Without the obsessive tenacity of Joseph over the previous 25 years, I and others would not have studied self-winding watches and most of their history would have remained hidden or incorrect.

And so it is not excessive to state that Joseph Flores is the father of the modern history of self-winding watches, a position he deserves.