This is the story of Henry Playtner, a man who made a difference. He opened Canada's first privately operated trade school and the country's first school for watchmakers. The Canadian Horological Institute (CHI) was in business in Toronto, Ontario for 23 years, attracting students from around the world. To graduate, the student had to make a watch! Playtner was not just a knowledgeable watchmaker, he was a very capable instructor, creating a curriculum that matched the best that was offered by schools in Switzerland and Germany. His talent was ably demonstrated by a book published in 1895: An Analysis of the Lever Escapement“, possibly the most comprehensive book ever written in English on the subject, originally a lecture, later a nine part series in American Jeweler magazine. The book went through several editions early in the 20th century. In 12 well written chapters, the author weaves a fascinating story based on the copiously reproduced surviving source material, offering insights not only into how CHI operated, but also the personality and style of Playtner, the life of many of his students, but also –just as fascinating- the state of the horological repair trade during the turn-of-the century era. Of particular value are the 130 illustrations, most of them facsimile reproductions of historic black and white photographs and documents, including pictures of many of the unique -and often complicated- watches produced by the CHI graduates, as well as reproductions of many to the technical drawings students had to complete as part of their education in horological theory. It is always an unexpected pleasure to stumble on a well-researched, new publication that –while nominally focusing on a narrow specific subject- provides the reader with many facts and new insights regarding the general state of horology in times past. But every attempt has been made to make the book readable to those with no background in horology and recommended for anybody who has a general interest in early 20th century horology in North America.
Edition : 2012