I should start by saying that selecting the best watch repair books for beginners is a very personal and subjective endeavor. One person may hate the approach of a certain author while another may love it. I have tried to remain as neutral as I can in this regard and simply select the books based on their potential benefit to the beginner while leaving out as many subjective elements as I can. While there are videos online that can help, I still think the best way to learn watch repair is with a good book.
Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, these books are some of the best watch repair books for beginners or intermediates that I have seen. Of course, there are far more watchmaking books than any one person can read but I think you will find these are extremely popular with horologists (people who work on watches) and are very commonly found on their bookshelves.
One thing most self-taught watch repairers will usually agree on is that no single book will suffice. Following that theme, I have arranged these books in the order in which I would suggest you purchase them. Buy the first watch repair guide, work through it, then if you feel you want more, move to the next one on the list. Stop when you have had enough. Simple, eh?
Starting out I would like to mention Mechanical and Quartz Watch Repair by Mick Watters. This is not the typical classic book most people would recommend but I found that it’s coverage reasonably well balanced in that it includes not only mechanical watches but also both analog and digital quartz watches.
In all honesty, I am not too sure most people who get into repairing watches are interested in quartz watches beyond the basics of replacing the batteries but as a first book having that extra coverage I felt was a bonus and that put it at the top of my list of recommendations.
The author’s approach is aimed at taking you from knowing nothing, or very little, to becoming a hobbyist or entering the professional repair world. As such sections like part of the beginning of the book are needed which talks about creating your workbench. Most of us who are not professionals, even after working on hundreds of watches, still use the desk space we had and didn’t buy or build a watch repair specific area.
The pictures in the book at good and bad; good in that they show more advanced methods and tools than some of the older books, and bad in that the quality of the publication is terrible. I have had to get under a bright light with some reading glasses to make out some of the detail in the images.
Overall though, I think this is an excellent introduction for someone who wants to do more than just swap batteries in their $20 Timex and absolutely should be on the list of the best watch repair books for beginners.
The next book on my list is one I consider a true classic, and probably the one I hear professionals talk about recommending to newcomers the most, 1961s classic The Watch Repairer’s Manual: Second Edition by Henry B. Fried. If you really want to repair mechanical watches, this is where you need to start, full stop.
In a scant 300 or so pages the author imparts an enormous amount of information on the reader and includes excellent diagrams, images, and charts to make it easy to identify and order parts. Some of the diagrams show entire assemblies with the direction of rotation for the parts which really helps you visualize what is going on inside the watch.
The only thing bad I can say about this book is that the author passed away and was unable to keep adding to the book. This may be the single best watch repair book for beginners ever written and it is just as informative today as it was in 1961. If you buy no other book on watch repair, you need this one.
Now I am going to do something off the wall and recommend two books; Practical Watch Repairing 3rd ed. Edition by Donald de Carle and Watch Repairing as a Hobby: An Essential Guide for Non-Professionals by D W. Fletcher. So why am I recommending two books in one section? Because they are both equally amazing books but approach things just a little different.
The biggest difference here to me was the learning approach. For example, Practical Watch Repairing came at you like a ton of bricks, quick intro, then as one review I read said, “BAM!”, disassembling a watch. The author wants to teach you as much as possible as quickly as possible and makes no bones about that. On the other hand, Watch Repairing as a Hobby was much hand-holding and covered a lot of material that was not specifically about repairing the watch itself.
So I suppose the idea here is that if you want to work on watches professionally, or at least very seriously, then I would suggest you get Practical Watch Repairing, otherwise, invest in Watch Repairing as a Hobby. You can’t go wrong either way and in fact, many people I know have and enjoy both.
The end all be all of the learning how to repair watches at home used to be a correspondence course from the Chicago School of Watchmaking, sadly they have not been around since the 1960s. You can however still get their complete course in one 700 page book, The Chicago School of Watchmaking Complete Watch Repair Course. This is the direction you want to go if you are really serious and have already read and digested at least The Watch Repairer’s Manual: Second Edition by Henry B. Fried I recommended above.
I will not sugar coat this, this is a serious set of lessons designed to teach someone how to repair watches professionally. It is also showing it’s age in print quality, at least in the copy I have. This means this is probably the most difficult text to work through in this list, but it also has the highest rewards.
If you want to repair a few watches at home for yourself or friends, or you want to make a few bucks off repairing old mechanical watches and selling them, this is not the book for you.