When discussing vintage or antique watches, horologists often focus on the mechanisms within the watch; we concentrate on the unique movements, the escapement and size, or the history behind the company who manufactured the piece. There is one aspect of the watch, however, that is often overlooked. It is the one unique trait that can never be replicated for any other watch, something that can never be replaced, measured or put in a case on display. We become so hyper-focused on the tangible characteristics that we fail to remember something that is true and unique for each one: Behind every watch is a story. And that story is a tale that usually lives long after the man, and will follow his watch for generations.
This is one of the only attributes that will remain true for every watch ever made. Most of us may not remember the day we received our very first wristwatch, and it was more than likely of poor quality because we were young and had just learned to properly tell time (or so we thought). Regardless, I think that all of us can at least recall the seemingly small details that revolved around the event. The excessive demand for an exact time that a particular event would take place (such as lunch), the need to repeatedly look at the piece and see exactly how long it had really been since you last looked, and most importantly, the excitement we felt when someone within hearing distance asked for the time. The pride in being able to inform them that it was precisely 25 minutes after 5 o’clock, even if you had to run three rooms over to do so, was almost empowering.
Essentially, receiving that first watch wasn’t only a monumental moment because of the unique sense of maturity, but it ultimately provided us with the capability to gift anyone who asked, from that moment on, with the time. It was an ability that, given recent trends, has developed in a completely different manner. Recently, it has become increasingly common, and in some cases traditional, to gift someone with a watch for a multitude of special occasions. Which when taken into consideration, means you are not only gifting that individual with time, but also with the beginning of a story.
Presenting a watch as a gift is generally associated with specific occasions; and great thought and effort is put forth in choosing the perfect watch for its recipient. When discussing gifting wristwatches, we are not referring to your ordinary pieces that are bought just anywhere. The watches have specifically sought out attributes to fit both the individual and the ceremony at hand. Typically, the occasions mark a turning point in one’s life; it is often a celebration that signifies the end of a chapter, but is the start of a brand new story. This is the main reason that a watch has become one of the most perfect gestures.
The event that is most frequently seen as an appropriate time to present an individual with a watch is for a birthday. As aforementioned above, these are not of standard quality. In fact, the purchaser often has to spend quite a bit of time researching before they even start browsing potential candidates. When buying a watch for someone for their birthday, it is usually customary for the timepiece to be one that is manufactured the same year that the individual was born. These birth year watches can be harder to track down than one might think. Because of this, more often than not, they will be either a Rolex or Patek Philippe; these particular companies have the most steadfast and facilitated methods to determine the watch’s date of manufacture. Following these guidelines, an exceptional present idea might be a vintage 1965 Rolex Submariner Model 5513, (or as it is more commonly referred to, the James Bond Submariner) for a loved one who is turning 50 this year. Or even for a younger individual, a 1997 Rolex Yacht Master for a young man’s 18th birthday which signifies him becoming a man. And though this is one of the most common situations to give someone a watch, there are two other monumental times in which it is an appropriate gift.
Though finding watches with history is what most horologists prefer to take part in, when it comes to the matter of gift-giving, it is sometimes more appropriate to find or customize a modern piece for someone we love. Two events that this may be more fitting for are weddings or graduations as both of these events signify a tremendous change in a man or woman’s life. They represent an end of one conquest, and a beginning of a brand new adventure. These moments encompass an individual; they are reached with hard work, dedication and determination. What better way to mark these moments than by awarding the individuals with a unique wristwatch? It is a perfect memento for these occasions.
Every time the recipient looks at that piece, they reminisce on their achievements. They succeeded in obtaining an education to pursue their career goals. Or in the event of a wedding, they succeeded in finding that person that completes them, the first step of starting a family. Both accomplishments signify their journey of obtaining their dreams. Creating a custom design for these situations, picking the type of metal, the particular brand, all of these things will be noticed and cherished for years to come. The pieces themselves may eventually become a part of family history; an heirloom that in the future will be gifted to their son or daughter at the exact same moment.
As horologists, we develop the tendency to focus on the physical details of watches from the past, and forget the most important part; we forget the story. In doing so, we miss out on potentially monumental opportunities. Through significant events in the lives of our loved ones, we are provided the opportunity to be a part of the first page in the story of a watch; we become a part of its history. More importantly, we have the capability to pass on our love for the art of all types of watches. By gifting an individual, especially our younger generations, with a unique movement, we can trigger that light within. We can create a spark similar to the one that generated our own love of watches many years ago.