If you wear a watch at all, there’s a good chance you spent your post-college years with something your parents bought you: maybe a quartz number from TAG, or a Rolex if you’re one of the lucky ones. But now it’s time to start thinking about the future—a future that may well involve a son of your own. And while you could wait till said offspring has graduated from college to buy him a timepiece, there’s another option: Pick one up now in order to make sure it’s properly broken in by the time the (possibly-imaginary) chip off the ol’ block actually graduates.
If there’s a better rationalization for spending serious money on an automatic watch, we’d like to hear it.
So, what to look for. Instead of bling, obsess over craftsmanship. With a fine mechanical-movement watch, you are getting more than a time-telling device. You are getting hundreds of years of horological history and countless man-hours in one tidy 40mm package. A watch from Girard-Perregaux, Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, Piaget, IWC, or one of a handful of other brands in the Jura Valley, the heart of haute horlogerie, represents a tremendous amount of skilled labor: even a simple mechanical movement includes over 20 jewels, combined to make a mechanism that’s only a centimeter thick, and that only represents a small fraction of a high-end watch’s thousand-part guts. (Be sure to explain all this to Junior if he tries to suggest that the watch you’re giving is a form of outmoded technology.) The watchmaker is a solitary sort, patient and exacting. Each watch is a marvel in miniature, a testament to all that man can achieve with an eyeglass, nimble fingers and time. Sure, a quality timepiece costs a pretty penny, but what you are passing onto your son is not just a time-telling device but a timeless lesson, provided he’s able to pry it from your grasp.
Ben Clymer is the founder and editor of Hodinkee.com, a website devoted to the appreciation of fine watches.