Watches with history
Few products come close to carrying as much emotional, sentimental, and historical value as a timepiece. What’s more, because of their construction, these mechanical marvels are built to last—and not just for one generation, but for many.
In fact, if you ask someone who is sporting a vintage watch on his or her wrist, there’s a good chance it was passed down to him or her from an older family member. For instance, more than half of the watches I have in my personal collection—which includes timepieces by Rolex, Longines, OMEGA, and Blancpain—are from my mother, father, grandfather, or grandmother. I don’t just love wearing these watches because of their beauty, but also because every time I look at them, each brings back so many fond memories.
My paternal grandparents lived in Saint Imier, Switzerland, for most of their lives. An important city in Swiss watchmaking, Saint Imier has been home to some of the world’s leading watch brands, including OMEGA, Longines, Heuer, Breitling, and Balmain, among others. While some watch manufactures have since left the town to establish their facilities elsewhere, others remain.
My grandparents owned timepieces from several of these hometown brands—some were daily watches while other were special occasion watches. The everyday watches were also a part of their nightly routine. I can remember clearly as a young girl watching my grandparents each sitting on their respective sides of their bed—my grandmother on the left and my grandfather on the right—both winding their mechanical watches under the light of their bedside lamps. Fast forward to today and these vintage timepieces get a lot of time on my wrist and every time I wear them, I think back to my wonderful childhood summers spent with my grandparents in Saint Imier.
My father is also an avid watch fan and on my wedding day, I wore one of his favorite pieces—a steel, rectangular Longines given to him by a dear friend who worked at the manufacture. Over the years my father has given me many timepieces as gifts for my important milestones including my very favorite—a beautiful vintage pocket watch that I received for my 30th birthday. I keep this on my desk because I find its loud ticking sound soothing when I write.
One of my late mother’s most prized possessions was a two-tone Rolex Lady-Datejust that my father had given her for an anniversary. Prior to her passing, she made it clear that the Rolex was to be given to my then three-year-old daughter—her only grandchild—when she turns 18. In the meantime, it’s in my custody and I wear it occasionally. And every time I do, it’s an emotional experience filled with both sadness and joy. I look forward to the day that I can hand it over to my daughter because I know it’ll be a special moment.
Of course, these stories are not unique to my family. There are countless tales out there of watches being initially gifted to mark one person’s special occasion, only to be passed on to someone else when the time is right. This is precisely why well-made watches are so special. Not because of the brand name engraved on them, but because of the personal stories attached to them. Since most high-end timepieces are essentially mass-produced with plenty of the exact same model available in the market, what differentiates each timepiece is their history with their owners.
Contrary to some opinion, analog watches are not old-fashioned products that should move aside to make way for smartwatches or wearable technology. While tech toys can certainly tell you how many steps you’ve taken in a day, check your emails, or give you the weather forecast, their lifespans are short in terms of watch years, therefore, not suitable as family heirlooms. And though these may be practical items, they are very rarely emotional ones.
On the other hand, a mechanical watch is something genuinely special to give to mark an important milestone such as a birthday, graduation, wedding, and so on. Not only will it impress on the day, but it will continue to be appreciated in the years to follow—and perhaps by other generations too.
Watches are my go-to gifts for those closest to me. While it made me happy to see their joy when the watches were unwrapped, what gives me great pleasure is that they still wear them today many years later—and that, in my opinion, makes the perfect gift.