Wearing a watch isn’t just about functionality. If you want to tell the time, after all, you can simply glance at your iPhone. This inconvenient truth doesn’t make it any easier to justify buying yourself another watch, particularly if you have a few already. No, what’s required here is some mental gymnastics to seal the deal with yourself and, in all probability, convince a sceptical partner, too.
Essentially, you need to change the watch-buying narrative from costly act of self-indulgence to grand altruistic gesture. And that’s where your children come in.
It was the venerable Swiss watch brand Patek Philippe that artfully repositioned the wristwatch from timekeeping device to precious family heirloom. Patek continues to release advertisements in which the same scenario plays out. A photogenic small child in a tomato sauce-free, collared shirt gazes adoringly up at his square-jawed father with a watch strategically positioned somewhere in the frame. “You never actually own a Patek Philippe,” reads the tagline. “You merely look after it for the next generation.”
On one level, of course, this is a masterclass in emotional manipulation. It’s an image of domestic bliss on an executive salary designed to sell wildly expensive consumer goods. Yet the idea of a watch becoming a family totem is also hard to resist.
Right now, I’m writing this with a wedding ring on my finger that was worn by my father. His old watch nestles in the desk drawer to my right. These are intimate possessions of a man that I never truly got to know before he died and they’re probably the most treasured objects that I own. Consequently, I also plan to pass my watches onto my own children. But I aim to do something personal for each of them, too.
The concept of the “birth year” watch is popular among collectors. As the name suggests, it involves sourcing a watch from the year that you were born. You can jump onto a website specialising in pre-owned watches – like chrono24.com – plug in your birth year and sift through the multitude of offerings until you find something that floats your horological boat.
But you can also do the same for your children by snapping up a birth year watch for them. If they were born recently, you might even be able to go along to a standard retailer and buy a new timepiece from their year of emergence.
Many moons from now, on a suitably momentous occasion, you might choose to finally present them with this thoughtful gift. Alternatively, the handover might wait until after you’ve popped your clogs.
At any rate, the fact that you just so happen get to wear this aforementioned watch for the next few decades, well, that’s just to imbue it with the necessary level of paternal connection. Explain to your wife that you’re not just buying another watch; you’re completing a selfless act of fatherhood on behalf of your kids.