Why do I collect watches?
The short answer – passion, people and patrimony.
My first memory of a watch was this time in grade school I decided to take one of my dad’s watches to school. I didn’t ask permission. I looked at the two watches in his desk and decided against taking the more expensive (to my thinking) watch marked “17 Jewels.” So I took the other instead…his Rolex. This one my mom had bought him after saving her grocery money for who knows how long. It was second hand, but very dear to them. Luckily, I didn’t break or lose it and it made it home safely. He did realize I had taken it, and explained that “Jewels” are not the only determinant of the value of a watch.
I didn’t start out passionate about watches. More curious than anything else. I have always loved mechanical things. I love taking them apart, breaking them, fixing them, and understanding how they work. Watching them work. Just thinking about who came up with the ideas for making them work! My dad and I repaired pressure gauges as a side hustle when I was a kid. Joking around with him one day, I asked if he knew when the Bourdon Tube was invented. “No,” he said, “but I remember his first name was Eugene.” I then asked, “Oh, did you guys go to school together?” He was not amused. Eugene Bourdon lived from 1808-1884.
Working with all the gears on the gauges fascinated me. Not to get too deep into it, but I loved how the bourdon tube was linked to the sector to drive the indicator. This translated to a love for how the various gears in a watch make it tell time.
Only later did I realize there are many other people who share my passion for watches. The community is great. Sure, there are snobs (like any collecting hobby), but I have found most people just want to expand their knowledge about these tickers. I’ve fallen into a group of folks (Memphis Redbar Group) who are always willing to share what they know, and seldom in a condescending way! There is friendly competition about who has the more recent purchase or who found that something they (or you) had been seeking for a long time, but ultimately what better excuse is there than watches to get together? Your fancy car is out in the parking lot, but your watch is on your wrist! It’s a much more convenient conversation piece when you are in the bar!
I confess, I was really trying to maintain the alliterative nature of this list. My first instinct was “legacy”, but patrimony fits the bill and starts with a ‘p’. That Rolex I borrowed from my dad was later presented to me as a graduation gift. It meant so much. Later, I had our initials engraved on it as a Father’s Day gift to him. When my son was born, I had his initials engraved below ours. He already knows that someday, that watch (and many others!) will be his. Hopefully many of the things I’ve tried to teach him will ring in his ears, but when I am eventually gone, he will also have these deeply personal objects as touchstones to remember me.