There's nothing like the significance and sentimental value of an inherited watch. Parents without such an heirloom might want to begin the tradition themselves, and an interesting way to get started is by purchasing a watch from the same year your child was born. Here are some considerations for new parents contemplating such a "birth-year watch."
Why Do People Get Birth-Year Watches?
It could be just an excuse to get a new watch, sure, but it's a pretty good one for a few reasons. Vintage collectors often seek out their own birth-year watches because it's simply cool and interesting to have an object that you know is exactly as old as you are — and it may have something to teach you about tastes and mentalities of the era in which you were born.
People who buy a such a watch for their newborn child will often wear it themselves until passing it on decades later — it's a milestone in parents' lives, too, after all. This is a bonus for the parent, but also gives the eventual gift more personality: An inherited watch is imbued with fatherly character and memories, more so than a shiny new gift would be.
Further, there are good reasons that watches are traditional choices as significant gifts and markers of achievement: Living close to the wearer's body and accompanying him or her throughout the day gives watches a connection to their owner like that of few other objects. A watch is intensely personal, and the wearer is reminded of its origin whenever they check the time. Since mechanical watches are often made to be repairable and be used for decades or generations, they also tend to (ironically) signify a transcendence of time. People can read endless meaning into watches.
What to Look for in a Birth-Year Watch
The challenge is to find a model from the year your kid is born that'll still look good in 18 or so years. A modern watch that reflects the current moment will emphasize the birth year, but you also want something that ages well. The many current watches that ape the groovy pizzazz of '60s and '70s styles might not be as popular in a couple decades — though a devil's advocate might point out that they've already stood the test of time and will continue doing so.
Even more important than choosing a watch with a timeless style is getting one with sufficient quality to last generations. That doesn't necessarily mean a Patek or even a Rolex (though, for those with the budget, these make excellent options that hold their value). Many affordable watches today are built with modern materials and production that will last even longer than the vintage watches that we love. Common movements from major companies like ETA or Seiko are robust and will be easily serviced for the foreseeable future.
Considering the above factors and the limitation of watches produced during a specific time frame, shopping for a birth-year watch makes for a fun and interesting exercise. Thankfully, there plenty of options available each year, and Gear Patrol watch coverage is a great place to start — but here are some examples of timeless watches from this year to check out.
The Affordable Option
What could be more fun than a classic military watch look with a twist? Hamilton's perfectly sized, 38mm Khaki Field Mechanical takes cues from the past, but the white dial gives it a fun, modern feel.
The Mid-Tier Option
Seiko's SPB167 offers much of the look and design of its more expensive Grand Seiko cousins at a much more attainable price. Classic and timeless, it's a perfect, versatile heirloom.
The Timeless Option
Rolex's upgraded Oyster Perpetual 36 features a new movement and new dial colors. The bright and colorful "Stella"-inspired options are playful, but the classic silver dial is will always be in vogue.