With every rotation around the sun (and the associated birthdays and holidays), the list of potential gift ideas for friends and family seems to shrink, making it harder and harder to come up with new creative presents for loved ones. If someone on your list shares your passion for watches, however, the task may be a bit easier.
That said, you may have already given them the obvious watch-related gifts in years past. If so, you may be desperately racking your brains despite the niche shared interest. If you find yourself searching high and low for watch-related gift inspiration, look no further! We’ve put together a list of unique gift ideas for watch enthusiasts to make your life a bit easier.
Gift Idea 1: Vintage Watch Books
There is no shortage of glossy coffee table books about the watch industry out there. Standard favorites like the Mondani Rolex books or Watchprint’s Only series can be found in the homes of countless watch enthusiasts around the world, and do make great gifts. But with prices in the upper three-digit range, these aren’t exactly stocking stuffers.
If you want to give a watch lover a more affordable literary treat, be sure to check out used and vintage watch books. While gifting someone a used novel or piece of contemporary literature may be a faux pas, it is perfectly fine when it comes to watch books. Countless treasures from the heyday of mechanical watchmaking have yet to be reissued, even though much of the content is still very relevant today. These would make particularly great gifts for those who are interested in the functional side or technical background of watches. While current texts on these topics are scant on the ground, they are abundantly available used – and at fair prices.
Likewise, there are several publishers who specialize in reprints of historic watch texts. This is a good compromise for those who like the idea of gifting a vintage text, but want something fresh from the press with no signs of wear.
Gift Idea 2: Watch Workshops or Seminars
A watch workshop or seminar makes a great gift for the techie watch enthusiast. These typically consist of both theoretical and practical components. There is quite a collection of this kind of event out there, ranging widely in length, content, and price.
A classic beginner’s seminar usually involves a group of participants dissembling and reassembling a hand-wound watch movement. This typically involves large calibers like those originally used in pocket watches, e.g., a Unitas from ETA or similar. This type of movement is much easier to navigate than an automatic movement.
The practical side of things is often preceded by a theoretical presentation that outlines how the movement and all its components work in tandem.
The availability of this kind of seminar will, of course, vary depending on where you live. Many independent watchmakers offer something along these lines, as do local clubs or interest groups. Some places to look include the Horological Society of New York in the US, the British Horological Institute in the UK, and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Chronometrie in Germany. Some of these groups offer workshops in fixed locations, while others travel to multiple cities.
Even if you can’t find an event that is local to you or your loved one, it would be a great excuse to plan your next city break around a watch seminar. Who knows? You may even make some new acquaintances who share your passion.
Depending on the event, some organizers will let you keep the movement you worked on for an additional fee. If your budget allows it, the caliber makes a great souvenir and lasting memory of the experience.
Gift Idea 3: Exclusive Gifts From a Favorite Brand
Perhaps the most exciting idea, but potentially the most difficult to find, is an exclusive gift from your friend or family member’s favorite watch brand. We’re talking about promotional gifts, unique pieces of inventory, or other products that are produced exclusively by or for a manufacturer, but aren’t necessarily sold over the counter. Sooner or later, everything makes its way online or, in the case of vintage items, to flea markets.
If the person you’re trying to buy for is a big fan of a specific brand, an insider gift like this would likely make their Christmas. These promotional gifts are often things like bags, boxes, pocket knives, collectible spoons, pens, or other small branded items.
Depending on the brand and what exactly you’re looking for, it could be difficult to get your hands on the perfect piece. However, it’s worth putting out some feelers with other watch-savvy friends and/or visiting industry events that are open to the public.
Also, the Internet is your friend here. Start by searching on various sales portals and dealer websites. Some dealers have extensive collections of these types of items, as does Chrono24:
Gift Idea 4: A Trip to a Watch Event or Trade Fair
While more and more watch brands are focusing on direct customer sales and virtual contact with buyers, in-person events remain irreplaceable. Nowhere else do you have the opportunity to try on such a variety of watches in a relaxed setting or meet some of the industry’s biggest names. Plus, after more than two years of social distancing, in-person events are sweeter than ever.
Watch events aren’t one size fits all; they range from massive industry trade fairs to intimate receptions at jewelers with just one or two brand reps present – and the requisite glass of bubbly, of course. In more recent years, special events organized by content creators have cropped up, bringing industry reps, fans, and creators together in one place.
There are also mid-range trade fairs that are primarily organized by the watch media. These events involve a number of brands and are the perfect place for industry newcomers to learn more about various manufacturers and models. Typically, you’ll see a mix of well-established but small and relatively unknown brands at these events. Speaking from personal experience, it’s always a good idea to drop by the stands of the unknowns, because they may turn out to be the next big thing.
Depending on the size of the event, you can gift the entry ticket, contribute to the travel costs, or even plan to visit the event (and city) together. Just remember to bring an extra bag along to collect all those branded goodies and freebies!
Gift Idea 5: Watch Art
Photography, decor, or other pieces of art relating to watches are a dime a dozen. The difficulty of finding something that appeals to the recipient’s taste possibly makes this idea the most risky, but the options are plentiful. From modest to modern, chic to kitschy, you are bound to find what you’re looking for online.
If you are reasonably sure about what the recipient likes, you can narrow down the selection considerably. For instance, if you’re looking for a minimalist or mid-century aesthetic, you could seek out a subtle art print depicting a technical drawing of a mechanical watch movement.
If you want to appeal to someone’s sense of humor, check out the sketches from Watches & Pencils. The artist reimagines things like the Rolex Submariner as a submarine and a tropical dial as a palm tree full of iconic watch dials instead of coconuts.
You can find all sorts of watch-related gifts on marketplaces like Etsy, where artists and hobbyists list items like model guitars, cars, buildings, and more made from old watch parts. Some may find this idea a bit tacky, but others will love it and appreciate the uniqueness and DIY nature of the gift.