Buying a watch for oneself is often a big decision and not necessarily made quickly. I don’t know about you, but I have often agonized over a purchase. I’ve read reviews, researched people’s impressions of a watch through forums, and done about as much reading as one could without becoming obsessive. Buying a watch as a gift, though, can seem so much harder. There are several brands and even specific watch models that seem to speak of the classic beauty and even romance of watches for a loved one.

Rolex Datejust ref. 1601

Buying a watch as a gift

Buying a watch as a gift is a topic we have covered here on Fratello before. We dedicated a whole podcast episode to it because of popular demand earlier this year. Evidently, it is an issue that many of our readers grapple with, so it seems a good topic on which to provide some personal experience but also to seek tips from you, our readers.

In that spirit, I wanted to provide some insight into how I came to buy a specific watch for a loved one. And then I’ll ask what you, our readers, would do in the same position. I would love to hear your recommendations in the comments. Colleagues of mine here at Fratello have also provided helpful guides in the past. For now, read on.

A sense of tradition 

Traditionally, buying a watch as a gift has often come down to choosing a sporty or dressy timepiece. When I first cast my mind to the concept of buying my girlfriend a watch, I thought of two brands — Rolex and Cartier. There was something about the refined elegance of a Cartier Tank or the subtle and sporty lines of a Rolex Oyster that appealed to me.

Others may opt to buy “his” and “hers” watches. In the past, this demand was met by watch models like Doxa’s Sub 200 Nymph (essentially, a miniaturized Sub 300) or Tudor’s line of Mini-Subs. It’s interesting to see that Doxa has brought back a modern reference that riffs off the Nymph, the new Sub 200T. While you could say the idea of “his” and “hers” is somewhat antiquated these days, it is still nice to have different options for case sizes. 

This is where watch model lines that come in many different sizes are handy. One such line that springs to my mind is the non-diver Tudor Black Bay series. I can see how sizes like 31mm, 36mm, 39mm, and 41mm could appeal to a large audience. Another good option that comes to my mind is the Omega Constellation line, which has a wide range of dial designs available.

A chance and reason to mix it up

Rather than purchasing watches for our loved ones based on sportiness, dressiness, or size, I think a more modern idea would be to consider what factors in a watch express them best. As watch enthusiasts, we are interested in watchmakers and watches that perhaps reflect a certain mood, an idea of what we might want to be, or a design brief we are after. In short, we seek out or are attracted to designs that we connect with in some way.

It is this basic reasoning that we sometimes forget about when seeking out a watch for someone else. We may naturally seek something we think we would want if we were in our loved one’s position. While a watch is undoubtedly a generous and meaningful gift for someone, I think sometimes there is a missed opportunity here to get something that has an added level of meaning. 

A method to the madness

This added level of meaning is considering what some of your favorite things about your partner, friend, or family member are. For me, this was a deeply personal journey. After thinking about it, I determined that one of my favorite things about my partner was her sense of curiosity.

A science communicator, she reminds me of the intrepid scientists of the early 20th century because she’s on a path to inform, educate, and investigate. Despite being glamorous, she is also a very down-to-earth and practical person, so I didn’t want the watch to be ostentatious. So, I had to find something elegant and timeless but that also reflected a sense of exploration while being down to earth… It seemed like a tall order to find these qualities reflected in a wristwatch.

buying a watch as a gift Longines Heritage Conquest

Stumbling across a Longines Heritage Conquest 

Luckily, the right watch just sort of found me. Someone in the watch community was selling a personal piece, a Longines Heritage Conquest. The Conquest is not exactly neo-vintage because it is still in production. But it has been in production now for a couple of decades. Inspired by a watch from the 1950s and early 1960s, the Longines Heritage Conquest is one of those timelessly elegant designs.

The ’50s and ’60s were a period of pioneering science and exploration of space and the depths of our oceans. It was an era in which scientists were leading national and global conversations. That sort of pioneering spirit reminded me of my partner. The idea began to click in my mind. 

buying a watch as a gift Longines Heritage Conquest

The final piece of the puzzle

The case back, though, is what finally convinced me. Its central medallion portraying the ocean and stars reminded me of the evening coastal walks we went on together in the early phase of our relationship and our shared love of the ocean. Whenever she looks down at the case back, I hope she can reflect on those things.

I love how a watch’s case back can be a unique element of the design, and it’s probably worth writing an article focusing on this someday.

buying a watch as a gift Longines Conquest

Final thoughts

Buying a watch for a special someone is no easy task, at least not if you start putting a lot of thought into it. I hope that sharing my journey shows there is no real road map to buying a watch as a gift for someone. It truly is a process that is deeply personal. But because of this, it is an interesting element of the hobby.

So, dear Fratelli, what did you look for when buying a watch for someone special in your life? Let me know in the comments below!