In 1967, when my grandfather retired from his job at a factory in New York, he received the obligatory gold mechanical watch for his efforts. I was barely a year old at the time and he passed away a few years later. After his funeral, I was told that it was wish that I inherit this watch. I was still a young boy at the time and my parents felt I wasn't old enough to appreciate or care for it properly, so the watch sat in storage, forgotten for nearly 30 years.
When I grew to be a man, got married, and started a family of my own, someone remembered my grandfather’s watch and presented it to me to commemorate the birth of my first son. I graciously accepted the tarnished reminder of a man I barely remembered. Knowing little about watches, this mechanical device was a mystery to me. Why would anyone take the time to wind a watch every day when quartz watches were so convenient, I wondered.
As time passed, I became wiser and came to appreciate traditional devices long neglected and frequently scorned by contemporary society. Most notably, I developed a love for fountain pens and bottled inks, as well as "wet" shaving with a double-edge razor, with cream you mix in a bowl and apply with a badger-hair brush. So I guess it was only natural that I'd become curious about vintage watches sooner or later.
Fast forward eight years. One morning I looked into the watch box sitting on my dresser and felt compelled to pick up my grandfather’s watch. I held it in my hands, gently winding the crown. I was spellbound as the sub-dial’s second hand began to sweep around silently, marking the time. I became captivated by the simple design of the dial and, paradoxically, the complicated mechanical mechanism ticking away just beneath the surface of the brushed white dial. I slipped it on and immediately felt a connection to a man I last saw three decades earlier; a connection which, until now, consisted mainly of sharing the same name. Memories rushed back of those moments we shared together, the lessons he taught me, like watching the Mets win the '73 World Series, and how to bait my first fish hook. In my mind's eye, I saw him sitting in his rocking chair, ancient even then, smoking his pipe, and I swear I could smell the tobacco wafting through the air.
Taking a jeweler’s cloth, I gently buffed and polished the watch until more than a quarter-century of accumulated grime was gone and all that remained was the shiny yellow gold of the case. The crystal was nearly flawless, and the engraving on the case-back revealed itself. My grandfather’s initials – my initials – glinted in the light once again. Weeks of testing showed that this old watch still keeps perfect time, and I finally installed a new watch strap yesterday and the watch really does look to be in mint-condition. I am today, at last, proudly wearing my grandfather’s watch.
Although it hasn’t been worn much until today, this is the watch that fueled my growing love for fine timepieces. I thought it fitting to share its story, and these images, with you today.