Looking for a last-minute gift guide to help you choose a watch for a friend or loved one? Then keep on walkin’, ’cause this ain’t that. There are watches and “gifts” in this article, but this isn’t a “gift guide” where we just show you some watch stars from this year, and tell you what we think you should buy. We feel that’s not actually entirely realistic and rarely helpful in real life. Instead, we decided it might be fun to do a “Fantasy” Secret Santa this year, with all our team members, and do a real-life, real-watches (meaning relatively accessible), real people (with fantasy money), watch “gifting” exchange, and see what happens. Our hope is to provide anecdotal insight into the thought process, some wisdom about watches (and gifting), and perhaps some entertainment.
We’ve all been there. We want to share with a loved one the same joy we experience for a watch we love. We want that person to feel that good about something that we also love and then share that feeling with them as a positive bond. It’s the feeling we want to give, more than the “thing” itself. That seems to drive most sincere gift-giving in general. The challenge here, then, is to choose something that has a decent shot at achieving watch bonding bliss.
We thought we’d conduct an experiment. Watches are subtle and evoke an emotional response; choosing a watch to wear is a very personal experience. So, choosing one for someone else naturally introduces new levels of complexity and potential pitfalls. In the end, is it just a 50/50 hit-or-miss coin-toss-crap-shoot, or even if you know them well, can you really be sure that you are giving them something they will truly enjoy?
Let’s find out!
I put every aBlogtoWatch team member’s name into a big fluffy Santa hat (okay, a randomizer I found online), and randomly drew names to pair each team member with another for whom they would anonymously choose a watch from 2014. I then informed each person who they were “shopping” for, and gave them a deadline to choose a “gift” and write about why they chose that watch for that person. I then informed each recipient what their watch was, and gave them a deadline to write about their “gift.” And hilarity ensued.
At the time of publication, no one knows the identity of their Secret Santa, nor the reasons behind their Santa’s choice. I’m on-the-fence about whether bribery is an option, but in most cases, I’ll be taking these Secret Santa identities with me to my grave. Will it prove to be a team-building experience? Or will it drive us further apart than our home lands have already flung us?
So here it is, in no particular order, the unvarnished truth. Many choices were perfect hits. In other instances, it would seem that great watches are not gifted, they are re-gifted.
1. Zenith El Primero: Original 1969
Secret Santa Says:
I chose the Zenith El Primero Original 1969. While the natural choice for James would be a vintage watch, we are sticking to more recent fare so I think the El Primero Original 1969 is just right. If, like me, you check analogshift.com daily, you’ll know that James likes steel sport watches (often chronographs) with notable movements, timeless appeal and a splash of color (who doesn’t?).
The Zenith El Primero Original 1969 offers all that and more. Rocking a legendary Zenith El Primero 400 automatic chronograph movement that runs at a silky smooth 36,000 vph, the Original 1969 has the chops to back up its serious yet sporting look. As an additional nod to James’ vintage tastes, I’ve opted for the Original 1969 version that features both a 38 mm case and the classic Zenith tri-color dial. It may not be vintage, but I think it’s the next best thing.
James Lamdin Says:
It seems my reputation as ABTW’s resident “vintage guy” is well known amongst my colleagues! Although I readily enjoy the opportunities to play with interesting new timepieces, the bulk of timepieces in my personal collection are from the past. Fortunately for me, there are some great modern watches on the market that not only take their design cues from historical models, but are truly reissues of the originals – as evidenced by the sublime Zenith El Primero Original 1969 presented to me this year by my Secret Santa.
Originally launched in – you guessed it – 1969, the first El Primero (reference A386) was one of the world’s first automatic chronographs, and arguably the most advanced. Featuring a hi-beat movement with 36,000 vph and a stunning tri-color layout on the subsidiary registers, the world’s first El Primero has gone on to become a truly collectible timepiece, and is the historical foundation for an entire line of modern chronographs for Zenith.
In my opinion, this modern version is every bit as excellent as the true original of nearly five decades ago, and features the same case dimensions and dial design of the ’69 model. Zenith is, in my opinion, one of the most misunderstood modern manufactures, and offers a superlative product for a relatively meager sum. A386s can be pretty hard to come by (believe me, I’ve looked), and the Original 1969 is a truly fantastic alternative I’d be proud to own and wear. Thanks, Secret Santa!
This is a photo of the version released this year as a tribute to the Rolling Stones we announced here.
2. Omega Seamaster 300 Co-Axial
Secret Santa Says:
I chose the Omega Seamaster 300 for Kenny because his analog tastes mirror my own; we value history, form-follows-function design, and our possessions are a true reflection of our tastes. As a man who prefers three pedals to two, and mechanical movements with analog displays to quart digital, I felt that Kenny would appreciate the heritage-inspired design of the Seamaster 300, a properly modernized version of the storied professional diver from Omega. In addition to its killer vintage looks, the Seamaster 300 features a number of contemporary design elements, including the ceramic outer bezel and the brilliant Co-Axial movement – features I believe would appeal to Kenny’s equal interest in modern technical gadgetry and horology.
Kenny Yeo Says:
I was pleasantly surprised that the Omega Seamster 300 Co-Axial was chosen for me because it is my favorite watch that Omega released this year. The vintage-inspired design is just fantastic, and then there is a cool Master Co-Axial movement which is highly anti-magnetic and uses silicon components to improve timekeeping and reliability. And of course there is the beautifully crafted bracelet which has a micro-adjustment feature. All in all, I think the Seamaster Co-Axial is really great watch and I’m really happy to receive it as a gift.
3. A. Lange & Sohne Richard Lange Perpetual Calendar “Terraluna”
Secret Santa Says:
I chose the A.Lange & Sohne Richard Lange Perpetual Calendar for David because I think it is the coolest release from the German powerhouse this year. Not only does it look great, it also has some really nifty features, such as being able to use the back of the watch to tell which part of the world is receiving light. I think these are qualities he would appreciate in a watch.
David Bredan Says:
The Lange Terraluna is a wonderful pick that I have liked for many reasons: to put it simply, it possibly is the most complicated watch ever made by one of the greatest brands in high-end watchmaking. Chances are I’d wear it “inside out” with the movement and that terrific moon phase facing up.
4. 1987 Rolex Day Date, Blue Tiffany Dial
Ed. note: Yes, the rules are that the watch be from this year, but this particular Secret Santa is expecting a baby any second now, so I gave him a pass because he’s temporarily half out of his mind and just a liiiittle scary right now ? Love ya, man. It’s all good. Everything’s going to be fine. Good choice.
Secret Santa Says:
Why I chose this watch:
Victor is a father of two, and all that hard work definitely deserves a solid gold Rolex Day Date!
I chose this specific watch (shown) from a more recent auction as it looks great on a NATO strap (which I think Victor prefers) and the Tiffany dial is a neat anomaly in Rolex history.
It’s got substance and style, without being showy or vulgar.
Victor Marks Says:
Respect the classics, man. The Rolex Day-Date is the height of Rolex, and the Tiffany & Co. dial is the height of all Day-Dates. On a NATO instead of solid gold bracelet, it changes from ostentatious to whispering, “I’m wearing the best and don’t give a damn.” I had never before considered myself a gold-watch-person, but seeing this combination, I would happily wear this daily. As a go-go-80s guy, this is awesome. Awesome to the max.
5. Romain Jerome Batman-DNA Watch
Secret Santa Says:
Why I chose this Romain Jerome Batman-DNA for Patrick Kansa: because underneath the veneer of the family-man-tech-geek-watch-nerd in fact lies the superhero that defends his hometown of Gotham (i.e., Chicago)… Seriously, this is a man, coming from a tech background, who likes his complications rendered impeccably, but who likes to fly under the radar. As Batman is known for his radar manipulation, what better to match his rubber underwear? And really, this watch touches the boy in all of us while still proving adult, elegant, and horologically insane. Now, if he’s a really good boy in 2015 (i.e., gets his pieces in on time) he’ll get one of these: Memorigin Batman Tourbillon Watch.
What Patrick Kansa Says:
When I got word of what my gift selection was, I frankly was not all that surprised – in some ways, I am pretty predictable. If you have a look at my author bio, you will see right in there that I am an avowed Bat-fan. So, when word came in that it would be the Romain Jerome Batman DNA watch as my selection, I took it in gleeful stride.
To be sure, it would have been a much cooler watch had there been some actual “DNA” from a Batmobile in the mix, but it seems that was not in the cards. As far as Batsymbol watches go, this one is pretty sweet. The dial itself calls to mind the “broken skyline” that was used in movie promotions, and the look of the watch when the luminant is going is plain cool (though, again, the fanboy in me wonders if a yellow tinted lume would not have been more appropriate).
That all said, should one of these somehow actually land on my wrist (and I am fairly certain that will not be happening), it would be truly appreciated. At least, until it got locked away in a safe awaiting the time to start paying for college tuition for the kids! As this is all make-believe, though, I will say this – the person who made this selection was spot-on.
6. Bulova Accutron II Spaceview Watch
Secret Santa Says:
When I was first informed I would be choosing a watch for Mark, this is the only watch that came to mind. I chose this watch for Mark Carson because there is something about it I felt would invoke fond nostalgia for whatever he was doing in the ’70s, as the original is so iconic (not saying I am old enough to remember this, this is anonymous, right?). I personally love the updated look and cool geek-out factor this watch presents and when I see it, it does remind me of the look of his own watches he makes.
Mark Carson Says:
My first thought was “What have the elves put into Santa’s pipe?” Why would St. Nick have selected a quartz watch for me of all people? Then I had to step back and consider the wisdom of the gift.
After all, I have enough mechanical watches (of my own design), so really how often do I dare get caught wearing someone else’s mechanical watch? But quartz is another matter. We all have some, and sometimes they are still the watch of choice. For example, until recently, my “go to the movies watch” was a back-lit quartz piece. If you need a grab and go watch, quartz is hard to beat. And some features (timers, alarms, compass, temperature, etc.) can only be found on quartz watches (or mechanical ones starting at well above my pay grade). So there will always be a place for some quartz watches in my watch box.
Back when I was a young man in the early 70s, the watch brands commonly known were Timex and Bulova. I had also heard of Omega and Longines, but that was about it. And Bulova was considered a Cadillac, to Timex being the Chevy of the watch world. I recall seeing the tuning fork Accutron on TV. Bulova had done a good job of creating a buzz (pun intended) around the Accutron. It was high tech, accurate, and very cool. Not your father’s watch! I wanted one, simple as that.
After a while, I finally went to a jewelry store to buy one, but the salesman told me that there was this even newer, more accurate watch which used a quartz crystal. I wondered why anyone would put a rock (OK, mineral) in a watch and how that would do anything useful. The tuning fork, I could sort of understand. I ended up with the quartz watch, taking it on faith that this was even newer tech. But I always considered the original Accutron a lost love.
Fast forward too many decades, and I can now have my cake and eat it too. The new Bulova Accutron II Spaceview has the same visual appeal as the original Spaceview but with a Precisionist movement you can be proud to wear. With a sweeping seconds hand, uber-accuracy, and the retro high-tech look of the 70s, what’s not to love?
I’m with Ariel, when he reviewed the Accutron II in that my favorite reference would be the one with the gold toned face and brown leather strap. Full retro, yet a classic combination. And the case shape reminds me of the rotor of a Mazda rotary engine – which was also high tech engineering around the same time as the original Accutron.
The best gifts are those you don’t expect, but are pleasantly surprised and pleased to receive. So, thanks Santa, you know me better than I know myself sometimes.
7. Panerai Luminor Marina 8 Days Titanio (PAM00564)
Secret Santa Says:
I chose the Panerai Luminor Marina 8 Days Titanio watch for Zen, as it is a really cool, stylish, and versatile watch. Since Zen is our copy editor, I felt that a watch with a bold dial sporting really clear luminescent indices is a must when it comes to beating late night deadlines. In addition, copy editing can be quite time-consuming, and thus, the 8 day power reserve ensures winding only once a week.
Zen Love Says:
I got the Panerai Luminor Marina 8 Days Titanio (PAM 00564) from my Secret Santa, and it is uncannily close to a bull’s eye for me. In fact, it was only in the past couple days that I had identified a very similar Panerai Luminor Marina as one I wanted to go try on. He knows when I’m sleeping, awake, and is monitoring my online searches? Anyway, nicely done, Secret Santa!
While not a budget option for most people, a Panerai is, perhaps, a safe choice as a guy’s gift, because they are masculine, classic, and seem to match (or enhance!) a wide range of personalities, lifestyles, and styles of dress. While as a gift choice, it does not seem to say anything about me personally, that versatility is famously part of Panerai’s character and charm. There are many small differences among Panerai models, but I particularly like the Luminor cases, crown guards, and their 300 meter water resistance. The PAM 00564 may further be a safe choice, because titanium renders what is a large and chunky (44mm wide) case lighter and more wearable. Thank you, Secret Santa, for judging me to have been good this year!
Left-handed? Check out the Hands-On we did on the Panerai Luminor Submersible Left-Handed Titanio PAM569 here.
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