From Cradle To Collector: Watchonista's Guide To Instilling A Love For Watches In Your Kids
Here are some tips on how to foster your passion for time in future generations.
One of my most frequently asked questions is, “What watch should I buy my kid?” Surprisingly, this query comes from both normies and watch nerds.
We want our children (or beloved nieces and nephews) to find things and hobbies they will enjoy. And because we are watch-obsessed, we figure that if a Patek Philippe Nautilus would make us happy, then it would make them happy too.
Yes, enthusiasts can sometimes fall short of effectively sharing their passion with their families. More specifically, we have been known to go overboard when it comes to buying watches for others.
I am guilty of this too. I once bought my pre-teen nieces some gorgeous vintage Hamiltons, which I’m sure went straight into a drawer and are probably still there ten plus years later because 10-year-olds are not going to wear a 60-year-old mechanical watch when they go swinging on the monkey bars.
Patek’s legendary line is: “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.” But that doesn’t mean a child is capable of appreciating the beauty and craftsmanship of a mechanical watch. So if your kid rejected the crazily complicated watch you bought them for Christmas, don’t lose hope!
You can still instill an appreciation for watches in your kids by building a collection that can benefit them in the present and in the future.
If you want to get them started young, may we suggest R is for Rolex: ABCs for the Future Watch Collector from the Diaper Book Club? This colorful picture book teaches kids the alphabet by matching each letter to a specific manufacturer, including an illustration of a signature model from that watchmaker.
It’s a cool read because it goes beyond basic brand recognition. We hope the authors follow up with a 1-2-3 book using famous references (Lemania 321, anyone?).
The next stage in any future watch fan’s evolution is learning how to tell time. Which begs the question: digital or analog? A child’s mind is very adaptive. They could probably work out the display on an MB&F or HYT in a second.
At the same time, you don’t want that first watch to be so challenging that a kid won’t wear it. At this stage, a child’s brain may be super flexible, but their coordination is still iffy. So skip watches with too many buttons and buckles. And for practical reasons, plastic is the most kid-proof option.
If you choose the digital route, Timex has some tough, water-resistant watches with an easy-to-read LED display and a grime-resistant elastic fabric strap. And although, the strap will wear out before the watch, replacements are easy to get.
It also comes with a chronograph function, countdown timer, and alarm – all functions the kid can ignore until they are ready for complications. Best of all for younger children is the light-up INDIGLO dial. It’s like having a portable night light on your wrist!
Since I’m a watch geek, I thought I’d ask my mother about what she did to plant the seeds of obsessive timepiece devotion in my young mind. While she did not want to take credit for this (even saying that she once considered an intervention because I talked about watches too much), my mother did say that she bought us watches that also reflected our other interests.
For example, I loved Disney animated films; thus, my first watch had Cinderella on the dial. So consider your children’s interests. Are they into superheroes or want to grow up to be a shark? If you can combine that passion for Spiderman, unicorns or dinosaurs with a timepiece, you are halfway to igniting the flames of interest.
Flik Flak meets all of the basic requirements for a first watch: bright, easy-to-read, easy to operate and hard-wearing. It’s also an analog time teacher.
The themed models can also be personalized with your kid’s name (making it harder to lose).
Let’s talk about peer pressure. As your kids approach their tween years, they will want what they think all the other kids have. In many cases, this will be a smartwatch.
A good starter smartwatch is the Garmin Vívofit Jr. 3 Activity Tracker for Kids. Parents or guardians can use the app to set reminder alerts and task timers. There is even an In Case of Emergency (ICE) widget where a child's emergency contact info can be input for easy access if needed. For kids, hitting daily activity goals unlocks adventure games on the app. It is also battery-powered, so you don’t have to recharge every night.
For teens who want a more connected smartwatch, look for one that has features like a camera, GPS tracking, two-way communication, and games. Of course, the best kid’s smartwatches should also be easy to use, waterproof, and durable.
While the Apple Watch has tracking features bordering on Big Brother-esque, it does offer features like School Mode, which puts limits on the device during school hours so that its owner is focused on lessons, not social media. And with Family Setup, you can use your iPhone to pair watches for your children or older adults who don’t have their own iPhone so everyone can stay in touch by phone, text message, or Walkie-Talkie.
Planting the Seeds of a Collection
When it comes to starting a watch collection, two brands immediately spring to mind: G-SHOCK and Swatch.
Both watchmakers offer a wide range of colors and finishes that appeal to any trendy teen. Both brands feature limited-edition collaborations that will appeal to the emerging collector gene. And both are affordable enough that many kids can indulge in building a collection without you having to pay for all of the timepieces.
For example, fashion-focused teens might like the popular streetwear label Herschel’s take on G-SHOCK’s signature GLX5600 model. This watch is engraved with the phrase, “YOU CAN SURF LATER,” on the stainless-steel back cover, referencing the DIY mottos and designs soldiers would engrave onto their Zippo lighters. The Limited Edition GLX5600HSC-3 also features a durable matte army green resin case and band, gun metal IP buckle, dark green screen-printed Herschel Supply logo and HSCO First Watch Division branding, and a yellow face with mineral glass highlighted by auto electroluminescent (EL) backlight technology with afterglow functionality.
Young adults are very much into expressing their individuality, and the Swatch X You collection lets aspiring watchmakers customize their timepieces. All you have to do is use the online tool to choose a design, pick a color for the inner gear mechanism, and write a short message that will be inscribed on the back of the case.
My First Mechanical Watch
Whenever anybody asks me what watch they should buy their teen as their first adult watch, I always recommend either a Seiko 5 Automatic (or a NOMOS Glashütte Campus, if they’ve got a little extra coin). But with the Seiko 5, there’s no need to wait until graduation.
Seiko 5s are a great gateway watch for any rookie collector. For under $400, you can get a sturdy stainless steel sports watch that should serve its wearer through freshman year and on to retirement. The quality of these watches will also teach the next generation the value and importance of object permanence. The mechanical Seiko 5 is built to last, exposing the considerable downside of smartwatches: planned obsolescence.
If You Build It
Some children are into the style of a watch, while others’ interest is piqued by the mechanical heart. Kids who like coding might be more interested in building their own timepiece with Rotate – a mechanical watch kit created by Jennifer Zhang.
A recent college grad, Zhang became intrigued with the idea of building a manual wind timepiece. Although she was out to satisfy her curiosity, others wanted to take the challenge, and after a successful Kickstarter campaign, Rotate was born.
The Rotate kit includes a partly assembled movement from a Hong Kong supplier based on the ETA 6497 manual-wind caliber. The screws, center gear and watch stem are separate. Additionally, the kit includes a 44 mm stainless steel case, a dial, spring bars, three vegan-friendly straps, and hour, minute, and second hands. Along with a step-by-step assembly guide, Rotate’s kit provides the tools required to assemble the components: a screwdriver, putty, magnifying glass, tweezers, spring bar tool, cutter, glue, and gloves. There are three versions available, as well as additional tools and accessories.