Watch Inheritance: Two to Put in Your Will


A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1

5 Watches To Hold On To For The Next Generation, counsels. SPOILER ALERT! The frat boys recommend the A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1, Laurent Ferrier Galet Classic Micro-Rotor, Moritz Grossmann TefnutH. Moser & Cie Streamliner Centre Seconds and the L.U.C. Chopard XPS Twist QF Fairmined. Nice watches – as well they should be at prices ranging from $20k to $45k. Ridiculous advice. The unspoken truth about watch inheritance is . . .

the next generation won’t be wearing a traditional watch. Why would they? They can’t even read a traditional watch. Not to mention the fact that the smartwatch has rendered the traditional watch obsolete.

Courtesy (click on image for link)

Willing an expensive luxury watch to the next generation is like leaving them a well-preserved muscle car. It’s a wonderful, delicate thing that will be used, at best, rarely. More likely, it will gather dust and disintegrate. At some point, its new owner will get the idea that maybe it would be best to sell it. You know, to someone who can enjoy it as it should be enjoyed.

Nooooo! I hear the Greek chorus wailing. My watch inheritance has priceless sentimental value! It would be like selling a piece of my heart! True story. But there are a couple of problems with that perspective.

Patek Philippe ad

For one, the generation after the next generation will not have seen your watch worn on a daily basis (see: above).

No matter how much family history matters to your descendants, “This watch [which doesn’t do anything but tell the time and date] belonged to your grandfather” won’t have a lot of emotional pull.


For another, if you leave a watch collection to your progeny no one timepiece will have sufficient cross-generational appeal to withstand the obfuscatory mists of time.

I know: there are families of watch collectors. Is yours one? If not, it’s only a matter of time before your beautifully built horological buggy whip finds its way to the open market.

I’m not making this shit up. One need only look at the fate of fine American pocket watches to see where this is headed.

Waltham pocket watch on stairs

At the end of the World War I, returning soldiers embraced the practical and economic advantages of wristwatches (previously considered a woman’s purview).

Tens of millions of inherited pocket watches ended up hidden away, unused, unloved, slowly sinking into rack and ruin. Sold? That too. During the depression, millions of gold pocket watch cases were melted down, their movements discarded.

Waltham 1883

I’m sure the majority of the pocket watches in my collection were passed down from father to son. Although I generally avoid monogrammed cases, they’re sobering proof of how quickly sentimental value becomes [diminished] commercial value, how soon our possessions lose their connection to our lives.

OK, that’s all a bit depressing. Good news! There’s a better way to approach this “holding on for the next generation” watch inheritance business. Two, in fact.

Pass on a tool watch

Seiko Turtle on wrist

The problem with leaving a watch as wonderful as an A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 or Laurent Ferrier to your kids: they’re going to be afraid to wear it. That’s especially true if they’re used to wearing disposable smartwatches.

Equally, is he or she going to take the time and expense to have your meisterwerk serviced every five years (or less)?

G-SHOCK GA-2100 white hands

Instead, leave them a watch built to take abuse, like the recently reviewed Fortis Cosmonauts Chronograph. Or any Rolex, really. OMEGA? That too. Seiko? Why not? Yes, even G-SHOCK.

If you wear a daily beater, there you go! Leave them that one – a watch they connect with you that doesn’t require kid gloves or $1k service intervals.

Pro tip: to make ensure your beater isn’t neglected, tell your kid “I’d really like it if you’d wear this watch on days that were special to us: my birthday, your birthday, Thanksgiving, Elvis Week, whatever.”

Pass on a simple dress watch

Timex American Documents on wrist - a good choice for watch inheritance

The watches named by Fratello slot into the dress watch genre. Ben Hodges chose his five high-priced timepieces on the basis that they’ll still be cool long after you’re pushing up the daisies. For the most part, he’s not wrong.

But again, for the reasons stated, high horology is wrong the way to go. More than that, will your inheritors inherit your ability to discriminate between a $20k Patek Philippe Calatrava and a $495 Timex American Documents (above)? Will they care?

Patek Philippe Advertisement ( watch inheritance?

Remember: the chances are high that your watch inheritance – the traditional watch you leave behind – won’t be worn on a daily basis. But it might be worn for special occasions (e.g., hot dates, weddings, graduations, etc.) as a fashion statement.

So whether you go high or low, if you want to leave a watch that will actually enjoy some wrist time, leave one three-hander per child. Done. Except for this: if you don’t have your watches in your will, sort that out at your earliest convenience. Or sooner.


  1. I have more cerebral thoughts on this but for now any talk of passing on a watch to children always makes me think of Christopher Walken’s monologe in Pulp Fiction.

    And before the pocket watch was the ancestral grandfather clock. My family has had one needing repair for decades. I have some interest in it, but it is still a white elephant as much as anything.

  2. I used to be on an online forum, not watch specific, where there would occasionally be these wanker questions from people who had all of a sudden decided to buy a “good” watch. They knew basically nothing except 1) the price range they had in mind, 2) an insistence that they truly appreciated quality and craftsmanship and durability and that this was not about status, 3) that they wanted something to leave to their children (that didn’t involve saving/investing the lump of cash they’d allotted). Sometimes this was accompanied by the goofy wish for a watch of a make so premium that the normal hoi polloi would not recognize it as expensive (meaning they wanted to impress people above them, not at their level or below).

    Even years ago, the responses from sane people would be about how few teenagers wear watches and what makes you think they, or anyone, will be interested in the one you choose three to five decades from now? But they were undeterred.

    There is an article about what is likely going on in the mind here.

    My favorite section, which is not as snarky as I remember:
    “It’s not the money, but everything else but the money. Ryan Gosling’s character in Drive inherited nothing from his dad except a Patek Philippe watch, but because it is a Patek Philippe we are to understand that it symbolizes the real gifts his Dad left him, like masculinity and courage and driving skills. The watch symbolizes the intangible legacy gifts that came along with it, but in real life there are no intangibles to pass on, so it is being used instead of those intangibles. It replaces the intangibles.

    If this is confusing, remember that the watch is for the father. The point isn’t to give it to the kid, the point is to convey the impression that he is going to give it to the kid. To convey the impression that he has other things to leave to the kid as well, just like those other high class Americans who pass on connections or defense attorneys or the Greek Prime Ministry. That’s the kind of man he is.”

    The whole idea of a watch being the most expensive and meaningful thing a man has to pass on is from what era, the Victorian? Fratello is truly giving yesterday’s advice for tomorrow. And that is ignoring the differing personal taste and changing style factors, which is usually a terrible gift in general.

  3. A big question I ask myself: Will the company and brand still be around? Both to make the watch relevant and to make the watch serviceable. That is a tough question for three to four of the Fratello five, and at the lower tiers discussed here not a bet I would want to have to make on Fortis.

    Good call on sports/tool watches making sense.

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