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Why watches make great family heirlooms

Why watches make great family heirlooms

Technologies come and go. Styles move in and out of fashion. But if chosen wisely, the allure of a quality timepiece will endure for generations, writes Madeline Hoskin.

As the slogan goes, “You never actually own a Patek Philippe, you merely look after it for the next generation.”

The atelier’s aim isn’t to create pieces that withstand the test of one lifetime, rather ones that will hold their value in the face of any trial that future generations press upon them – and in this age of disposable technology, it’s a bold endeavour.

Crazy as it sounds, this ethos spans far beyond Patek, underpinning the entire bespoke watch industry. As any ardent collector will attest, a luxury timepiece is rarely chosen solely for the enjoyment of the wearer. It is chosen to be future-proof, an investment akin to property or gold bullion, admired by the succession of hands it is passed down through.

To have and to hold

There’s a certain romance and cachet attached to heirlooms that traverse decades – even centuries – through one family. They become portals into a bygone era, a glimpse into the world of a parent or grandparent. Provided, that is, that they remain cherished.

For those looking to invest in such a piece, there are precautions that will ensure your watch maintains value, both sentimental and monetary, for years to come, and this rarely happens by chance. We asked Julian Farren Price, managing director of J Farren-Price, to offer his advice.

Julian Farren Price
Julian Farren Price
Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Master Ultra Thin Moon
Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Master Ultra Thin Moon

Tips of the trade

The crux of his thinking is simple: choose a watch you really love, and wear it. “One of the most important items a son or daughter can receive is a watch that has been daily worn by a parent,” he shares. “It instils a sense of family connection.”

To ensure it is versatile and won’t go out of style, opt for a mechanical watch with a clean dial and elegant strap, preferably from the classic range of a world-class atelier such as Patek, Rolex or Jaeger-LeCoultre.

“It’s hard to beat Patek Philippe’s Calatrava,” offers Farren-Price. “Or my personal favourite, the Golden Ellipse, which was designed in 1968 using the mathematical principle of the ‘golden ratio’.”

For longevity, waterproof designs are also worth considering, in which case Farren-Price recommends the Rolex Oyster Professional ranges such as a Submariner, Explorer or GMT – Master II.

“Alternatively, Patek’s Nautilus from 1976 is an icon, if you can get hold of one,” he adds.

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe’s 5738R celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Golden Ellipse
IWC Schaffhausen’s Portofino Hand-Wound Eight Days
IWC Schaffhausen’s Portofino Hand-Wound Eight Days

Handle with care

The final pearl of wisdom Farren-Price offers is to consider the age at which you entrust an heirloom watch to your child. Too young and they won’t comprehend the value; too old and you won’t see them use it.

As he sums up, “It is nice to see our children enjoying something special we present them.” And in the end, isn’t that what heirlooms are all about?

This article originally appeared in volume 34 of Signature Luxury Travel & Style magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.