A Vintage Timepiece and the Stories It Tells

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When I first held it in my hand, I was shell-shocked.  The 1972 Rolex Submariner was from my father-in-law-to-be, a gift he received nearly 40 years ago from graduating West Point that same year – and the insane thing is, he never wore it.   Not because he deemed it too precious or reserved it only for special occasions, but – get this – because it was too…heavy.

I don’t have enough word count here to cover how ridiculous that is but suffice it to say one could argue the heft of the Submariner is one of the watch’s best aspects!  (And trust me, I now never miss an opportunity to rib this serious military man for the “preciousness” of his wrist.)  

His sensitivity to weight on his wrist notwithstanding, it was my supremely lucky day (to put it mildly) to be the new custodian of this family heirloom for the next generation.

It was always a dream of mine to own a Rolex, but I frankly thought it would be a retirement gift to myself, not something I received at the ripe age of 26 in the Fall of 2011.  It’s not lost on me how insanely fortunate I am to have the privilege of wearing this incredible timepiece, but I can tell you that I haven’t taken it for granted for a single moment and still treasure putting this watch on nearly every day (just take a look at its face – my watch has its fair share of well-earned bumps and bruises).

I’m certainly no expert horologist, but I know enough that the Rolex Submariner has a special place among collectors in the pantheon of watches.  Of the nearly seventy-five timepieces contained in Matt Hranek’s A Man & His Watch – a beautiful collection of watches that matter and their famous owners – there are five different Submariners featured, including a similar 1972 edition that was worn by none other than Bond himself in the 1973 film Live or Let Die.

I was also shocked to see a near-replica of my own watch (this one was a bit younger from the late 70s) gleaming behind the plush jewelry case in Ralph Lauren’s flagship store in Chicago as part of their highly curated selection of vintage pieces.  If it’s good enough for Ralph, it’s damn sure good enough for me.

While Rolex’s superb engineering and prominence as one of the most important houses of Swiss watchmaking set the foundation for the Submariner to become such a coveted timepiece, you can’t overstate the importance of the Submariner’s classic and timeless design that makes the watch feel de courant in any decade and lends it a truly limitless versatility (that I would argue doesn’t translate to all of vintage timepieces).  As equally stunning paired alongside jeans and a James Dean-esque tee as it is paired with your best dinner jacket and patent leather shoes (thanks, Bond), I’ve found the Rolex Submariner can literally do it all and go all places.  

Most important about this particular watch, though (and, really, any wonderful vintage timepiece), is the sentimental value it carries.  As a gift from my father-in-law, my Sub is a true family heirloom that will, without a doubt, be passed along to my children at some point and, hopefully – God willing – passed along to theirs.  And through the watch, the legacy of my father-in-law, myself and each of the subsequent owners will carry forward with it (including the incredibly ridiculous story of how it arrived on my wrist in the first place).

The year my father-in-law gave me the watch was the same year I proposed to my wife.  Yesterday was the 10-year anniversary of our wedding which was (and will forever be) the most important day I’ve ever worn this watch.  And that’s a story that should be passed along to the next generation.

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