Dad and his watches: 4 dads on what their watches mean

"The scars and scratches are triggers for where I’ve been and what I’ve done, and with kids I get even more of that. They’re signs of being a dad.”

Dads and watches have always been intertwined. Watches are tugged on, played with, tried on, and eventually, handed down. They accumulate scratches, dings, and dents, each of which tells its own story. For this Father’s Day, we talked with four dads about what it means to be a dad and how their watches play a small role.

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Mark Chou

Mark Chou is the founder of Bradhurst Ventures, a firm that consults, advises, and invests in consumer brands. Before that, he was an executive and early employee at the travel company Away. More importantly, he’s the proud dad to two kids: daughter Mia who is nearly 3 years old, and son Philip who was born a little more than a month ago.

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I asked Mark about some of his favorite stories involving his kids and watches. Here’s what he said:

”I’m the parent that usually does the bedtime routine — the nighttime reading, putting them to bed, all of that. At some point, maybe just because of the way [my daughter] was lying on me with my watch nearby, she started to notice it. It's the time she was learning about tick-tock tick-tock as the sound that clocks make. I had bought a Tudor Black Bay GMT, to commemorate both her arrival and being promoted to overseeing international for Away. I'd ask her if she wanted to listen to my watch, and she enjoys being able to hear the movement ticking away. It became kind of an inside joke, where she'd ask to hear the tick-tock of daddy's watch. It feels like I've made some progress into making her a watch nut.

On top of that, for a 6-month period or so, R is for Rolex was one of my daughter’s favorite books, which made me very happy. It’s an ABC word book, so we’d flip through the book together and sing the ABCs.”

You just had your second child (congrats!), so what's your philosophy for gifting watches to your two kids?

“I'm not the type of person who's going to buy a watch just for the kid and have it be a safe queen for 18 or 22 years and then break it out and give it to them. My perspective is more that of the person that's going to buy a watch now, wear it, enjoy it, and create memories with it. At some point, maybe there's one or two that'll end up in their hands or on their wrist, perhaps they’ll enjoy it because they remember it being on my wrist all the time.

But you don't know for sure if your kid is even going to like watches. You better believe I'm going to try because it is something that's a part of my life and I enjoy, but it's still not a guarantee that they'll be passionate about it. From that point of view, designating a specific watch as theirs doesn't really make sense, but I do hope that Mia and Philip will enjoy watches enough that one day they’ll ask for my vintage Submariner or mid-century Seamaster Geneve to wear themselves. Whether I’ll actually be willing to part with them is a whole different question!”

Nick Federowicz

Based in Chicago, Nick Federowicz is the man behind Ad Patina, where he sells vintage ads for watches (and other products). Over on his personal Instagram, you’ll see all kinds of photos of him and his kids, often co-starring his watches. In one of my favorite annual traditions, every year he re-posts the photo of him buying his first Rolex Datejust in Paris as a kid in 1998 next to a current photo of him and his family, wearing his Datejust and the same Tommy Hilfiger sweater.

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Now a father of two, Nick shared how being a dad hasn’t changed how he looks at wearing his watches:

"Being a dad hasn't changed my philosophy on wearing watches. Some people, when they have kids feel like they can't wear certain watches because life is messy. I've always been the opposite. I love patina, character, and life happening to my watches. Having children lends itself to patina happening to your watch at an accelerated rate. With kids, it's reconnected me to my original thought process, which has always been to buy a great watch as a companion for life — through life's ups and downs.

Today, more than ever, I don't ever want to lose that feeling or connection to a watch. Having kids, I can't collect like I used to. That said, collecting watches is nice, but wearing them is better. I love that my watches age and get all these scars, marks, and dings and I have all these pictures of me wearing watches with my kids and family. The scars and scratches are triggers for where I’ve been and what I’ve done, and with kids I get even more of that. They’re signs of being a dad.

Since Nick’s business, Ad Patina, is also in watches, he talked about how he enjoys involving his son in his work:

“My son knows that I work and understands that I have to work. His whole life, I've done Ad Patina. I always show him the ads and the pictures — not to show him the brand, but to see what he sees. The ads are like children's books if you frame it correctly. The ads, just like the watches, can reinforce and teach things. There are so many ways he interacts with these ads that are much more pure than how a watch collector might.

Just recently I framed a Submariner ad and it's got a big clownfish on it and I couldn't wait to show him because he loves Nemo and he got a huge kick out of it. Those are moments that are really great.”

Finally, since he’s a big advocate for “wearing your watches,” I asked Nick to recount some of his favorite memories of wearing watches with his kids:

“I don't sit down with my son, who's 4, and talk about brand history. I like to let the learning happen naturally. They're tools for him to learn. When he was learning numbers he'd look at the date cyclops and read off the number, or off the bezel [of my Rolex Explorer II]. Our watch talk is more life skills, so it's a fun tool to have. He's learning all this stuff on a cool object that's fun to have.

They'll pick up watches and drop them, and I don't mind at all. I just love seeing them do stuff with watches. It brings me a lot of joy not to snatch away these watches. Like, what's the worst that could happen? They're totally a part of life and I love that.

You never know what memory they might have that's going to stick with them. I don't care if they're not into watches, I'm not going to force it, I want it to come natural. If at a certain age they take a liking to a certain watch, it's totally something I'd give to them.”

Arthur Orton

Back on Mother’s Day, we featured Stephanie Bednarek Orton who, at the time, was pregnant with her first child. As it turns out, she ended up heading to the hospital on Mother’s Day, where her daughter was born shortly after.

Of course, we had to catch up with her husband — and now new father — Arthur for Father’s Day. Here’s Arthur on his newfound perspective as a first-time father:

“My wife, Stephanie, was pregnant and our first child was due in a week. As she wrote her contribution to the Rescapement Mother's Day article, my mind kicked into high gear: what watch should I wear to the hospital that day? I figured the watch I chose would be the one I had on when I held our daughter for the first time, and would become cemented in my memory. Should it be a chronograph so I can time contractions? Should it be waterproof? Should it simply be a favorite?

In the end, I didn't really have a choice. As we rushed to the hospital on Mother's Day, I happened to have my Omega Speedmaster Professional on the wrist and that was that. Rather than focusing on how this watch became part of this special moment, my initial reflection on watches after becoming a father was a realization of how insignificant my hobbies are in the larger scheme of things. New parenthood is a heavy dose of perspective on what really matters in life. I can confidently say that I would sell my entire watch collection in the blink of an eye if it would guarantee my daughter's health, education, or happiness.

Thankfully, it hasn't come to that, and I don't think it will. A month into fatherhood, Stephanie and I began to realize that our parental duties and hobbies can co-exist peacefully. Compared to some other hobbies, watches are fairly easy to continue to enjoy because they are with you there moment to moment as you raise your child. (Compare this to my electric guitar playing which wakes the baby.)

Fatherhood has also made me think about future watch purchases differently. I've taken a longer view on things and ponder what additions to my collection will truly stand the test of time. I'd like for watches Stephanie and I buy to be there when our daughter might be old enough to share our interest, and wear or inherit them.”

Martijn van der Ven

Martijn is the Enicar god, the author of the book Enicar: Time for a Change which has played a huge role in the increased interest in vintage Enicar over the past few years. He’s also a father of two, so I asked him how his kids have taken to his Enicar Mania. Here’s what he said:

“Picture this: two pairs of small hands gently tapping and sweeping the floor of a poorly lit kitchen, in search of a microscopic gear that their old man accidently dropped while operating on one of his watches. This scene perfectly describes how my vintage watch passion has entered the lives of my kids. I will never forget the joy in the eyes of my then 7-year-old son when he managed to find the damn watch part, a few seconds before our cat was going to eat it.

My children have witnessed my general interest in watches develop into, let’s face it, Enicar Mania. How could they not? Both my office and living room are basically Enicar museums now. I have three clocks with the Saturn logo on my walls (one with four dials!), old Enicar advertisements in the bathroom, numerous watch boxes to throw my keys in and a neon-lit 10-foot Enicar dealer sign right above my writing desk. They still feel at home.

Have I been making up with Loes and Cas for the many, many hours I was absent while writing the Enicar book? You bet! They believe their daddy is world famous now (I won’t ruin their fantasy). And the best part: one day, they will inherit it all!”

Thanks to the four dads for taking part in this week’s newsletter. Happy Father’s Day to you, and all the fathers out there!

Finally, what is Father’s Day without showing appreciation from the children they raised? That’s why we got some perspective from Charlie Dunne, who wrote a short piece about his father, Chris.

My father is a special individual. He, like myself, is obsessed with old things. While not as passionate about vintage watches as I am, he has an unrivaled love for antiques (primarily Georgian furniture). Occasionally, our interests intertwine and we will discuss English hallmarks on cutlery vs Swiss hallmarks on watch cases. 

He wears a few great timepieces that I’ve given him over the years. Despite owning a Tag Heuer Carrera (a watch that may deserve its own short article in the future) and a 1930s Patek Philippe, he has a penchant for affordable watches. One that he’s been wearing more frequently is a Hamilton Rodney from the mid 1950s. More recently he has taken a liking to my Dan Henry 1937 which he borrowed in early June.

There are many characteristics I admire about my father. One, in particular, is his determination. When he isn’t lounging in his study reading books about antique chairs, he is fixated on completing tasks. Despite recently retiring, he’s the most productive person I know. Somehow, he manages to fit everything into his schedule as if he has more time in his day than everyone else.

He’s always been one to emphasize how important it is to have empathy for others. At least once a month, he makes an effort to cook and serve the homeless. The same selflessness he shows towards his family, he shows towards strangers. None of his generosity comes with the expectation of recognition or gratitude. 

I’m extremely fortunate to have a father who understands the value of being present. Even though I am a grown man, he is always eager to know how I am doing and expresses an interest in what’s going on in my life. I cherish the time we spend together and am so blessed to have him in my life. 

Love you Dad, and happy Father’s Day.