A Family’s Watch Legacy: How a father and his young son bonded over watch collecting, a bond now shared with the family’s next generation

A Family’s Watch Legacy

How a father and his young son bonded over watch collecting, a bond now shared with the family’s next generation.

PAUL BOUTROS

May 10, 2014 2:29 a.m. ET

Watches are my family legacy, somehow imbued with a deep and emotional bond shared between my father and me, and now between me and my children. It all began when I was 10 years old. My father was a coin collector and I, having already inherited the collecting bug from him, had built my own small collection of coins and baseball cards.

It was 1986, and we were in New York City for a national numismatic convention, hunting for gold coins to add to his collection. After the show, he took me for a winter’s evening walk down Fifth Avenue, to admire the shop windows decked out for the Christmas holidays. Wempe Jewelers, a luxury watch store still in operation today, stopped us dead in our tracks.

Lights were dancing off the polished surfaces of each watch in the window, mesmerizing me. I was awestruck by the high prices shown. $50,000? For a watch? I couldn’t believe it, and was so curious to learn why. Right then a beautiful saleswoman beckoned us inside, and I urged my dad to let us go in.

Sensing my eagerness, the saleswoman asked me which watch I’d like to see, and I immediately picked out a large, gold IWC pocket watch with a price tag of $23,000. She opened up the caseback to show me the watch’s movement. The inside was glowing, a three-dimensional micro-world with a ticking “heart,” unlike anything I’d seen before. It was love at first sight and a moment that formed an important bond between my father and me.

OUR RELATIONSHIP WAS COMPLICATED. He and my mother emigrated to the U.S. from Egypt, in 1970, shortly after they were married. I was born six years later, when he was 42. He was strict and insisted on imposing on us a conservative upbringing that was counter to the American life I wanted to live. So there was both a cultural and generational divide between us, and it led to many fights throughout my childhood.

But when it came to watches, our differences disappeared. At such times, peace and calm and joy reigned. Together we visited flea markets, auctions, and retailers, in hopes of finding a bargain, researching as a team. What particularly moves me is that he showed enormous trust in my judgment, and only bought a watch when we both agreed it was worthy. When we landed a good watch at a great price, the elation we shared was pure joy.

Once I entered college, watches took a back seat in my life, and with boyhood over, work and graduate school consumed most of my time. My relationship with my father grew ever more distant. Within a month of finishing grad school, my father passed away. Soon afterward, I opened the safe-deposit box where the collection we built together was stored.

I held my breath looking down at the watches, overwhelmed with emotion. These watches represented the happiest memories I had with my father. Longing to relive them, my passion for watches was reignited.

TWELVE YEARS OF COLLECTING LATER, I have a 9-year-old daughter, Katie, and a 6-year-old son, Alex. I felt it was my duty they develop an appreciation for fine watches, but their interest began on its own. I had just purchased Guido Mocafico’s superb photography book, Movement, showcasing high-end watch movements. Katie, then 4, sat on my lap as I was flipping through its pages. She asked me to explain what it was we were looking at.

So I began describing the largest, most obvious parts first. “Katie, these are gears, here are jewels, and these are bridges which keep all the gears in place.”

She thirsted for more information on every page, and I began describing the movements’ beautiful finishing details with words she’d never heard before — côtes de Genève,perlageanglage.

“Dad, can we read the watch book?” she asked almost every day from then on, and within weeks she was able to name nearly all the parts and finishing techniques. Alex saw the book when he was 3, and he’s been following in Katie’s footsteps ever since.

It was an incredible source of pride when Katie demonstrated her knowledge to a watchmaker during a 2012 watch event with Van Cleef & Arpels. She sat at the watchmaker’s bench, took his loupe, and began naming parts. The watchmaker was in disbelief that a 7-year-old girl could do what she just did.

This immensely rewarding, lifelong hobby has taken me to places and given me experiences I never imagined. As the steward of the collection begun by my father, I intend to pass it on to Katie and Alex, in the hope our family legacy will enable them to similarly enjoy the joys of watch collecting throughout their lives. And now that I will be writing about watches for Penta, I promise to share what we learn with you, too.

 

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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