If your friend is really into watches, and you need to get them a birthday gift, then you should get them something horology related. You don't have to get them an actual watch, you can get them something watch related. In fact, you might not want to get them a watch because it might not be their style. What you should consider doing is getting a cool book about some aspect of watchmaking or watch history that your friend will enjoy reading. Here are some ideas.
A History of Watchmaking in the Jura Mountain Region of Switzerland
If you're friend is interested in luxury watches, then they will love reading about the epicenter of Swiss watchmaking. The Jura region of Switzerland is home to La Chaux-de-Fonds, a small town where most of the worlds best watches are made. The list of companies that produce their watches here is astounding (everyone from Rolex to Omega). The story behind the town is a great read. The history begins with the traditional Swiss watchmaking culture, which involved artisans working in their homes (not yet in factories) and producing very limited runs of high end time pieces. The culture of watchmaking is ingrained in the people, with the idea of apprenticeship and craft an integral part of the process. Eventually the small workshops transformed into larger, modern style factories, but there are still tiny storefront shops that have been run by the same family for years.
Get Techie: A History of Chronographs
There is probably no other complication on a watch that gets as much press as the chronograph. Super expensive luxury watches don't use batteries (they are either hand wound, or "automatic", which means they wind by the movement of your wrist) and so the process of creating a stopwatch (which is essentially what a chronograph is) requires immense skill. The earliest chronographs were not connected to watches, that came later. Different companies were able to produce more efficient chronographs, and the process of innovation and competition among the different watchmakers is a great read. There is even a great story about the creation of the self-winding chronograph and how the Swiss watchmakers raced against the prestigious watchmakers from Japan in order to get it to market first, both believing that the innovation would transform the industry.
Watches in Movies
You might not have known it, but your friend certainly is aware of how tied into the film world watch companies are. Watch any blockbuster movie (from classic Jame Bonds, to modern day films such as Blood Diamond, where Leonardo DiCaprio was running around wearing a high end Brietling) and you will see luxury watches. In fact it's rare to see a film without also seeing an actor wearing a beautiful watch. And it's not just luxury watches. Watch an action movie such as Lone Survivor or Blackhawk Down, and you will see an array of sport watches (from G-shocks, to Suunto). So, a cool book would be one that examines the history of watchmaking culture as it ties into Hollywood. Some companies have become so tied into a film line (Omega and James Bond, for instance) that they have developed a line of watches inspired by the movie.
To find books about these subjects, check out horology bookstores like TED CROM BOOKS.
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