Editor’s Note: Charles Bellinger is a member of the FB group. Knowing our penchant for watches, he submitted this piece about the passing on of the passing of time. – JB
In the spring of 2001, at the tail end of my senior year of high school, my father offered me a choice of graduation presents: a new Gibson les Paul classic or an old rolex bubble back wristwatch. This story is not the story of that watch. Before anybody decides to flail their arms and become incredulous let me be clear in saying that I liked rock and roll struts and touching butts and to that extent a Gibson Les Paul served an 18 yr old me far better than an old watch, rolex or not, ever would have. In fact this isn’t the story of a man giving his son a watch but rather a son giving his father a watch. That watch is the Charlie Watch.
In the summer of 2019 my wife Ashley and I wed. While it was joyous there hung over events in that period a sad gloom of pregnancies never completed and a lack of certainty for the future of our family composition but hoping for the best the 2 seat roadster was sold and a gently used Volvo station wagon was procured. Shortly there after we discovered that our family fortunes had changed and we could expect our child to arrive sometime the following July.
The Father’s Day immediately preceding the birth of our son, my wife gifted me a 1940s Cimier “faux chronograph “ manual wind wrist watch. She knew I collected older chronographs and be it the horrendous toll on pregnancies that the pandemic took or the failed experiences we had before, this “soon to be a Father’s Day” gift made it seem all the more real and concrete.
The Cimier is a brilliant bit of horology. The company was founded by Joseph Lapanouse in 1924. The watches used a movement called a pin pallet escapement and it often featured a “faux chronograph” (the hands don’t reset to zero when the functions use is complete) where the plungers to the side of the crown act as a rugged but accurate stop watch.
It’s a rugged simple movement that was easily industrialized to the tune of dozens of millions of watches being sold through the 1970s with some iteration of this in its case. In car parlance it was cheap reliable and indestructible. Think of it as the dodge slant 6 or Chevy small block v8 of the watch world. It was also a damn fine quality watch and handsome.
Once upon a time, the Harvard educated government man or the Warton finance ace would touch down in the New Yorks, Londons or Zurichs of the world and select from their favorite atelier a handsome, genuine and author Swiss made timepiece. They would return home to their cities and towns and bequeath it to sons and daughters.
And so it went, on Ivy campuses and handsome towns, a watch designed for sport and for class would end up attached to a hand at the wheel of a small roadster finding it’s way home on the holidays or tucked beneath the cuff of a sleeve inserted through a well worn blazer. It was remembered when the gifter slipped the mortal coil and passed from this world. When the giftee said to their own children that the watch they so admired would now become theirs.
The oil dripping roadster in the garage waiting for parent and child to repair or grandfathers shoes ready for a resoling and shine. Dropping your sons or daughters off on a leafy green campus and giving them something to guide their time in the halls and corridors of their potential. This watch was the workhorse and the engine of so many of those quiet warm moments passing from one instance to the next.
So at the end of all this, this article isn’t a fathers gift to his son and it’s not really about a renown Swiss watch movement. But it just might be about a gift from a son to a father that wasn’t just about a watch but about the potential for all those days that father and son have yet to experience and all the ways a son puts his ear up against his father wrist and joyfully proclaims “tick tick ! My tick tick” as his father says to him “one day Charlie. One day. Promise.”
- Charles Bellinger