A Grail for Christmas
A simple story of love, family, and Christmas. And Speedies.
Every watch has a story. Some watches tell the story of career advancement, educational achievement, or the birth of a child. The G-Shock purchased by a private first class in Camp Pendleton before his deployment overseas has a story, as does the gold Rolex given to an accounts manager on the day of her retirement. Some watches merely say how large of a bank account their owner has. Anytime a watch finds itself on someone’s wrist, there’s probably a story behind the reason why or what came after it was strapped on. Here’s one more, that of my Omega Speedmaster Professional, reference number 145.022.
This story begins at a birthday party; or more accurately, a birthday luncheon. It was the summer of 2018, and my wife and I joined her family at a cozy Cuban restaurant in Old Town Orange to celebrate my father-in-law’s birthday. Warm panes con lechon and Cubano sandwiches joined chilled cans of Materva and toasty papas rellena across our table. The women of our group discussed the clothing and gem shops they wanted to scope while we were in the area, and the men discussed football and cars. I spotted a cigar shop a few doors down and piqued my father-in-law’s interest in a visit. We cheered the patriarch of our family, this loving man who treats me like a son and is very much a father figure to me, and we enjoyed our meal before breaking off into two groups, with the women headed in one direction filled with fabric and amethyst while we hoped to breathe in some Padrones or Olivas.
After the cigar shop, our plan was to head over to a vinyl record store that we were unaware was closed at the time; we found that out much later though, as my wandering eyes first diverted my attention to the presence of a vintage watch shop. My father-in-law is not a watch guy, but he was happy to humor me and give the shop a look. We browsed the cases along the wall and in the center of the store; Rolex Datejust, Rolex Submariner, vintage Patek Philippe Calatrava, etc. With my humble collection at the time, I could not imagine paying the creeping rising prices of vintage Rolex or the exorbitant costs of a gold Patek, so I wasn’t too intrigued by anything at first glance. As my eyes panned across the center case, I spied the black aluminum bezel of a vintage Omega Speedmaster Professional. I let out an auditory gasp as I stared longingly at it. At my father-in-law’s question, I told him that the Speedy was my grail and explained the history of the piece to him. The salesman added that the model in the case was a reference 145.022 from the 1970s, and a watch of this reference was used on Apollo 17 (later research suggests a reference 145.022 was worn by astronaut Ron Evans). I mentioned to my father-in-law that I was saving up to buy one, and hoped to acquire it in a couple of years. After a few more minutes of browsing, we departed the store and rejoined our wives.
Six months passed by, and I continued to put some earnings aside in hopes of saving enough for a Speedmaster of my own. Just before the Christmas season, I found a vintage, gold plated, 1968 Omega Geneve on eBay for a couple hundred dollars, and while it wasn’t a Speedmaster, I felt one step closer to my goal since the Geneve said Omega on the dial. I wore the Geneve to Christmas dinner at my in-law’s house.
When we arrived, my in-laws were in great spirits and seemingly more enthusiastic than usual. My in-laws are Christmas People; they love the season and decorate to the nines. My father-in-law was born into poverty in Castro’s Cuba, and while he practices frugality most of the year, Christmas is his time to shower the people he loves with presents galore.
As dinner wrapped up, my father-in-law excitedly announced it was time for gifts. I prepared my then-toddler aged daughter for the moments before the flood of wrapping paper and toys she would soon find herself in, and I settled into a comfortable chair behind her in the corner of my in-law’s living room. Naturally, my daughter, as the only child present, received the first gifts of the night, and soon bow-adorned boxes and bags with stripes and snowmen ping-ponged across the room, putting smiles on the faces of my wife, sisters-in-law, a boyfriend or two, and the toddler.
My mother-in-law handed me a stack of four boxes, all bound together with a nice thread and a bow. I untied the stack and opened the first of the boxes, and inside I discovered a solitary card that wished me a “Happy Birthday,” which I found curious since my birthday was two months away. I opened the second box, and a card inside said, “Happy Father’s Day.” The third box wished me a “Happy Veterans Day” (I served in the US Marines).
Lastly, I opened the fourth box, the largest in the bundle, and inside I found one more card on top of a squat rectangular jewelry box. “Merry Christmas!” I opened the jewelry box and found the Speedmaster my father-in-law and I were eyeing in the vintage store over the summer; some time after his birthday lunch, he and my mother-in-law returned to buy it for me.
I was completely shocked. The grail was in my hands. And while I was nervous about accepting such an extraordinary gift, my hesitance was gently washed away by the look of joy on the warm faces of my in-laws, who were as excited to give me the Speedmaster as I was to receive it. The Geneve went into the box, and the Speedy graced my wrist at last.
I cherish my Speedmaster. One day it will be passed on to my children, an heirloom with a story they can tell their children when they pass it down. A simple story of love, family, and Christmas.
Have a story about a watch of yours? Share it with folks who want to hear about it.
The Watch is an Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch 3590.50/ST145.022.