The best present I've ever received was undoubtedly a watch, given to me by my Girlfriend Michelle. I don’t remember receiving it or opening it, but I remember loving it. It had everything, it was Swiss made, had an automatic movement, a sweeping hand and a dark pearlescent face that reeked of stylish understatement. If you turned it over, the makers had placed a glass window on the back, so you could see the movement, which fascinated me. I don’t know how many times I stared through that window, mesmerised by the workmanship, skill and dedication that must have gone into it’s production.
At the time Michelle was my girlfriend but now she’s my fiancé, perhaps in no small part because she is fantastic with gifts. Where as my gift ideas are usually formulated in a service station 5 minutes before I'm supposed to be attending a birthday party; Michelle will think for months about the perfect gift, weigh up all the options and purchase something that is such a good fit, it would leave the tailors of Savile Row with an inferiority complex.
Which is why after 4 years of loving ownership, I was filled with dread when I woke one morning to discover my watch wasn’t on my bedside cabinet. The night before I’d been travelling home on a coach, it was late, I was tired and as always I took my watch off and put it somewhere for safe keeping. For the life of me, I couldn’t think where, I checked my jeans, my jacket, I turned the house upside down. Then over a cup of coffee it hit me like a slow bullet: In a moment of stupid, drowsy abandon, I'd placed it in one of the coaches ashtrays.
I never found the watch and every time I looked down at the fading tan line that had replaced it, my heart sunk a little lower. I wanted a watch but I couldn’t afford a replacement and despite looking everywhere I couldn’t find the same model.
After three long years without a watch, on my 27th birthday, Michelle bought me a new one. However, this time the watch was a little simpler. It was a Casio F-91W quartz digital watch, designed not by the Swiss but by the Japanese (Not exactly a powerhouse in watch Manufacturing). To say I was little disappointed was an understatement, it seemed unimaginable that I could sink to the lowly watch level of the £9.99 Casio F-91W… I used to be someone, I used to be part of the Universal Geneva watch club, I used to belong.
Reluctantly I wore the watch, I suspected it was Michelle's cheap way of registering her annoyance that I'd lost such an expensive one before. In the back of her mind she was probably thinking “There, you can’t be trusted with a real one so you can have this toy”.
In the next few months something rather strange happened, I started to fall in love with this watch, it was accurate, it was handy, It told me the date, I could wear it swimming, heck it even had a light. It was everything my old watch had been but in one way it was better, it wasn’t trying to impress anyone; it was trying to tell the time.
Now when I look down at my wrist, I don’t just see a watch I see a truth. It’s a truth I apply to every aspect of my work as a developer; Great products don’t have to be exclusive or complex they just need to serve their function. I also realised that Michelle hadn’t been taking a jab at me, she bought me exactly what I needed and her gift buying prowess remains to this day.