How to Find the Perfect Gift

Tried and True Tips from a Tourneau Sales Professional

By Contributing Editor, Our Minutes

The change of seasons brings with it a number of landmark occasions worthy of commemoration, from Mother’s Day and Father’s Day to graduations and weddings. A watch is always a smart gift—a timeless reminder of a significant moment that will be cherished for generations. But selecting the right timepiece for the person you care about can be a daunting task. From an individual’s personality and taste to how active he or she is on the job, there are a number of things to take into consideration.

We spent a few moments with Jenny Lei, a Cartier Brand Ambassador at the Tourneau TimeMachine, to get a few gift-giving tips from a pro.

If someone came to you looking for a Mother’s Day gift, what would you recommend they think about?

First, I always ask what kind of watches the wife, mother, or mother-in-law already owns. If she wears a square watch, we’ll usually recommend something different, perhaps a round one. Also, we’ll ask about her lifestyle. If she has young children, for instance, perhaps she wouldn’t want to take off her watch all the time—she’ll want to wear it to the park, or while bathing the baby. In that case, we’d recommend something that’s more durable and water resistant.

But if she’s the type of woman who owns a lot of watches already, we might recommend something more elegant that she wouldn’t buy herself. Maybe she’ll be able to wear it to parties, for example, in which case we might recommend a gold piece on a leather strap. Though sometimes, people are afraid of the leather strap, thinking it could be ruined right away.

But if you’re giving something special, we do offer a five-point protection plan that covers your watch for three years. So if the watch comes with a leather strap, even that strap is protected. She can get it wet, and we will change it for her. One Cartier strap could be $370, a Patek Philippe strap maybe four or five-hundred dollars or more. But with our protection plan, it’s all covered.

What would you recommend if the gift will be the mother’s first watch?

I remember one customer who was buying a special treat for herself. I asked her, “What’s your lifestyle, what do you do?” She was working at a law firm and had heard people talking about Tourneau at the office. We talked a lot about quartz versus automatic movements—if you haven’t had one before, you might not understand the difference. She ended up buying a quartz watch, a Ballon Bleu de Cartier, like the one I wear.

Why is that, do you think?

Well, you know, a quartz watch has a battery and will keep running until the battery dies. But with an automatic movement, if you leave it on the table for two days, it will stop running. At which point, you’ll need to set the right time (and, if it has the option, the date), then wind the watch a little to “charge” it. Of course, if you wear the watch every day, you’ll never have a problem.

We recently had a customer come in to have his Baume & Mercier watch serviced. He’d received it as a gift about a week earlier and thought something was wrong with it because it had stopped. It was actually fine; he didn’t understand how automatic movements work. We encourage people giving these kinds of watches to educate the person receiving the gift.

I’ll also ask about whether the individual is “active” on the job or not. For example, if someone works on a computer all day, their wrist will not move very much, and the watch won’t be charged with a lot of energy.

What about hand-wound (or manual) watches?

If you’re giving a gift, keep in mind that these kinds of watches might be more for the collector—or at least, the experienced watch owner. There’s a beauty to hand-winding a watch—but for a first-time watch owner, they might find it annoying. It’s important to educate the customer (or the person receiving the gift), because all it takes is winding the watch just a bit every day, until you feel a little resistance. Some people really love the sound of a watch being wound and will hold it to their ear.

Again, there are quartz movements, and then automatic and hand-wound movements are more expensive, as there are more parts and a lot of labor goes into creating them. People who like and know watches might prefer more complicated watches, but if you’re giving the watch as a gift, it’s a bit safer to go for quartz. Plus, Tourneau offers free battery replacements for the life of the watch.

Other things to think about when looking for a gift?

Well, we try to please every customer, and we like to say that we carry a watch for every kind of person. But some customers have very specific requests—perhaps, instead of the bracelet that comes with a watch, they’d prefer a strap. For example, now there is a model of the Ballon Bleu de Cartier that comes on a strap. But when it was first released, there was originally only a bracelet, and if you wanted a strap, it had to be specially fitted to the watch, because it wasn’t made for that. We were happy to cut straps to fit those watches right here in the store. It’s not something someone could do on their own, but if that’s what you wanted, you could bring it in and we would make it happen.

What about engraving?

We recommend this for a lot of customers, to really commemorate a special occasion like a birthday or anniversary. We recently had a customer purchase a Cartier for his father’s 90th birthday, and he had the watch engraved with the message, Happy 90!

What a great way to mark that milestone. Is there a certain type of watch that works better for engraving?

It takes a certain kind of caseback. If it has a lot of space it works better for us, and we can include as many words as the customer wants. But if there is not much space, we might be able to include initials. Recently, we sold five watches to someone who used to work for a big social media site, and when he was leaving his job, he gave a parting gift to five of his colleagues—the same watch for each person, but with a unique engraving on the back.

When you mentioned the five watches, I thought perhaps it would be for groomsmen.

For weddings, we do see the bridal party gifts, but typically with more entry-level watches—G-Shock, for example. We see a lot of higher-end watches as gifts for spouses, or daughters—they are great gifts for family.

Do you get different kinds of questions when the gift is for different family members, or different occasions? Graduation, for example.

People often ask, what would be a first “good” watch? We will offer suggestions, and every brand certainly offers good options for every customer, but we do try to be conscious of price-point. Frequently, gift-givers will be in the $1,000-$3,000 range, which means there are a lot of options for a young man or woman on the way up. TAG Heuer, for example, is a durable option, with a classic look that can be worn all the time. Of course, we’ve seen higher-end watches like Rolex for graduation gifts, but even entry-level price points can get you a great watch like a Baume & Mercier that works well for interviews.

Have you personally given watches as gifts?

I’ve given many watches as gifts! When my son turned 16, I gave him a TAG Heuer. And when he turned 21, I gave him a Rolex. Both for all the reasons I mentioned. Of course, I work in the watch business, but both watches really suited him well and I am similar to many of our customers. When he was 16, I was looking to get him a good automatic watch on my budget—which was about $1,500—so the TAG Heuer worked well. By 21, an entry-level Rolex was the perfect gift. And when my husband turned 44, I gave him a Patek Philippe.

Wow. Do you remember the moment you gave it to him?

He loved it. I made sure to tell him about the advertising: “You never actually own a Patek Philippe; you merely look after it for the next generation.” And it’s really true. We did talk about it in advance because of the price point—though I tried to get him thinking that he’d end up with one of a few different options. But as his birthday got closer, I just couldn’t wait! I gave him the watch a few days early.

He was really pleased. He took pictures of it and sent them to his friends!

Does he wear it every day?

It’s a dress watch, and he’s very delicate with it. When he works, he takes it off to make sure it doesn’t get scratched. But he loves it.

With Mother’s Day coming up, I’m wondering if there’s a kind of watch that you wish someone would give you.

For a gift, I would want a gold diamond piece. I would actually love this piece that I’m wearing, but in rose gold with a diamond bezel. I’ve seen so many people wear it, and it just stands out.

What draws you to this type of piece?

Cartier is a very unique brand, known for their Roman numerals. I love the look, and let’s face it—if you’re going to wear a more expensive watch, you want people to see the dial and know which watch it is. This particular model has been so popular—it’s like when you see a Rolex watch, you know exactly which brand it is.

Was there a watch that suited your lifestyle better back when your son was younger? To use your example, when you were bathing him as a baby, perhaps?

I would always wear a Rolex watch. It was very durable—water resistant to 200 meters.

Is there a particular Rolex model you think is well-suited for women?

Any of the Datejust watches with the bubble in the crystal. In my opinion, personally, I think they’re very attractive. And they’re all water resistant to at least 100 meters or much more (especially the diver’s watches for men).

Anything else about gift-giving you’d like to share?

Only that if you’re looking to give a watch, Tourneau is the right place to be. We carry more than 80 brands and your watch will be covered under warranty for five years. Most manufacturer’s warranties will only protect a watch for two or three. Plus, with our five-point protection plan, you’ll know that you can give the exact right watch and it will be protected for years to come.

Katie Wudel


Contributing Editor, Our Minutes

Katie Wudel is a writer, educator, and timepiece enthusiast. Now a contributing editor, she recently served as the managing editor of Our Minutes, a digital destination for the watch-obsessed powered by Tourneau. Today, she's the Special Projects Editor at GOOD Magazine. She has developed content and digital strategy for a wide range of clients, from Berkshire Hathaway’s watch and jewelry retailer Borsheims to the world’s most famous concert venue, Carnegie Hall. Her writing has appeared in such distinguished literary journals as McSweeney’s, Tin House, Prairie Schooner, and Fairy Tale Review; was “top news” at (part of the Gawker network); and has been recorded for NPR’s Snap Judgment. Katie is the digital communications manager for Lit Crawl NYC and was a recent writer in residence at Hedgebrook, a fellowship for visionary women authors.

Some people really love the sound of a watch being wound and will hold it up to their ear.

Jenny Lei, Cartier Brand Ambassador

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