Spare a thought today for the thousands of nervous 13 year old boys from all across the world arriving for the first time at their public school in Britain. The term “public school” began to be used in the early 19th century to describe a number of more prominent grammar schools but prior to the Clarendon Commission, a Royal Commission that investigated the public school system in the United Kingdom between 1861 and 1864, there was no clear definition.
The role of public schools in preparing pupils for the gentlemanly elite in the period before World War II meant that such education, particularly in its classical focus and social mannerism, became a mark of the ruling class. For three hundred years, the officers and senior administrators of the British Empire invariably sent their sons back home to boarding schools for education as gentlemen, often for uninterrupted periods of a year or more at a time.
When you arrive at your new public school, be it Eton, Harrow, Rugby, or the famous Catholic schools Downside and Ampleforth, make no mistake, it is daunting. The school is considerably larger than the school you previously attended. The boys are bigger, the buildings more ancient, the rituals and traditions more sacrosanct, the rules more onerous. And above all, you are ‘new scum’ to be abused, insulted, and generally kicked around until such time as you learn to defend yourself. That’s how it was, and unless human nature has radically changed, that’s how it still is.
So what has a bunch of privileged boys going back to school got to do with watches? Well, in a sense, starting boarding school is a serious coming of age. A time when childish toys are put away and the emphasis is more on big boys ‘toys’ – and that includes watches. Of course a lot of kids today just use their mobiles or their laptops to depend on the time, but in institutions where being a minute late can land you in detention, timing is crucial. Many of the major Swiss watch firms have tended to overlook watches for boys in recent years to focus on the adult market, and the likes of Casio and Fossil and other novelty players have happily stepped in to fill the gap. But there are still some great watches geared to the developing male wrist that look great and have the unmistakeable stamp either of cool or of lasting quality.
Frederique Constant boys collection
Frederique Constant is a relatively new but well regarded Swiss watch brand that has clearly noted the deplorable lack of watches designed to capture a young man’s mind early on and win brand loyalty for years to come. They have produced a whole collection of watches for boys. It’s built around both automatic and quartz movements and each case-back in the collection can be engraved with a special message. Check out http://junior.frederique-constant.com/
Rolex Military Watch c1950s
This is a vintage Military ‘Dress style’, a ROLEX, boy’s size OYSTER, having a very uncommon two tone case measuring just 30.5mm. They are known as the “boys size” even though these watches were produced for the soldiers going overseas in WW2. The idea was their smaller size prevented these ROLEX watches from being damaged during combat. Notice the solid gold bezel, stainless steel case, reference 5020 with original OYSTER PATENT winding crown. The 17 jewel calibre 700 movement is in excellent condition. This watch was avaialble at Watchestobuy.com, if you wanted to get something similar, just contact owner Derek Dier – who incidentally, supplied all the watches for the ratings winning show Mad Men. A military Rolex is bound to command plenty of respect in the quadrangle.
Oris 17 jewel watch for boys
If you’re willing to shop around on eBay, you can find great vintage watches for boys like this 17 jewel Oris watch. Oris is another firm that used to make watches for the 12 to16 age group, but nowadays the focus is all about the mainstream male market with a mixture of sports, diving and aviation style watches, all of which appeal to kids, but at 45mm in size, they’re simply too big. True, a lot of 13 year olds simply won’t ‘get’ a genuine vintage watch, but the more studious yet retro cool kid may be delighted with such a watch.
Casio G-Shock Burning Red Collection
The size and bright red colouring of just about any G-Shock may not be allowed when worn with the formal dark blazer or tails demanded of most public schools, but there’s always the evenings and weekends, and what are known in the public school world as ‘Exeats’ which are weekends when the whole school are allowed to take time out to catch up with the ‘rents (parents). Featuring the DW-6900, GW-7900, GW-9200 and the GWF-1000 Casio have unleashed their technical “Burning Red” Collection, featuring a bright red body, black inserts and a reverse LCD display the collection will be available for sale at all G-Shock retailers from November.
IWC Schaffhausen Mark XVI for father and son
IWC Schaffhausen has introduced an exclusive special edition Pilot’s Watch for both Father and Son. The two unusual timepieces form a family unit which can be handed down to foster a fascination with precision engineering and aviation from one generation to the next. 2012 being the year of the Pilot’s Watch, the watch manufacturer most renowned for its unmistakeably masculine timepieces is launching its second special edition since 2008 aimed squarely at the men in the family; or to put it another way, pilot and co-pilot. In life, as in the cockpit, it’s a question of being able to rely on one another and of giving the junior member of the team an increasing degree of responsibility.
Alpina Extreme Mid-Size Diver
Alpina Watches have just made the highly unusual move of releasing a mid-size diver in their Extreme Diver Collection. It’s a sure size that the 45mm plus size watch may be finally shifting out of fashion, and, at 38mm, this could be a nod to a more sober approach to wearing a diver’s watch. Its dark good looks would not cause so much as a ripple when teamed with a regulation black or grey uniform. The watch runs ona quartz movement and is water resistant to 300 metres – more than enough to handle icy cold and waterlogged rugby pitches, which see action in all weathers at most public schools.