w&w’s Graduation Gift Guide: Watches and Gear Under $1000

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It’s May—the last month of spring and the start of commencement season. College students all over the country will be donning their caps and gowns, accepting their diplomas, and getting ready to enter the real word so they can start paying off their student loans. With all these graduations right around the corner comes the annual question of what to get for friends or relatives commemorating four years of hard work (and let’s be honest, excessive drinking) and a newly gotten degree. The worn&wound team is here to help with a small gift guide–most of it well under $1000–consisting of watches, gear, booze, coffee, and even more watches. Enjoy!

Seiko SARB033

The Seiko SARB033 is an incredibly versatile timepiece, and it is in my opinion one of the best-valued all-around watches currently on the market—certainly under $500. It’s modestly sized at 38mm with a width of 11mm, so it’ll slip right under a shirt cuff. Aesthetically, the SARB033 borrows heavily from Grand Seiko, so much so, in fact, that some even call it the “poor man’s Grand Seiko”—a moniker that is meant to be taken wholly as a compliment.

rp_SARB_seiya.jpgThe glossy black dial, clean layout, and mixed case finishing emphasize the dressier aspects of the piece, so it will certainly look beautiful paired with office duds, but it won’t look out of place at the ballpark either.  Equipped with the venerable 6r15 automatic movement, the SARB033 will also provide one with years of reliable service. If the black dial isn’t up to your speed, there is also SARB035 with an off-white dial.

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Filson 256 Briefcase

At the confluence of form and function, Filson differentiates itself from the competition by sourcing only superior-quality materials, offering classic products, and above all manufacturing the vast majority of its offerings in the USA. Originally founded in 1897 to outfit prospectors seeking fortune during the Klondike Gold Rush, Filson–and its focus on crafting durable equipment–hasn’t changed. The Seattle-based outfitter’s take on the briefcase is one of the most iconic of its line, boasting a treated twill finish, rugged bridle leather, and sturdy brass hardware.

Filson’s adage: “What worked then, still works now” is especially true of its 256 briefcase, which has seen few alterations of its classic form. The bag is offered in five colors: navy, tan, otter green, brown, and black. The prior four feature brown bridle leather straps while the latter utilizes black leather to match the rest of the bag. Coming in at the mid-$200 range and built to truly last, the Filson 256 Briefcase is a great value and an excellent gift for someone heading into the workplace. For a more in-depth look at Filson, check out our profile here.

Stowa Antea

Stowa’s Antea series is one of its most popular, perhaps second only to its catalogue of fliegers. The Antea pulls from a classic German Bauhaus design used throughout the ‘30s by brands like Lange and Stowa itself. Today, countless companies attempt to emulate the aesthetic, though Stowa is one of the few to strike that perfect balance of price, build quality, and provenance. And with cases ranging from 35.5mm to 41mm, and movements available in both automatic and manual configurations, there’s a style for everyone. My personal favorite, and the one I often recommend, is the Antea KS (Kleine Sekunde, or “small seconds”), which features a highly finished Peseux 7001 movement, a silver dial with a sub-seconds layout and heat-blued hands, and a relatively thin case (6.9mm).  It’s a stunning dress watch that pairs beautifully with leather bands of most colors, and will easily slip under a shirt cuff.

STOWA_ANTEA_KS_DIAL5The brand’s contemporary take on the style stays largely true to its roots, but in recent years Stowa has also begun to expand the collection, the most notable being the recent colorful “back 2 bauhaus” series co-designed by Hartmut Esslinger. Admittedly, while the majority of our guide is male-centric, the breadth of the Antea collection offers a great counterpoint with its unisex designs.

Tanner Goods Utility Bifold Wallet

Tanner Good’s Utility Bifold wallet is the perfect for your college graduate to store the cash they could have had instead of that new diploma. Refining ultra-simple design through superior bridle leather construction, hand stitching, and American craftsmanship, the Utility Bifold aims to perfect a classic. It features four card pockets, two hidden pockets, and a large lengthwise pocket for bills and notes.  For an additional charge, a monogram can be included for that extra touch of personalization. The wallet is available in six basic colors: natural, three shades of brown, navy, and a debossed black. The leather is also treated in such a way that it will patina age with the owner, creating a sentimental everyday accessory.

Neckwear from The Knottery

Whether your favorite college graduate is entering a professional workplace or on the job hunt, chances are he’s going to wear a collared shirt and suit on more than one occasion. A tie can go a long way in completing a professional outfit, and an elegant one can keep it from looking garish or dated. For appropriate neckwear, look no further than The Knottery, a small New York-based outfit producing men’s accessories and selling direct to consumer without the exorbitant mark-up. The Knottery has a small curated assortment of ties, which includes knits, tweeds, cashmere, and silks sourced from high-end mills (like Loro Piana) from around the world. Most are made locally in Brooklyn and run the gamut from $30 to $60.

Archimede Outdoor Protect

Not every grad is going to be suited and booted come fall. Those with more adventurous career ambitions will likely fare better with a tool watch—something that can take a beating from the elements without skipping a beat. The Archimede Outdoor Protect is such a watch (read our review here). A tool/field/sports watch, the Outdoor features an Ickler-made barrel-shaped stainless steel case hardened to 1200 Vickers. As a result, the watch is incredibly resilient against scratches and marks, and thus best suited for the field. The face is simple, featuring contrasting blocky elements that make for an extremely legible dial, and powering the watch is a reliable Sellita SW200-1—all for well under $1000.

ARCHIMEDE_OUTDOOR_PROTECT_DIAL2The aesthetic is quite stark, and I’d argue pleasantly so, but there are more than a few dial colors, case finishes (there’s a PVD model), and bracelet options to choose from, so there’s something for everyone.

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Seiko SRP77X

In a similar vein, Seiko’s SRP77x series offers great utility, and can make for a fantastic everyday timepiece for someone needing a robust tool watch. Based on the iconic 6309-7040 manufactured by Seiko throughout the ‘70s and 80s, the re-issue is faithful to the look and feel of its historical counterpart, but with some added technical specs worthy of a modern watch.

SEIKO_SRP775_SRP777_19Seiko has upped the water resistance to 200m, added drilled lugs, and updated the movement to its 4r36 caliber, which features hacking, hand winding, and 41 hours of power reserve. And as you might expect from Seiko, the lume is practically nuclear. It’s a watch that’s built to last, and if its predecessor offers any indication, it’ll be one to pass down to generations to come.

Macallan 12

Is it an obvious choice? Yes. Is it the right choice? Always. As your loved one leaves school behind and enters the real world, a good bottle of Scotch to send them on their way is as symbolic as it enjoyable. It says, “leave the PBR behind, my child, and embrace the future.” Time to grow up. Time to savor things. Sure, it could be downed in a single sitting with friends, but a good bottle of scotch is at its best when its lasts a while. When it’s enjoyed during contemplation. When the recent graduate finds their first crappy apartment and assembles some rickety used Ikea bookshelf, on it they can place something of value and taste, something that communicates to the world where they are headed rather than where they are.

As to why the Macallan 12 over something else? Well, it’s delicious and it’s quite affordable as Scotch goes. And assuming the graduate has yet to explore the world of single malts, it’s very palatable, and won’t scare them off like some of the gnarly, peaty beasts out there.

Sinn 556 I

I’ve long believed the 556 I to be the mythical “one watch”—the sort of timepiece one can wear day-to-day and for nearly every occasion. Though lacking much of the famed Sinn tech, the 556 I does boast a highly-engineered sporty build—a German case with 200 meters of water resistance, sapphire crystals on both ends, and drilled lugs. At the same time, its classic size, glossy black dial, and handsome satin case finish speaks to a dressier aesthetic, making the 556 I a bit of a chameleon.

SINN_556i_DIAL4Pair it with a dark leather strap and it’s a perfect match for a suit; slip on a nylon mil-strap and it’s weekend-ready. It’s this versatility that makes it a great horological gift for your recent grad, and while it may be the most expensive watch on our list (and just a hair over our $1000 limit on strap), the 556 I is worth every penny.

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Coffee Kit

And finally, coffee. Whether to fuel you through the day or to impress a house guest, everyone needs to know how to make their own coffee and how to do it well, and that includes recent grads who have likely been subsisting on Starbucks pumpkin spice lattes and dare-I-say whatever comes out of those demonic prepackaged plastic cups (you know of what I speak). This is all one needs: a burr grinder, the right kettle, an 8-cup french press, good coffee and about 10 spare minutes (a few to boil water and grind beans, 4 minutes to steep, and whatever is left over to do the dishes).

Lesson one to better coffee is to grind your own beans. They might not teach that in college, but they should as it’s a basic life skill. Burr grinders are the best for consistent grinds, but they can be expensive. This hand wielded option by Harrio is a good compromise.

Coffee is like any other food; if it gets too hot, it burns, and if it burns then you might as well just throw it out.  The trick to a great cup o’ joe is to first boil the water, and then to let it sit for about 30 seconds until it reaches 205°F. Once it does, you can pour it into your brewing device. Since it’s hard to get it just right, using a kettle with a thermometer helps, like this one from Coffee Gator with one built into its lid. As an added bonus it also has a swan neck spout for a steady pour.

French presses are simple, reliable, and they don’t produce a lot waste. One can make just a cup for themselves, or a few for guests by varying the amount of grinds and water used. People might argue pour over achieves a better flavor (I don’t), but it’s a pain when you need to make a few cups. For a functional and attractive option, go with this press by Bodum.

Good coffee is subjective, but if there is a place in town that roasts in-house and sells the coffee shortly thereafter, buy it from there. If it’s been sitting on a shelf in a grocery store or the stock room of a chain coffee shop, it just won’t be as good. I recommend the Brooklyn Roasters Mexico variety, but I might be biased as they are down the street from us.

Words by Ilya Ryvin, Frank Tkachenko, and Zach Weiss.

This is the house account for Worn & Wound. We use it on general articles about us, the site and our products.
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