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How My Grandfather's Watch Gave Me the Life I Always Wanted

An entrepreneur received a watch from his grandfather, which inspired him to open up an ecommerce store.
How My Grandfather's Watch Gave Me the Life I Always Wanted
Image credit: Stephen Lewis
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the January 2018 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

My grandfather was an entrepreneur. He was born and raised in Brooklyn, and he made his own money -- starting, believe it or not, a cigarette lighter company in the ’60s. He was a cool guy -- someone who lived a glamorous lifestyle (or at least what the Rochester, N.Y.-raised, 13-year-old version of me thought was glamorous). He was my hero.

Related: 10 Ways to Stay Inspired for Life

He had this watch, an Omega Speedmaster, that I loved. It had a chronograph and what’s known as a triple date complication: the day of the week, the month and the date. And it didn’t look like the usual watch. It was blue and white and gray. Anytime I went down to visit him, I’d ask him about it. He’d even let me wear it from time to time.

When my grandparents sold their house, we were all helping them carry out boxes. He pulled me aside when no one else was around and handed me his watch. He said, “I want you to have this.” That was it. I was 16 years old. I was awestruck.

Related: 5 Reasons Why 'Family' and 'Business' Do Mix

Skip ahead to 2008. I had a good job working for a major bank, and I absolutely hated it. When the economy imploded, my boss said, “Look, we prefer not to let you go in case things pick back up, so you have to come in every day, but just bide your time. Come in and do whatever you want to do.” I said, “Great.”

Sitting in my cubicle one day, I did some research on my grand­father’s watch. I recounted what I learned in a post on Tumblr, simply to pass the time. Then I started researching other watches, like the Rolex worn by Steve McQueen, and the Patek Philippe worn by John Lennon, and writing about those, too. From there it just got bigger. I suddenly saw there may be a future in this. I quit my job and applied to Columbia Journalism School. I got in somehow.

Meanwhile, the site -- which I named Hodinkee, a play on hodinky, the Czech word for “wristwatch,” for reasons I can’t fully explain -- was making money. I graduated and hired my first full-time staffers. Then I met Kevin Rose, Tony Fadell and Jason Fried. All three were great entrepreneurs and fans of Hodinkee. They became great friends. Together we raised some money and built out a “dream team” of writers, designers and developers. We were off to the races. 

Related: Want Inspiration For Your Next Big Idea? Turn Off Your Phone and Go Here.

Hodinkee now has a booming ecommerce wing, pop-up stores and a staff of 25. And I have a career I love -- one that allows me to travel, be creative, meet people and try things. None of this would have happened had my grandfather not given me his watch. It’s been with me through all of this, and will be with me until the day I die. If we have children, I hope to pass it along to them and say, “The house we live in, the cars we drive and everything else we have came from this watch.” It changed everything. It gave me a career. It gave me my life.

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