“The way your Dad looked at it, this watch was your birthright. He’d be damned if any slope’s gonna put their greasy, yellow hands on his boy’s birthright, so he hid it in one place he knew he could hide something — his ass. Five long years he wore this watch up his ass. Then, he died of dysentery. He gave me the watch. I hid this uncomfortable hunk of metal up my ass two years. Then, after seven years, I was sent home to my family. Now, little man, I give the watch to you.”

Photographs by:NEIL FERRIER

My grandfather was a pilot. He decided that a serious pilot needed a serious watch. Luckily for me, he fell for a relatively unpopular and quirky square one. Little did he know he was buying a watch which would become a modern classic. Tied for all time to the king of cool, Steve McQueen, and his 1971 performance in another sleeper of modern culture, “Le Mans”.

It was transferred to me, broken, via a sock drawer. Probably better than some other scenarios you can imagine. Sitting in its beautiful red Heuer box with original papers from Cairncross Jewellers in Perth, Scotland. I was in my teens. I didn’t really know what it was.

My parents did. So thanks to them six months later it returned from Tag Heuer in Switzerland, good as new, and just in time for my 21st birthday. Many would have put the red box somewhere safe, insured it for a small fortune, and left it to play with an automatic winder. But those many weren’t my grandfather. And they are not me.

So for nine long years this watch saw everything. College in two countries. My wedding and countless others. A move to California. And, sadly, many family members passing on (including my mother). Nothing phased it. But time, literally, took it’s toll, and my once pristine watch achieved the patina of living life as a daily timepiece.

Sending it to Tag seemed impersonal. My 1133 has a story and needed a hand which understoodthat. And respected it. Eventually, I found Abel, hidden in the depths of murky online watch forums. I saw an Autavia he had completed an astonishing renovation on. I was sold. I just had to convince him to work on mine in his limited spare time.

I am humbled by his attention to detail and the new life given to my old watch. Dings and scratches are somehow miraculously gone. The brushed finish is factory perfect. It is serviced, pressure checked and ready to rock.

Like any great machine, it was built to run. So I look forward to what the next 10 years will bring us. Dings and all.