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The Digital Skeptic: 10 Watches You're Now Naked Without

Tickers in this article: MOV

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- What happened to the art of telling time?

Have you noticed? Everything in this noisy digital age seems to tell time: the phone. The car. The stove. Each proffers up a cheesy, numeric rubric that does nothing but cheapen the seconds it counts.

But even these time-worn eyes are seeing a glimmer of hope for time staging a comeback. Better watches, mostly with analog faces and old-school mechanical movements, are finding new customers. According to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, last year broke records for watch exports.

"Leaving aside 2010, which followed a major downturn," said the report , "growth surpassed anything seen in the past 20 years."

Which makes this holiday season the perfect time to celebrate the return of watches. So I offer my top timepieces for 2012. Put any of these on your wrist, or on the wrist of those you love, and you will give the greatest gift of all: not merely telling time, but exquisitely keeping it:

Kent Wang Bauhaus
Price: $350

Old-school, high-end mechanical watchmakers are cringing at what League City, Texas-based Kent Wang is offering in terms of automatic wristwatches. The Bauhaus is a well-made, no battery, power-it-yourself timepiece -- your movement powers the watch -- for just $350, which makes this a throwback to mechanical watches at a reasonable cost. Wang deserves real props for making a non-digital watch more people can afford. I liked the clean, easy-to-read face and the surprisingly good quality for the price. You will find some discussion among watch snobs as to just how much of a knockoff this Asian-made movement is. But at these prices, this watch geek is not complaining.

Even better, you can reliably order one online and it comes in a nice gift box, which makes this the impulse timepiece for the year.

Montblanc Star Large
Price: $1,520

I don't know at what it is about Montblanc, but 99 out of 100 of the pieces from this brand are so boring they put me to sleep. In spite of that, the Star Large works. The face design is legitimately first rate; I could look at it for a lifetime and not be disappointed. The reasonably sized case is done in a fine stainless steel. And though the watch is driven by a boring quartz movement, the black-grained calfskin band matches nicely with dressier leather shoes and belts. Even better, the usually blaring Montblanc logo is well under control with the Star, engraved tastefully on the side of the unit.

Montblanc typically pumps out plenty of units into the market, so it's likely there will be good deals to be had. That makes this the leather-band watch that goes with anything you own.