“You can never give someone older than you a watch of some sort because it symbolizes that they should be watching out for time because it’s like telling them that they are going to die soon.”
My informant heard this from an ex-boyfriend, and she later confirmed it with her Chinese mother. Since hearing it, she has tried to practice this because she sees it as a way to respect her elders by not giving them reminders of their imminent deaths. She also is now wary of giving watches out as presents because she wants to respect people who also believe that they are being told to watch out for time. I find it interesting that there is a pun in the English version of the belief: giving of a physical watch and to watch out for time. However, I doubt that this exists in the Chinese version of the folk belief. The fact that there is a precaution against giving an elder something as simple as a watch goes to show the focus on the older Chinese generations. The focus is on respecting the elders—and the culture is so serious about the respect that even the gift of a watch could offend, so it is better to just avoid the situation entirely.