Tuesday, March 8, 2016

VINTAGE WATCH SERIES: Inheriting My Father's Father's Gold Longines Watch

Yeah, the title of this blog is a mouthful, but it is exactly what I intended to say. Months ago, I first wrote about a Longines watch that I "inherited" from my father who inherited it from his father. In the last few days that we spent together before he passed, he asked me to find it and make sure it did not get thrown away. I eventually found the watch in a junk drawer and brought it home for safe keeping. 

My circa 1979 vintage Longines gold watch with 11 jewels and a L950.2 movement
I am not going to tell a heartwarming story of how my grandfather was a great man who passed an heirloom to my father who then gave it to me. Instead, this is a story of missed opportunities and how this watch symbolized a relationship that was never fulfilled.

This watch was my unintended inheritance since my Dad asked me to find it after he was gone.
Let me back up a bit to  December 7, 1941. Not only was it a "day of infamy" with the attack on Pearl Harbor by imperial Japan, but it was one of the last times my father, who was a very young boy, saw his Dad. It seems that World War II kept Charles Sr. away in the Pacific theater fighting on various naval cruisers. The marriage that produced my Dad did not survive the pressures of war. These are the silent casualties of conflict.

For one reason or another, father and son remained estranged for the next 35 years having no contact until my father tracked down Charles Sr. with the help of a sleuth-like telephone operator. It is ironic that my father visited his Dad in California and was mending their relationship when Charles Sr. unexpectedly died.

The watch was sent to my father, but someone forgot to tell him about the funeral. Clearly, a purposeful oversight by his father's new wife and perhaps by other parties that might be worried about some stranger claiming inheritance or him actually attending the service. My Dad never wanted anything except to know his father and extended family so this was hurtful for him... as it would be for anyone with a heart.

When I learned the story of how my Grandfather disappeared from my father's life, I lost respect for the guy. Perhaps it was not fair for me to judge, but I could not see how someone could do this to their kid. Stranger still, I could not see how my Dad became such a great father without having a role model of his own. Maybe there were other figures like priests and boy scout troop leaders who filled the gap for him growing up.

Charles Hughes, Jr. with his pet boa constrictor in college.
I really hate to admit that I had every intention of selling the watch and handing the money to my Mom. Sadly, I had no sentimental attachment to the watch or the Grandfather I never met (or even talked to) who treated my Dad so poorly.

One of my Dad's many do-dad boxes. I grabbed a few of those too...
However, circumstances can change when new information is discovered and perspectives reanalyzed. When changing the battery, I discovered a hand written date inside the case marked November, 2002. It is common practice to mark the date of a battery change on the inside of a case, and this date proved one thing.... my Dad actually wore this watch since my Grandfather died long before that.

The battery change date surprised me
Perhaps this proved that my Dad cared enough to keep it running and presumably use it. I don't recall him wearing it because he liked to wear junk watches as seen in the article "Sentimental Treasure in My Father's Junk Drawer", but it appears he did at one point. That changed everything for me transforming the watch into a talisman worn by the man I respect most in the world, instead of a trinket worn by a stranger I never met.

I could no longer think about selling the watch. If my Dad wore it, then I had to keep it. The fact that I would be the third generation to have it only made it more interesting. I also came to realize that I was angry at a complete stranger for something that was not my business or that I knew nothing about. I have since forgiven the Grandfather I never knew. If my Dad could do it, then I can too.

Just adding a thicker strap made my manly arm hairs grow...
To make the watch more wearable, I swapped the dainty lizard band that was on it for an old fashioned bund strap. While the main straps are still only 18 mm, the addition of a leather cuff gives the appearance of a beefier watch. When a vintage watch is a seemingly feminine sized 32 mm width, you've got to do what you can to "toughen it up". 

I would like to thank Aurélie Tonna from Longines' Brand Heritage for the assistance she gave he while trying to learn more about this watch. She and her team were incredibly helpful. I am grateful that companies like Longines support their vintage watches from yesteryear.

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