An older man walked into the shop as I fought with a stubborn Waltham pocket watch. I asked for a couple of minutes to finish adjusting the balance. “No problem. Take your time,” the customer responded. I heard him laughing at his pun…he was giving the watchmaker all the time he needed.
The pocket watch was in stable condition so I walked to the front counter. “How can I help you?” I was handed a chronograph that seemed to have too many hands on it. The customer told me that it was very important that I service the watch so that it would once again guide him.
The name on the chronograph was Jardur, a brand name that I’d never seen before. This was an impressive work of engineering. I examined the watch and as I closed the case, I noted the roughly scratched case and initials on the back.
As I got up from the bench, the customer nervously asked, “Can you get the watch to work? The repair charge doesn’t matter. The watch must run. A couple of watchmakers wouldn’t even look at it.” His voice was enough to tell me that this was yet another story of a deep bond between a watch and its owner.
I grabbed the repair tag and jotted down the first two initials and asked for a last name.
“No! That isn’t me,” he blurted, “the watch was on the wrist of my co-pilot.”
This story went beyond the bond between watch and warrior…a painful memory was carried with this watch.
He sighed and smiled, “My co-pilot always kidded me that his watch was more accurate and better than the plane’s clock. Even more accurate than when the briefer gave us the hack command. I kept making bets with him so I would win the watch but I never seemed to win.” He sighed again. “On a long mission near Berlin, our bomber stream was jumped by a defending squadron of ME 109Es and were shot up pretty badly. The starboard outer engine was hit and started to burn but we got the fire out. The starboard inner was hit but kept running. The ME 109E got the starboard waist gunner.”
He paused before continuing on, “It was all I could do to keep her in the air. I knew we were in trouble. We fell behind. A couple of Mustangs, with more guts than brains stayed with us and provided us cover. I was so focused on flying and keeping us in the air, I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t notice my co-pilot’s voice getting softer and softer. He was responding to me so I thought it was a couple of shot out windows letting in engine noise that was drowning out his voice.”
Although, the customer stood just feet from me I could see he was fifty-odd years into the past.
“We made the coast and crossed the Channel somehow. We were over England. Just as I was about to tell my co-pilot to start the landing check, he grabbed my hand on the controls. He pulled my hand to him and pressed the watched in it. He said, “It’s yours now.” Softly he kept repeating, “Time…time…time...time.”
I stood perfectly still, holding my breath. His voice trembled and with eyes misted over as he continued, “I screamed for someone to check him, but of course, he was gone. I had to concentrate to keep flying and not dwell on the fact that only three of us were alive.”
“My co-pilot always recorded the exact time that the engines were running. He trusted his Jardur more than the fuel gauges. I remembered him repeating time over and over. I looked at the watch and saw that we’d been in the air 12 minutes longer than possible. With a prayer, I began to drop altitude. I reached to put the landing gear down and just as I put my hand on the lever, the three engines coughed and quit. The gear stayed up. We started down. Miraculously, a large field was dead ahead. We made the field, and with the gear still up, the crash landing wasn’t too bad. Being out of gas, the plane didn’t blow up.”
With unashamed tears he told me, “I’ve always believed that the Jardur, telling me we should’ve already been out of gas, prompted me to drop to a better altitude and glide my flying wreck into a safe crash landing. That’s why the Jardur needs to be repaired. This watch enabled me to have a wife, home, children, and now blessedly, grandchildren. Call me when it’s done and let me know the cost.”
Before I began work on the Jardur, I did some investigating. Having never had a Jardur on my bench before, I was unfamiliar with its proud history in the aviation world. I repaired the Jardur, and it was, to say the least, complicated. However, being well made and logically designed, the chronograph with almost as many hands as an octopus went together smoothly.
A few weeks later, the old aviator returned for his watch. After a little conversation, he asked for the price of the repair. I pointed to the tag and said, “It’s paid in full.”
“What do you mean? Who the hell paid?” he demanded.
Unable to speak, he shook my hand and left the
Time for coffee (black, no sugar).