You know to some these are just old watches...

Submitted by plainsmen on June 4, 2012 - 10:32am

To others... they meant quite a bit more.

To WWII United States Navymen, Billie Joe Johnson, it was aslo a part of his war and looks to have served as a dog tag.

You know sometimes I think we get caught up in the mechanics of collecting and sorting these old Bulova's.  We maybe forget why some of us got into collecting in the first place.  For me it was my grandfather's 1940 Ranger.  I think he bought it on his way back from WWII.  These arn't just little pieces of metals and wires.... these are a piece of history.  A time capsule into someone's life.

For Billie Joe... it was a message to anyone who may have found him in a state that he couldn't speak for himself.  His blood type, his service number, and his branch of service.  Maybe it was the only way to bring him home to his family.

In this collecting, debating, and sometimes arguing lets remember the human side of our process and maybe why we got into this in the first place.

I just picked up this 1937 American Clipper belonging to a WWII U.S.N. servicemen for almost nothing, but to me it will be one of the crown jewels of my collection and will have a promenent position in the display case.

Bob Bruno
Posted June 4, 2012 - 11:16am

Couldn't agree more Jerin. Thats why I got into collecting in the first place. Little windows into the past. 

Posted June 4, 2012 - 11:25am

"Keepers of Time".

Bob Bruno
Posted June 4, 2012 - 11:29am

Thats right Mark. The watches and us!

Posted June 4, 2012 - 12:13pm

In reply to by Bob Bruno

Exactly Bob, as Collectors it's Our responsability to preserve and hand down to future Generations.

Posted June 4, 2012 - 12:00pm

Very poignant, Jerin. I am moved and humbled.

William Smith
Posted June 4, 2012 - 1:39pm

here here! Nice watch and meaningful post.

Posted June 4, 2012 - 2:18pm

Thank you gents... I'm glad you emphathize with my sentiments.  I've tried looking up Billy Joe on the interwebs by name and service number but I haven't had much luck.

I'd like to see if the family is still around and would like to get this watch back to them if they're interested. Any ideas?  If someone is good at that stuff maybe take a look into it and get back to me?


Posted June 4, 2012 - 3:59pm

You can check   thay have a military search on there...the down side is you need an account ( and it cost money) i don't have an account but if you can find some that does its a really helpful site.

Posted June 4, 2012 - 6:24pm

Just contact the US Navy personel records division in Washington and explain the situation to them and they may be able to help. We have an Army division here in St. Louis and they are very helpful in these matters.


Posted June 5, 2012 - 2:22am

Wow that very well could be the original owner!
Wonderful story and history!
Nice work gents.

Posted June 5, 2012 - 7:09pm

I have always liked collecting watches with personal inscriptions, because, to me, previous owners are as important a part of the watch's history as anything about the watch itself.  Seldom do we get to know much about the previous owner, apart from initials, or a name, or maybe a date of some significance.  But recently I came across a few watches that offered a bit more information and that really made me stop and think about what the watch represented to the past owner.

These watches commemmorated a lot of time in the life of these folks.

For Mr. Thierry, it was 37 years of dedication to the same company.

This one is hard to read:  "Edward Horbacz, 25 Years Service, Columbia Cable & Electric Corp".

Horace E. Moxon, 17 years, Supervisor, Schroon.

A little reseach revealed that Mr. Moxon was the Supervisor of the Town of Schroon, Schroon Lake, New York.

Posted June 5, 2012 - 7:07pm

It never ceases to amaze me, the dedication to watches many of you guys have, and that is why I spend so much of my free time on this site. Lovely sentiment Lisa, one which I share.

Posted June 5, 2012 - 7:37pm

Wow, once upon a title we may have had these engravings buffed out, but now we hopefully can all see the wonderful how they actually give a watch character and a story.

I hope that one day I can find a watch like these that also tells a story.

Bob Bruno
Posted June 5, 2012 - 7:51pm

ED and Estelle my in laws. Four children and three Grand children. Oh and stell was standing on a box for this picture. :)

Posted June 5, 2012 - 8:06pm

In reply to by Bob Bruno

Very nice, Bob.  Was the watch given as a wedding present or for some other occasion?

Posted June 5, 2012 - 7:57pm

Oh so True Jerin, very well said.

It never ceases to amaze me when I recieve an e-mail from an appreciative buyer telling me "it's just like my Grand Dad's, I had his when he past on but it was stolen, Thank You so much for bringing this one back into our family".

"My Uncle wore that same watch when he served in the merchant Navy during the war. I'm so happy to have found another."

"Just like a watch my Father used to wear, Thank You."

There have been hundreds more, some stick out more than others, but has always been part of the driving force that keeps me motivated. Sometimes this business of mine can get me pretty down and feeling like packing it in, then I'll get another mail like the ones above, and I'm re-energised.

It is truly satisfying when a customer has the same sentiment and shares some family history with me.

Good Job, I hope, and wish you all the best is your search for Billy's living family. If you do and can re-unite them with it, I think you will experience something far beyond what you may imagine. It will be very profound.

Posted June 6, 2012 - 4:38pm

I just got another one today commemorating Joseph Lisowski's 42 years of employment. 

I can't imagine working at the same place for 42 years.  Probably he says to his grandchildren, ". . . and all I've got to show for it is this stinkin' watch."

Posted June 6, 2012 - 6:15pm

Contact the church Jerin. They would surely know of some family they could contact...might be him.

Posted June 8, 2012 - 11:40am

Here's one.

...supposidly found in a Home located in Hull, Massachusetts which once belonged to the Kennedys'.

Bob Bruno
Posted June 8, 2012 - 11:49am

Pretty cool Mark, If only you could prove it! :)

Posted June 8, 2012 - 3:46pm

True Bob, and You have My wheels turning.

Points of interest on an initial search result in a couple of interesting 'coincidences' - Words such as 'Statesman' and 'Douglas'.

William Orville Douglas was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court and is the longest serving with a term of almost 37 Years.

The 'Kennedy' Watch is a Bulova 'DOUGLAS'....a little trivia.


Is it for real?

I don't know but this Watch collecting thing sure can be fun!....