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The watch that was meant to be

by The Horology Club 16 Jun 2022

As a young boy I would often “borrow” the shiny gold A. Lange & Söhne pocket-watch that my Dad kept in his bedroom and take it to school to show my friends, before returning it without him knowing. Many years later I confessed my sins, much to my family’s horror/bemusement/relief, that it hadn’t been lost or worse, traded for something else! Little did I know quite what a story this pocket-watch actually had.

It was purchased new by my Great Granddad in Berlin back in 1912. Pink gold with a porcelain dial, Louis IV hands and a domestic model in that it lacks the movement decoration of the export models. It passed down to my Granddad and remarkably survived his fleeing from a certain death in Germany in 1942 when he escaped to South America. In the late 1940s he was reunited with my Grandma who had remained in Germany (her story of survival is truly courageous) and not until the mid 50s, with my Dad and his sister, who both went to the UK in 1939 as “Kindertransport” (another remarkable story of tremendous sacrifice). My Granddad died in the 1960s and it passed to my Dad where he kept it in his bedroom.

Ten years ago, I decided to move to Hong Kong to marry the love of my life. Already a passionate watch lover, I met with my parents for a farewell lunch and, much to my surprise, my Dad handed me a extremely familiar small red box as a parting gift. In it was the pocket-watch and I was overjoyed as I became its new custodian.

Recently I decided to add a modern AL&S to my collection and the 1815 ref 233.032 in pink gold, with its DNA directly from the pocket-watch, was the obvious choice. I found a full set online at a good price in California and purchased it. However the watch that arrived was not the one I expected. The serial numbers were different, the box was not in the same condition as the photos, it had an incorrect size strap fitted and it suddenly stopped working!

The dealer offered a full refund, apologising for a simple mix-up with another watch and this is where the story takes on a little twist! The AD’s stamp in the warranty book was from Hong Kong of all places, where I now resided. Given the history of the pocket-watch travelling around the world coming to Hong Kong, how could I send this Hong Kong watch all the way back to the US? I just had to keep it!

I negotiated a solution with the dealer and he agreed to pay for a full service (and a new strap). So at the beginning of November the watch went off to AL&S with an estimate of 12-13 weeks turnaround (end of Jan 2022).

Early in December my Dad, whose health had recently declined, was taken into hospital. Very sadly his condition quickly deteriorated further, the doctors ceased treating him and began giving him end of life care instead. We prepared for the worst.

On Tuesday 14th December, I got a message from the AL&S boutique to say my 1815 was finished well ahead of the quoted 12-13 weeks. Little could I have imagined that only a few hours after picking up the watch from the boutique, I would get a call from my brother to tell me that my Dad had peacefully passed away, just a few weeks short of his 90th birthday. It might have been a pure coincidence of course, but extremely poignant and impossible to forget. It’s a watch that will always hold a special place in my heart, and perhaps was meant to be.

In loving memory of my Dad - George Hammerschmidt
06.01.1932 - 14.12.2021

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