A Watch of Some Historical Significance


I had originally intended to present another lovely vintage Vacheron at this time, but I just acquired a very interesting pocket watch with a “best-before” relevance. So it receives priority at this time. It is nit a Vacheron but it is unique (as in one of a kind)

Last week I attended a gala opening of the ballet La Sylphide by the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center, as a guest of Vacheron Constantin., who is a major sponsor. It was an opportunity to see so magnificent dancing but also to meet Vincent Brun, the new CEO of Vacheron America as well as some good friends from VC including Dorit Engel, Daniel Adams and André March. A few Lounger friends were there as well, including Robert Esposito and Michael Berlin. In all, a wonderful evening.

Since I was in New York for this gala, I also arranged to pick up a watch I had recently won at auction.

Last week was also significant from another point of view. The week marked the liberation of Holland by Canadian troops on May 5th 1945 and the surrender of Germany to the Allies on May 7th. (Another signing was on May 9th in Berlin at the insistence of the Soviets). Celebratory events took place throughout week in Holland France and culminating today in London and Moscow.

In the early hours of May 7th, at 2:41 am, in the small French town of Reims (Rheims), the centre of the champagne district and the site of the beautiful Reims cathedral; and at that time the headquarters of General Eisenhower (SHAEF – Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Forces), the initial documents of complete surrender of Germany were signed.

The building, colloquially known as “the little red schoolhouse”, was a boys’ school,: Le College Moderne et Technique de Reims and was Eisenhower’s command centre.

A Watch of Some Historical Significance


A Watch of Some Historical Significance

The little red schoolhouse has become a small museum.


And it was there in the recreation hall that the brief ceremony took place. The document was signed by General Walter Bedell “Beetle” Smith for the Allies, General Ivan Susloparov for the Soviets and witnessed by General François Sevez of the Free French. The unconditional surrender was signed by General Alfred Jodl for the Germans.

A Watch of Some Historical Significance

General Walter Bedell Smith


A Watch of Some Historical Significance

General Smith signing the document of German unconditional surrender on behalf of the Allies.


A Watch of Some Historical Significance

The table around which all the parties have gathered. The German delegation has its back to the camera.


A Watch of Some Historical Significance

General Jodl signs the document of surrender.


A Watch of Some Historical Significance

The document of surrender. The signatures are of Jodl, then below left: Smith, to his right, Susloparov and below Smith, Sevez.


General Smith was Eisenhower’s Chief of Staff and was known to be a tough no-nonsense and very capable individual whom Eisenhower relied upon as his “go-to guy”. To some he was considered a “hatchet-man” because of his abrupt and peremptory style. But he was a skillful diplomat and got on well with the British including the insufferable Montgomery, smoothing over difficulties between the Allies. He was also able to handle Ike’s sometimes querulous generals such as Bradley and Patton.

Among “Beetle” Smith’s many accomplishments were initiating the surrender of Italy and its transfer to the Allied cause, negotiating the transfer of food and supplies to the starving Dutch civilian population and negotiating the complete surrender of German forces in Holland to the Canadian Army. He also successfully arranged the surrender of all German forces, whose leaders were simply stalling for time, in part by threatening to seal the front and leave the German forces in the East to the “mercies of the Red Army.

After the war he was appointed Ambassador to the USSR and in 1950 became head of the newly formed CIA.  He later served as  Assistant Secretary of State under Dulles.

I have omitted much of what is an illustrious career and there are many like him who are below the media radar who performed enormous tasks during the war but are little know or all but forgotten.


Since the trip had been arranged many weeks before and the auction held in April, I made a note of it all and put it out of my mind.

After arriving in New York I headed over to the auction house to pick up my prize. I inspected it and left for Madison Avenue and the Vacheron Boutique. But as I walked out I looked at the inscription on the back: “May 7th, 1945”.

Then the unexpected irony of the situation hit me... Today was May 7th !


Now, you may be asking yourself at this time: “Why all the WWII history and attention to Walter Bedell Smith”?

Well the answer follows below.


A Watch of Some Historical Significance

A typical Cartier box from the 1940’s. Behind a scene from the liberation of Paris in 1944.


A Watch of Some Historical Significance

The inside of the box showing the Cartier logo of that period.


A Watch of Some Historical Significance

The front of the 1904 $20 coin watch.


A Watch of Some Historical Significance

A Watch of Some Historical Significance

Cartier polished the original markings from the back of the $20 gold piece and have inscribed:


May 7th, 1945

0241 (ETO)

The place: Reims, France

The date: May, 7th 1945

The time: 2:41 A.M.  European Theatre of Operations

A Watch of Some Historical Significance

A Watch of Some Historical Significance

On the inside is engraved: “LOUIS from BEDELL”

A Watch of Some Historical Significance   A Watch of Some Historical Significance

A Watch of Some Historical Significance

The watch face has the typical Cartier hand and Roman numerals, still used today. It also has a wide guillodhéed ring. The crown is a split-ring design.

And very surprising, the watch works and keeps fairly accurate time.

You also might be wondering who “Louis” is. Well this took some time and detective work. At first I thought it might be Louis Mountbatten. But I do not believe Smith ever met him. I checked the names of many general officers but to no avail… no Louis!

A Watch of Some Historical Significance


Then I discovered that both Smith and Eisenhower had a good friend by the name of Louis who they knew from their days at West Point. He was Louis Marx who became a toy magnate and who with his brother founded Marx Toys, which produced a great many of the toys in America for decades. At one point he was the largest toy manufacturer in the world. He was called “The Toy King” and “The Henry Ford of Toys”.

And so you have it. A unique historical piece, a pocket watch by Cartier, Paris to mark the end of the war in Europe.

For me, being a history buff of that period, this was a spectacular find. It is a link with the past and marks the beginning of the end of a momentous world-wide struggle.

The write up I was waiting for
05/11/2015 - 05:01

This is a great write up about the watch and it's surrounding history, Joseph.  Absolutely fascinating.  I felt privileged to be among the first with whom you shared this outstanding pocket watch. Thank you.  

It was terrific seeing you and Gale last week.  What a fun and special evening it was.

Warm regards,


wow, great write up and a great piece
05/11/2015 - 11:09

A perfect compliment (and complement) to your collection. Thank you for sharing it with us. 

Re: The write up I was waiting for
05/13/2015 - 00:53

Thank you, Robert, for the kind words. I'm glad I had the watch with me that evening.

BTW we had the best seats in the house. I still don't know how VC was able to get those!?

It was great seeing you again, but as always too short a visit.

Warm regatds,


Very nice, and timely, Joseph!
05/11/2015 - 11:34

It must be the music lover in you that gives you such great timing? smiley

I love coin watches, do you know if the movement is from Piaget, VC, other?

A nice historical addition to your collection my friend, congrats!

Glad to hear that you had a great time at the Ballet and met a few friends as well.  (Hello Robert and Michael).

BR, Dan

Re: Very nice, and timely, Joseph!
05/13/2015 - 00:58

Thank you Dan.

The timing could not have been better if it had been planned.

I had totally forgotten the date and realized afterwards that I picked up the watch on May 7th, 70 years after the commeroration.

As for the movement...an interesting question.

I did show the watch to Eduardo at the VC boutique who was suitably impressed. He told me that at that time Cartier was getting their movements from a number of sources. I didn't have enough time to have him open the case but when I do get it opened I will takes some photos. I will also try to contact Cartier in Paris. They have extensive archives so they may have more information on it.



a great write up Joseph, fully documented and illustrated and the watch is beautiful!
05/11/2015 - 12:24


Re: a great write up Joseph, fully documented and illustrated and the watch is beautiful!
05/13/2015 - 01:00

Thank you, Alex.

I am very pleased to have acquired it.

I will bring it along next January.



A fitting introduction
05/11/2015 - 17:30

during VE remembrances yes.  Thanks for the history lesson.  Please share details of this calibre when you can.  Any idea of the number of these commemorative watches produced?

How will you wear this piece; can't jangle in the pocket with toonies and loonies, perhaps a velvet pouch to swaddle in?

Re: A fitting introduction
05/13/2015 - 01:06

Thanks Dean,

I am also anxious to see what makes it tick (literally)  :-)

I really don't know how many were made. I don't know whether this one was specially commissioned by Smith or he had a number of them made for his friends.

It's certainly the first one I've seen at auction.

I have a small leather pouch that came with my urban Jurgensen pocket watch from 1925 and this coin watch fits perfectly.



A wonderful evening at the Lincoln Centre...
05/12/2015 - 19:58

Joseph, it must have been a marvellous time for you particularly amongst friends on such a special occasion.

Having returned home, you were clearly anxious to spend a little time with your new pocket watch acquisition. I'm pleased you did as the result of your research is most revealing and of immense interest.

Your words and pictures 'paint a  picture' of historical significance. One of these days I do hope to be able to see your lovely watch in person. 

Allow me to thank you for your time and commitment in bringing such a wonderful article to The Hour Lounge.

With all good wishes



Re: A wonderful evening at the Lincoln Centre...
05/13/2015 - 01:10

Thank you so much for your kind words, Tony.

I will certainly bring it along on my next trip over.

I look forward to seeing you in the near future.

All the best,


nice discovery and historical watch
05/14/2015 - 07:42

The way you came back to the History attached to this watch is very interesting. Nice write-up Joseph.

Enjoy this special addition in your "vintage collection".



Re: nice discovery and historical watch
05/17/2015 - 14:09

Thank you Liger for your kind words.

it's a very special watch.