Watch Thing x Cole Pennington
Details & Care
"Every watch with a caseback inscription has a story to tell. You just have to listen." – Cole Pennington
A few years back, watch writer Cole Pennington was poking around “World War II Weekend” in Reading, Pennsylvania. It’s the largest living history event of its kind – full of re-enactors, vintage WWII aircraft, military vehicles, and period artifacts.
You might know Cole from his work for Hodinkee, the BBC, CNN, or Travel & Leisure. In a nutshell, he travels the world chasing stories of fascinating people and the watches they wore.
So you can guess what artifacts caught his eye that day in Reading.
Stopped in his tracks by a table full of 1930s - ‘40s watches, Cole struck up a conversation with the collector selling them. That’s when he discovered a hand-engraved watch that got his wheels turning.
“I was drawn in because it symbolized a time when people still made things with their hands,” says Cole. “I ended up buying it with the intention of getting it back to where it belonged. I didn't know where to start. The officer was most likely no longer with us, but maybe he had sons or daughters, or even grandchildren who were alive. So I set out to find them.”
Off he went, diving deep into dusty archives and small-town museums. He connected with far-off readers and friends of friends of friends.
“It’s amazing how a watch transcends this little wrist instrument that keeps time," says Cole. "In the metal, there is pain, suffering and sacrifice. But there’s also triumph, courage, victory. … Every watch with a caseback inscription has a story to tell. You just have to listen and do the requisite research.”
Cole’s pursuit of the rightful owners of the watches he finds has surfaced some amazing men and their forgotten stories.
Men like Lieutenant G.C. Fullenkamp. And Pike Beall. And Lieutenant A.C. Jones.
To tell these forgotten stories, Cole gave a sold-out talk at the Horological Society of New York – "The Hidden History of WWII Watches." That’s when he shared his new mantra:
Always read the caseback.
“These are the stories of the men and women who fought and potentially died for our country,” says Cole. “And the crazy thing to think is that those stories would never be told again – if not for a watch.”
When we got an email from Cole saying “Hey, I’ve got an idea for a shirt,” we were all ears.
Over several months, we worked together on a design that salutes the men whose names are found on these nearly century-old casebacks.
As Cole says, “To honor their humanity.”
The new shirt features a "hand-egraved" caseback and marks VE Day – the end of World War II. It is printed in khaki ink on a soft and breathable military green T-shirt. It's a regular fit and preshrunk.
"They are true to exact sizing," says customer Rudy Jilderda of Ontario, Canada. "I'm always fussy on feel, thickness and neck collar fit. It's perfect."
Honor history over hype and order your new Watch Thing today. #alwaysreadthecaseback