Most collectors know the feeling of scrolling through an online watch sales platform and coming across an unexpected, beautiful vintage watch. With great anticipation, you click through the photos, and then it all evaporates when you discover that the back is engraved with the initials or name of a previous owner. Next to water damage, this is about the quickest way to depreciate a watch’s value, unless of course they are a celebrity’s initials. Then it is the other way around, but those watches are rare.
Recently, I acquired a lovely vintage Omega from 1947 that once belonged to a Lee C. Paull, from Wheeling, West Virginia. I know so because his name is hand engraved in elegant letters in the gold caseback of the Omega. I have never met Mr. Paull, nor have I been to Wheeling, West Virginia, but thanks to the World Wide Web, I discovered he was a successful businessman dealing in insurance. In all honesty, I was too hesitant to pull the trigger on this watch, given the engraving of a stranger’s name, only to realize that it is part of the story and the history of this particular watch.
It was Mr.Paull that walked into Tiffany & Co. 75 years ago and purchased this charming ref. 2420 containing Omega’s first bumper automatic movement. That was a fortunate event because, by doing so, he acquired the coveted double-signed dial, and those facts made it so that I was quite eager to add this watch to my collection. I actually owe gratitude to Mr.Paull, and I am also happy that previous owners didn’t erase his memory by polishing the engraving out of the caseback. That is never a good idea, as you have to remove too much metal to get the correct result that makes the caseback awfully thin. Instead, we should honor the watch connoisseurs that walked the earth before us because, while we have never met them, we certainly share a similar taste for refinement.