In partnership with Tockr

In the Hangar with Tockr Watches and the Commemorative Air Force

Tockr has partnered with the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) to offer the D-Day C-47, a watch with a dial made from aluminum originally found on the Douglass Aircraft C-47 Skytrain that led the D-Day invasion of Nazi-occupied France in 1945. Since 1957, the CAF has been restoring, exhibiting, and flying historically significant US military aircraft. Today the CAF has over 80 units spread across the globe that collectively own over 170 vintage military planes. Tockr is an aviation-driven watch brand whose founder, Austin Ivey, is an experienced pilot, making Tockr an ideal partner for the CAF.

The plane in question was dubbed “That’s All, Brother” by its crew. The best interpretation of the name is that it was 1940s-speak for something like: “You’re Going Down, F*!#@r”—a fitting name for a plane that would drop the first armed paratroopers into Normandy on D-Day.

The CAF is resurrecting this plane right down to the same slapdash paint-job, grammatical errors, and other authentic details they’ve painstakingly researched from a limited number of photographs. Artists have even projected those photos onto the plane in order to trace out the exact dimensions of various markings. Proceeds from sales of the Tockr D-Day C-47 watch will go back to the CAF to help complete the restoration.

“That’s All, Brother” in all its glory.

Pitching in, Worn & Wound teamed up with Tockr to offer a contest to win a D-Day C-47 watch and a trip to Austin, Texas to fly in the plane. I was along for the ride, though the ride in the plane didn’t actually happen. There were technical problems still being sorted out, and so we gratefully settled for a private tour of the CAF’s WWII-era hangar and the chance to investigate this storied C-47. I also had the chance to get to know Austin Ivey, the founder of Tockr.

Getting to know the person behind a watch brand typically reveals a personal connection to the designs, but I wasn’t seeing a clear connection between this softly-spoken, thoughtful entrepreneur and the husky 45-millimeter cases and funky 1970s style of Tockr’s Air Defender. Nor could I reconcile Mr. Ivey, the doting father of three, with Tockr’s C-47 Radial Wing, a huge watch with a wing-shaped case and a badass 7-cylinder radial engine on the dial.

Then Austin Ivey started telling stories. Austin required hypnosis to recover from PTSD brought on when the engine of a small plane he was flying died on him at 10,000 feet. Then I learned that Austin had been a storm chaser who drove so close to tornadoes that his crew required a customized armored vehicle to withstand onslaughts of grapefruit-sized hail balls and whatever other lethal things a tornado might throw around. After hearing these stories, the connection between this risk-taker and Tockr’s big, bold, indestructible watches was growing obvious.

Also along for the trip was our contest winner, Erik Hertel, an aviation engineer (total coincidence) and watch collector from Nevada. Listening to Erik and Austin talk about airplanes showed me what it must be like to hear me go on about watches; theirs was an effortless volley of model numbers and specifications from all sorts of aircraft I’d never heard of.

Both Erik and Austin are thoughtful watch collectors with beautiful collections. Erik brought a box full of his favorites, and we spent hours geeking out over coffee. Where Austin owns significant references from some of Switzerlands’ top brands, Erik has an eye for great deals and the patience of a one-shot deer hunter. Standouts include Erik’s 34-millimeter, black-dialed Tudor Prince Date, his tidy Eberhard regulator, and his Glashütte Original Senator Klassik, all smaller references with huge wrist presence that he got at great prices. By the time the three of us headed out to the CAF’s hangar to see the plane that helped stomp out fascism, Erik, Austin and I had already bonded the way watch geeks naturally do.

I hadn’t realized what a special experience this private tour of the CAF’s hangar would be until we walked inside and took in the various military aircraft. Erik and Austin were breezily identifying the planes while I read informational placards. The large C-47, “That’s All, Brother,” stands center-stage in the hangar and looms above the assortment of nimble fighters like the P-39, U-3A, and T-6 that make up the rest of the exhibit.

Among aviation historians there is some debate about how to best describe the role of “That’s All, Brother” during the D-Day invasion. Some argue that this C-47 “led the invasion” as it was the first plane to bring armed paratroopers out over enemy lines that day, while others contend that the Pathfinders—small paratrooper squads who first secured and signaled from drop points from within Nazi territory—should be said to have led the invasion. I’m going to guess that members of both divisions were feeling something more like fear than pride about being first to parachute into Nazi territory, and, regardless of how one assigns leadership of the D-Day air invasion today, we should be mightily grateful for the success of both air drops.

I didn’t feel the full emotional pull or the historical significance of the plane—or the watch, for that matter—until I stepped inside the fuselage of “That’s All, Brother.” You could be a Gandhi-inspired pacifist, a Quaker conscientious objector, and an anti-war activist all rolled into one, and I’m convinced you’d still want to salute the entire US Military upon stepping inside that C-47. Though large for its time, the C-47 is cramped and rickety, with the tiny cockpit backed by large racks of analog communication equipment and a tiny navigator’s desk. Behind that crammed control center, the main fuselage remains wide open for troops and cargo. Were you a paratrooper you’d get just enough room to sit your freezing butt on one of the fuselage’s hard metal benches, and about half way down that corridor you’d see the door from which you’d soon fall into the night sky above Nazi territory in order to then face highly motivated and heavily armed Germans in old-school ground combat. Sitting on that bench gave me chills, and, subsequently, so did wearing the D-Day watch.

Erik grinning ear-to-ear inside the fuselage.

The restoration of “That’s All Brother” has been a long, multi-million-dollar project, yet the plane is nearly ready to fly across the Atlantic to be part of upcoming D-Day celebrations. Because some of the plane’s aluminum couldn’t be safely salvaged, there were some original scraps left over, and it is from those that Tockr derived the dials of the D-Day watch.  Depending on the condition of the remaining paint, these dials fall into three categories: Clean Cut are monochromatic with paint that’s aged but largely in tact; Stamped include other colors from printing on the plane itself; and the Hard Worn dials are from scraped and worn sections. My colleague Sean Paul Lorentzen wrote the watches up, so you can read about the details there.

Impressive packaging for the C-47 D-Day watch.

Tockr makes big, bold watches, and they make no bones about it. Like that armored storm-chasing vehicle or the vintage C-47 plane, Tockr’s watches are ready for serious action—and they look the part. On wrist, the 42-millimeter D-Day watch is tall but surprisingly comfortable, as were all of the Tockr watches I tried on during this trip. Give the trend toward smaller watches, Tockr’s catalog feels fresh precisely because it cares not for said trend; instead Tockr sticks to its core values and offers unabashedly rugged designs. But we shouldn’t confuse ruggedness with a lack of subtlety. The D-Day watch is, in fact, an interesting example of how subtlety can add up to boldness.

The all-important dial takes center stage within the intentionally plain stainless steel case and bezel, thus respecting and supporting the dial’s historical significance and its own rugged aesthetics. A quick glance around the Tockr catalog will show you that such restraint is not the norm for this company.

Where Tockr does ramp up its design acumen is in the packaging of the C-47 D-Day watch, which was co-designed and handcrafted by Hix Designs in Oklahoma City. Terms like handmade, handcrafted, and hand-stitched get thrown around a lot these days, but Hix’s products are so blatantly well made that these terms come across more as accurate descriptors than marketing points. Austin Ivey asked Hix to create something based on a bomber jacket, and the result is a wood, leather, and shearling package that is, literally, the only watch box that’s ever caused me to swoon. The packaging’s design is pitch-perfect; it’s execution flawless. Fans of leather goods should check out Hix’s other products, including the watch straps they make for Tockr.

Yes, Bremont included metal from a Concorde Jet in a watch recently, and REC put parts from a Spitfire in a watch, too. Obviously upcycling of metals from historically significant planes (and cars, submarines, and whatever else) into commemorative watches isn’t entirely uncommon. However, there is a palpable community connection between Mr. Ivey and the Commemorative Air Force, a connection borne of Ivey’s own (sometimes dire) experiences as a pilot, his living down the road from the CAF’s hangar, and his genuine interest in helping complete the restoration of “That’s All, Brother.” Even I, an aviation known-nothing, felt the embrace of that community while hanging in the hangar that day, and I’ll admit that my interest in WWII shipwrecks has since veered toward aviation. I would encourage anyone interested in the history of military aviation to check out your local Commemorative Air Force unit. I’m already thinking I’ll spring for a ride in one of these vintage aircraft next chance I get. Tockr

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At age 7 Allen fell in love with a Timex boy's dive watch his parents gave him, and he's taken comfort in wearing a watch ever since. Allen is especially curious about digital technology having inspired a revival of analog technology, long-lasting handmade goods, and classic fashion. He lives in a one-room schoolhouse in The Hudson Valley with his partner and two orange cats.