As I was getting ready for work this morning, I saw an incredible story on NBC’s Today Show. In May 1943, Minnesota native Charles Woehrle was on an American bombing mission when his B-17 went under attack. Charles was forced to jump from the burning plane and was then held as a prisoner of war for two years.
Approximately one year into his captivity, Charles came across a brochure for Patek Philippe watches. He then somehow ordered one with the promise of paying for it once he was released. Several months went by, before a stainless steel PP was delivered to Woehrle’s door along with a note from the family-owned manufacturer saying, “We wish that this watch will give you full satisfaction.”
When Charles eventually returned to Minnesota, he paid for the watch as promised. Forty years later, Charles’ house was burglarized and his watch was stolen. Charles’ niece, while preparing a documentary on her uncle’s life, decided to write Patek Philippe and let the brand know of his story.
Just this last week, Patek Philippe brought Woehrle to New York and replaced the watch to help him remember his past experiences. Amazing! What an incredible deed by Patek Philippe! While Charles’ original watch was stainless steel, the replacement is 18kt gold. I am sure, however, that Charles’ does not mind!
I have always said that watches can represent so much more to people than just a timepiece. The sentimental value of Charles’ original Patek Philippe was obviously of the utmost. Charles will never forget those two years he spent as a prisoner of war and certainly won’t forget the watch that was there with him.