Holux Watch Research Notes
I started collecting vintage personalized watches about ten years ago, and have amassed a group of almost 40 watches. Most of them are military watches (WW1 / WW2); there are also quite a few athlete’s watches, and other miscellaneous people whose history I can trace via the Internet, Newspapers.com, or Ancestry.com.
I only purchase the ones whose owners (through an accident of history) have left a long trail of information – photos; newspapers articles; books and magazines articles; etc. This 1944 Holux watch is the gem of the collection; it is completely original (including the watchband), and the only one that has more than two names engraved on it. Miraculously, I have been able to research extensive information (and photos) of each of the six pilots.
I purchased this watch in November 2015 from an eBay seller in Washington state; she found it at the bottom of an abandoned storage locker. Despite being found in a storage locker, the watch ran perfectly when fully wound up!
I have spent considerable time during the past four years to “put the pieces” of the puzzle together. I knew enough military history at this point to realize that “44-A-3” referred to a WW2 Army training class. I was able to Google the six names on engraved on the back, and quickly realized that they were Army Air Corps pilots. Newspaper articles about “Wm Buttner” provided key information that he trained at Luke Airfield AZ and graduated in January 1944. From that point on, the puzzle slowly unraveled. I was able to contact WW2 historian and artist John Mollison in Montana, who had a copy of the Sir! yearbook for “Class 44-A”; it included photos of Benjamin Brew and Alfred Riha.
I was able to find David von Rinteln’s name on the Internet – he is Benjamin Brew’s nephew. We shared emails and phone calls, and in February 2016 we met near my (former) home in Haddonfield NJ, and I presented him with the Holux watch.
Once I retired later that year, I had more time to continue my research (while my collection was expanding from 10 watches to over 40…). In the summer of 2019, I was able to contact the relatives of Ben Higgins Jr., who still live around Dahlonega Georgia. Nephew Kenneth Higgins provided a considerable amount of information about Ben, including his photo. In August 2019, I finally located Donald H. Kitzman’s daughter Sharon – who informed me that her dad is now 96 and still has vivid memories of his war experiences! (Please view the Donald Kitzman Bio button.)
It wasn't until December 2019 that I finally solved the mystery of how the six pilots knew each other. Based on information from Edrick J. Miller's book about the Santa Ana (CA) Air Base, "The SAAB Story", airmen Mapes, Buttner, Kitzman, Riha, Higgins, and Brew were all members of the West Coast Air Force Training Center's "Class 44-A" -- a series of four pilot training classes that ran from April 1943 through January 7, 1944.