In May, at an airstrip in Urbana, Ohio, 98-year-old Alfred Pepper got a chance to step back in time and go inside the cockpit of the C-53 “D-Day Doll.”
While he was in the cockpit, he was presented with an honorary watch from TOCKR founders Austin Ivey and Sophy Rindler, who then told the vet they were naming the watch after him.
The Alfred Pepper watch is part of a 75-piece limited series of watches from the new watch company, which was founded in Austin, Texas, in 2017.
The watch company’s first big hit was a series of watches made from pieces of “That’s All Brother,” the C-47 that led the D-Day invasion. Those sold out, which led to the new Albert Pepper watches and another watch called the Skytrain, the C-47’s nickname in World War II.
The genesis of the watch company was in Ivey’s childhood, where he spent countless hours with his grandfather, Eugene Martin, Jr., who flew C-47 Skytrain transport planes over the “Hump” between China and India.
After the war, Martin opened a grocery store called the C-47 in downtown Dallas. After he retired as a grocer, he would take his grandson flying in his Cessna 172, making several trips to Oshkosh and instilling a love of aviation in the young boy.
“Unfortunately he passed away when I was 13,” Ivey says. “But what better way to honor my grandfather than to start an aviation watch company?”
The company marries Ivey’s two passions — aviation and watches — and gives him a new venture after a career in the oil and gas business and a gig at a private equity group.
Taking off in 2017 after he met watch gurus Rindler and Serge Aebischer, the company’s first timepiece was the Air Defender, which features a watch dial that looks like the radial engine of a C-47.
Next, Ivey teamed with the Commemorative Air Force to make watches made out of parts from “That’s All Brother.”
After that watch was introduced, Ivey was approached by Pepper’s grandson, who wanted to buy a watch for his grandfather.
Ivey learned that Pepper had served as a pilot in the 403rd Troop Carrier Group, the 64th Troop Carrier Squadron in Guadalcanal, and the 13th Army Air Force. He flew twin-engine planes, including a C-47, without a navigator, relying on sight, radio, compass, waves, or the instruments of the day. Logging over 1,200 hours of flight time before war’s end, Pepper successfully executed many drop and resupply missions and troop transports and earned many medals for his distinguished performance.
“Since the D-Day C-47 watches launched, we’ve been able to connect with many people and hear their inspiring stories of service and sacrifice. One of those people was Lieutenant Alfred Pepper’s grandson, who told us all about his grandfather’s experiences flying a C-47 plane during D-Day in a squadron led by ‘That’s All, Brother,’” said Ivey.
The TOCKR officials and CAF arranged a private event for Pepper at Grimes Airport in Urbana, Ohio, to present him with his new “Alfred Pepper” watch in the cockpit of the D-Day Doll.
A portion of the sales of the Alfred Pepper and D-Day watches support CAF’s restoration and maintenance of these historic planes.
The TOCKR D-Day C-47 “Alfred Pepper” sells for $2,700, while the D-Day watch sells for $1,990. The company’s watches start at $950.
Ivey realizes that some people may balk at paying $2,000 for a watch, while others are very happy to own a piece of history.
“We really try to distinguish ourselves from the hundreds of watch brands by taking on projects with a real story,” Ivey says.
What’s next for TOCKR?
“We’re working with the CAF on another project,” he says. “This one has an interesting twist.”