Vintage silver pocket watch with R101 Airship disaster provenance 1930

Vintage silver pocket watch with R101 Airship disaster provenance 1930

Code: 4.277

£1,250.00 Approx $1582.28, €1458.58, ¥11467.89

I am often asked for the history associated with a pocket watch and for most of the time I simply cannot provide any. This watch comes with the personal effects of the owner; Squadron Leader Ernest Livingstone Johnstone, AFC, OBE, Royal Naval Air Service who was the navigator and was killed in the R101 Airship disaster, France 5 October 1930

The watch itself is a humble timepiece, nothing special but it made me stop and pause to think of the owner. I have handled countless other watches over the past 30 years which may have bore a simple monogram but I would have had no idea of who owned it and the life they lived or their death. To have this watch in my hand, knowing the history of the owner was quite a moving experience.


Swiss silver open face watch c1890

Movement – gilt bridge movement has a cylinder escapement and is in 99% mint condition

Case – the movement comes in a .900 silver open face case, which has a hinged back and bezel and a white metal inner. The case is engraved with engine turning on the back and has a smooth plain finish on the sides. The case is engraved with the initials ELJ

The case is in 90% mint condition – light wear

Dial – the white enamel dial has a full set of gilt hands and is in 90% mint condition – there is a hairline through the centre

The watch has a mineral glass which has a flake on the 12

The watch measures 46mm x 16mm

The watch is stem wound / pin set


The watch comes with the personal effects of Squadron Leader Ernest Livingstone Johnstone:

 An oak cigar and cigarette box, with brass mounts including an RNAS airship badge and a small brass shield cartouche engraved 'To Ernest from Phillip Congratulations' (this commemorating his AFC award), the hinged compartments enclosing a briar pipe stamped 'Pennant', 'London Made' and 5 keys, the height including carrying handle 13 cm x 28 cm wide x 15 cm deep, plus a black and white portrait photograph of Johnston, circa 1920s, in uniform standing next beside an airship, 26.5 x 11 cm, framed and glazed, frame size 42 x 25.5 cm

R101 crashed in France during its maiden voyage on 5 October 1930, 48 of the 54 people on board were killed. Among the passengers killed was Lord Thomson, the Air Minister who had initiated the programme.