I recently bought a pocket watch made by the Swiss Zenith company in 1968 for the Turkish state railways. It works perfectly. It has its mysteries.
On the front it says “T.C. Devlet Demir Yollari” meaning Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Devlet Demiryollari or State Railways of the Republic of Turkey. On the back is a steam locomotive and the crescent-and-star symbol of Turkey.
Curiously, it has the letters S. O. H. engraved inside, along with a date, 15/12 1969. Needless to say, I have no idea who S was, or is. All I know from the Zenith factory number is that the watch was made in 1968 in the high air of the strange watch town Le Locle in the Swiss Jura mountains and I can only presume it was presented to a Turkish railway official a year later.
I like to think that the watch was used for railway time keeping all over Turkey in the 1970s and 80s while I was growing up in Sweden and that it travelled with S from the old Orient express station Sircesi in Istanbul to the Iranian border, across the Taurus mountains, to Samsun by the Black Sea, all over Anatolia in winter, to the Mediterranean coast at Izmir in summer and to the gloomy town of Kars on the Armenian border when snow was melting in spring.
Turkey kept steam locomotives like the one on the watch running through the 1980s and S would have worked on steam trains, experiencing these powerful, smoky beasts, so close to living beings.
I travelled with trains in Turkey once, in the hot summer of 1993. First from the Greek border to Istanbul and I can still remember the dry, grassy smell of rural Thrace shifting to sharp city odours as we passed the old Byzantine city walls and ended at the grand Sircesi station just below Topkapi palace and I then lost myself in Istanbul for the first time. Maybe S was on the same train.
A little later I made the scenic journey from Erzincan in central Anatolia to Kars in the north-east on a heavily guarded Eastern Express train. This was a time of high tensions between the Turkish state and its Kurdish minority and army servicemen patrolled the carriages with nervous attitude and the conductor (was this S?) told me the PKK had a habit of sometimes attacking the train.
So, S and I may have met, unaware of the watch linking us together. But how did the timepiece end up in Skellefteå in the far north of Sweden in the store from where I got it? No one knows, the clock keeps ticking, trains keep going in Turkey and fate has its odd ways.