Henry Tyndall "Dick" Merrill (1894-1982) was an aviation pioneer. He learned to fly while stationed in France during World War I. Upon his return to America he worked briefly as a fireman but in 1920 Merrill bought a war surplus JN-4 "Jenny" and became a barnstormer at air shows, finally settling in to the life of an air mail service pilot. Merrill later joined Eastern Airlines under the direction of WWI flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker. With the exception of a brief departure to contribute to the war effort in the 1940s, Dick Merrill remained with Eastern until his retirement in 1961.
Along with Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart, Dick Merrill is ranked among the heroes of 20th Century aviation. His accomplishments include the first round-trip trans-Atlantic flight made with singer Harry Richman. Richman's modified Vultee was christened Lady Peace and carried thousands of ping pong balls as a possible flotation device in case the plane made an emergency water landing. The following year Merrill and pilot Jack Lambie completed the first commerical trans-Atlantic flight flying to London to return with film footage of the coronation of King George VI. Following his retirement, Dick Merrill continued to fly, setting a speed record in the 1970s flying a Lockheed L-1011 from California to Miami.
The history of the present watch is not known. This watch may have been specially ordered by Mr. Merrill or it might have been made by IWC in recognition of his contributions to aviation.