It is possible to correctly translate "I am Christ" as "I am anointed" but it is not the most likely meaning. The most likely meaning is that people would represent themselves a 'false christs' or 'false messiahs.' Another meaning is that people would present themselves in the name of Jesus, admitting that Jesus is the Christ, but would still mislead them.
In either case, the Watchtower's doctrine at the time was that RUSSELL WAS ONE OF ONLY A VERY FEW CHRISTIANS WHO COULD CALL HIMSELF "THE CHRIST." Not all Christians were part of THE CHRIST, but Russell and a few others who had qualified for the "higher calling" could refer to themselves as "THE CHRIST." In Russell's view, it was not even true that all ANOINTED Christians could refer to themselves as "THE CHRIST." But it was OK for he himself and a few other Christians to do so. This doctrine was taught from the very earliest Watch Tower magazines and well into Rutherford's era. It was not officially rejected until the 1960's, although it was rarely mentioned after 1930.
The 2/15/1927 Watchtower said, on page 53:
"Seeing then that The Servant of Jehovah is The Christ, and that The Christ is composed of Jesus and the faithful members of his body, we find it proper to apply the term "Servant" to Jesus Christ alone or to Jesus Christ and the members of his body collectively as one; and sometimes it is applied only to the members of the body of Christ yet on earth."
This is also found in Rutherford's "Harp of God" and other articles where he echoed Russell's explanation, as found in the 6/15/2011 Watch Tower, p.165:
This Christ is composed of many members. . . . This Gospel age is the time in which the Messiah is prepared. The Head of the Messiah . . . is first, followed by the Apostles and then various other members of the body through the Gospel age. . . . This age will end when the full number of the "elect" shall have been found and tested. Then the body will have been completed. When The Messiah is complete, The Christ will be complete."
I recall that the key elements of this doctrine were still being taught by F W Franz during morning worship at Bethel in 1976-1982, and many of his expressions there had found their way into the Watchtower publications of the 1970's and 1980's.
These include the doctrines that Jesus is not the mediator of the great crowd of other sheep, only the 144,000. That the mediator for the "other sheep" is, in effect, the 144,001. And the meaning, of course, is summarized in a very common teaching, as found in our publications below:
The Bride class is just as deserving of the confidence of all people on earth as is the Bridegroom, the King Jesus Christ.
This could have just been awkward wording, but Franz was well known for dropping hints like this, where on page 32 it adds, that the 144,000 are singing about themselves when they praise the Lamb.
Page 88 and 89 of the same book:
Having such a royal position, they can, all together, make up a "bride" of suitable station for the Lamb, Jesus Christ, who is himself a heavenly King, seated at the right hand of Jehovah God. . . .The 144,000 sealed slaves of the living God become the "kings of the earth" . . . . . no falsehood was found in their mouths; they are without blemish." With the Lamb Jesus Christ, these followers of his who have been bought from among mankind as a firstfruits to God and to the Lamb make up a company of 144,001.
This recalls the teaching of Russell which stated that the 144,001 were "THE CHRIST."
There is nothing necessarily untrue about some of these statements, but they were often utilized to create the idea that "The Christ" was being represented by persons who could therefore have knowledge of the times and seasons and that such doctrines must be followed. Those who followed these anointed were supposed to have as much confidence in them as in Jesus Christ himself. This was not future confidence, but currently, while they are on earth. It does seem a bit presumptuous and haughty. Russell had taught that because he was also a member of "The Christ" just as Jesus was, that it was appropriate for him to also think of himself as "the prophet greater than Moses." (For that matter, Russell would therefore even refer to himself as a part of the "Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace" of Isaiah, referenced indirectly with the words "a paternal government" on page 368, above.)
Since then, the term "144,001" has often been used when the context is about the greater glory of the anointed and how only by fully trusting in them now, will we, the other sheep, gain present blessings from them along with the future blessings of their kingly and priestly functions. Not necessarily wrong at all, but it should never have been tied to our confidence in predictions about how we should be so motivated by the times and seasons.