08-12-2013, 08:15 AM #1
REVIEW: Syffert, Konig & Myers: F. A. Jones – His Life, Legacy and Watches (2013)
Book review by Fortunat Mueller-Maerki
The Unlikely Story How an American Founded a Prestigious Swiss Watch Brand
F. A. Jones – His Life, Legacy and Watches, by David Seyffer, Thomas König, and Alan Myers. Published in English 2013, by IWC Watch Co., Schaffhausen (Switzerland). ISBN 978-3-9523898-9-8. Hardcover, 145 pages, 21 x 21 cm, ca. 80 illustrations, majority in color. Available through http://shop.watchtime.net/bucher/iwc-buch-englisch-f-a-jones? for Euro 34 (ca. US$ 40) plus shipping. NAWCC members may borrow a lending copy from the Library in Columbia Pa.
American collectors of high-grade pocket watches from the dawn of the era of industrial watchmaking, i.e. from the 1850s through the 1870s, are rightfully proud of the pioneering role American entrepreneurship, innovation and ingenuity has played in creating companies like Howard and Waltham, and eagerly study their history and collect the resulting watches.
The story about how the Waltham display at the 1876 Exhibition in Philadelphia (and the resulting report by Jacques David on the state of American watchmaking to the association of Swiss watchmakers) shook up the Swiss, and launched mass production in Switzerland has been told many times. But there is another, parallel, but less known chapter in the history of this American-Swiss horological knowhow transfer, which up to now has not been studied and published. The book under review fills this gap.
It is the story of Florentine Aristo Jones, a New Hampshire born (1841) watchmaker, who spent his formative years in the 1850s and 1860s (interrupted by some years of military service during the civil war) at the Boston Watch Company, at Waltham and at Howard (where he rose to Factory Superintendent). In 1868 the 27 year old went to Switzerland with the aim to build an American style watch factory there, choosing the unlikely city of Schaffhausen in northeastern Switzerland. After a rocky start, including insolvency, the venture, always known as ‘International Watch Company IWC', eventually succeeds and remains today among the handful of most prestigious horological brands globally. Jones had lost his investment in the venture by 1876, returned to the USA (initially as a wholesale watch dealer in New York), and later started several other ventures, including a business making clockwork mechanisms for cash registers (1883-1907) in Massachusetts, before dying at age 75 in 1922.
‘F. A. Jones – His Life, Legacy and Watches’ is the collaborative effort of three authors: Seyffer is the Curator of the IWC museum, König is an expert on the earliest IWC watches, and Myers is a journalist and horological author. Much of the material presented by this trio is original research, consisting of biographic information, corporate history, and sample timepieces hereto unreported in the horological literature. Seyffer reports on the biography of Jones (24 pages), König focuses on the convoluted early corporate history (32 pages), and Myers painstakingly documents all known models produced during the F.A. Jones era by IWC (34 pages of text and 36 pages of illustrations).
IWC deserve praise for publishing a well-researched, thoroughly illustrated monograph on the earliest turbulent years of its corporate history. There are few, if any, other publications that shed light of how the adaptation of American watch making processes actually played out in Switzerland.
Fortunat F. Mueller-Maerki, Sussex NJ, August 12, 2013Fortunat Mueller-Maerki, -Chair NAWCC Library Com./ Editor & Publisher of BHM
Mem.NAWCC Mus.Coll.Com. / VP, USA Sect. Antiq.Horolog.Soc.
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