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Experiences

Alan Myers

Passion IWC

Text — Hanspeter Künzler Photos — Andreas Schmidt Date — 1 July, 2010

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—IWC Savonette Calibre Jones from the pioneering days of manufacturing

I am not a typical collector. I’m not too concerned with the outside of a watch. For me the important thing is what’s inside

—Alan Myers

There is a good reason why Professor Alan Myers always preferred pocket watches to wristwatches: wristwatches gave him eczema. Therefore he had always owned pocket watches. His passion for collecting watches, however, only began with his retirement. As a parting gift, his colleagues from the zoology department of the University College of Cork presented him with a pocket watch. Alas, instead of old, the watch was new, and Alan Myers had never liked new watches very much. It was his wife who suggested he should try looking on the Internet to find a watch that might be more to his taste. He didn’t have to search long before he stumbled across a particularly fine IWC piece. From that moment, he was hooked. “Being me and being an academic I couldn’t resist it,” he says whilst opening an IWC Savonette, serial number 11136, with a few swift and well-practised movements. “It was the miniature mechanics that I found so fascinating. I realized then that these watches were far more interesting than I had already thought they might be.”

Myers discovered that from 1885, IWC had kept very good records about how their watches were put together and who exactly bought them. Very little, however, was known about the early years until the departure of the company’s founder Florentine Ariosto Jones in 1876. This was a challenge Myers simply could not ignore. He set out to research the history of the early IWC watch movements. The field was clearly defined. The highest known serial number for a so-called “Jones movement” – a movement manufactured under the aegis of F.A. Jones and his successor Fred Seeland – is 25590.

Encouraged by his father, Alan Myers bred snakes and newts as a child. Studying zoology in London and Swansea, he acquired his PhD with a study of amphipod crustaceans. Two years he spent teaching in Dar-es-Salaam and another in London before, in 1972, he became a lecturer at the University College of Cork. A taxonomist with a passion, he spent the following decades researching mostly “exotic shrimps”, as he calls them – tiny creatures barely bigger than 5 millimetres. He has discovered and named hundreds of hitherto unknown species. The last expedition took him to the Great Barrier Reef. His and his colleagues’ collection of reports resulting from this journey are collected in a book thicker than the Old Testament. The drawings illustrating the differences between the species show a remarkable similarity to the illustrations in the book Myers has now written about the Jones calibre and which is awaiting publication in a drawer of his neatly organized desk. “I am not a typical collector,” he says. “I’m not too concerned with the outside of a watch. For me the important thing is what’s inside, the movement. Looking at the small differences between shrimps in order to classify them is very similar to looking at the differences between watch movements. What’s interesting to me is the way they changed. Their evolution.”

Today, Alan Myers’s IWC collection contains around fifty watches and movements. The oldest piece carries serial number 663. It is completely original and running strongly. Only two older IWC watches are known to exist, numbers 576 and 603. Small wonder it is his favourite. More valuable for research, however, was number 11736 inscribed with the letter R. A comparison with the much more frequently encountered type B allowed Myers to come to some important conclusions about the development of Jones’s pocket watches with key-wind. Two factors have helped him enormously in building up his remarkable collection. Firstly, in contrast to most other collectors, he was not only interested in complete watches. “I don’t collect in order to possess. It is the thirst for knowledge that makes me a collector. For the information I’m looking for, my watches don’t need to have a case. Even a damaged movement can yield good information.” The second factor that was crucial to the swift accumulation of treasures was the rise of the Internet. Myers happened to catch the IWC bug in the early days of the Internet auction platform’s spread across the globe. “It would be impossible today to build up a collection like mine,” he says.

Even without Internet search sessions lasting the night, there is no danger that Alan Myers will ever succumb to a disease called boredom. Apart from tending to a collection of cacti, he breeds geckos and African dwarf hedgehogs. And on sunny days he sets up his telescope to watch the ships sailing across the horizon and into the harbour of Cork.

Explore More Articles
IWC SCHAFFHAUSEN PAYS TRIBUTE TO SAINT-EXUPÉRY’S LAST FLIGHT

70 years ago, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry took off on a reconnaissance flight over France and never returned. Now, IWC Schaffhausen commemorates the last flight of the celebrated pilot and author with three special limited editions, thereby strengthening its long-standing partnership with Saint-Exupéry’s descendants.

Kurt Klaus
The Art of Creating Stories and Dreams

Every watch tells a story – about its origin and age, personality and character, tradition and culture, and not least about its owner.

Aquatimer video Screenshot
IT'S AQUA TIME - The new aquatimer video

The evolution of the diver’s watches from IWC continues.

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For over 60 years, IWC has been training generations of watchmakers in its own workshops. Candidates need to be deft with their hands and have a flair for technology. After completing their training, most of them remain loyal to the company in northeastern Switzerland for many years.

Swiss National Day
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Experience the secret talents of the IWC watchmakers.

The Time is Right

The parallels are endless: technology, innovation and cutting-edge design dominate both businesses, and they’re both defined by time. The MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One™ Team tries to beat the clock in FORMULA 1 motor racing; at IWC Schaffhausen, we are the clock.

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The Sculptor-Designer

The sculptor-designer is a phenomenon. Even if you are not at all design literate you will know him by reputation. His name has become a synonym for severity.

The Art of Being an Engineer

The engine faltered and cut out. Hunched over his metal baby, Benz wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand.