Photos — Maurice Haas Date — 19 August, 2011
A surgery housed in a rented four-room flat on the ground floor of an apartment building on the fringes of Uster: this is the workplace of Dr. Rudolf Niehus, general practitioner, who at the age of 70 could long ago have retired but who prefers to work here every day, from morning till night. Why? Because for him, being a doctor is not a vocation but a calling, not work, but fulfilment. And he owes the choice of his profession to his grandfather, the famous Carl Gustav “C. G.” Jung. But more of that anon.
Rudolph Niehus has invited me to his practice to show me an IWC watch that can be seen nowhere else: it is the watch given by C. G. Jung, the illustrious psychiatrist and founder of analytic psychology, to his fiancée, Emma Rauschenbach, as an engagement present. “She was the love of his life,” says Niehus as he guides his rolling office chair to a filing cabinet, where he opens the topmost drawer and extracts a black jewellery case. Then he rolls back to his desk, opens the case and places the watch, which is attached to a long gold chain, in his left hand, cradles it, is lost in thought for a few seconds and says, not without pride: “That’s it.”
The ornate gift should not really have come as a surprise to Emma Rauschenbach. She was, after all, the daughter of the then owner of IWC, Johannes Rauschenbach. And yet this watch was special, something unique. Not much bigger than a one franc coin with cushion-like sides and made entirely of gold, it looks, at first glance, like a medallion. The glass-fronted dial is completely invisible. It is hidden below a golden spring cover elaborately engraved with the letters E and R and richly decorated with tiny rubies and diamonds. At the touch of a button, the lid snaps open. Niehus looks at the Portuguese on his wrist and compares the times. “Bang on,” he says. He would clearly also like to open the cover that hides the movement but can’t quite manage it. “This is the first time I’ve taken it out of the safe in donkey’s years,” he explains. “There’s a knack to it.”
So what model is it? How much is it worth? “I don’t know,” says Rudolph Niehus, “I really know very little about this watch. My mother wore it and then so did my wife.” At this very moment, he rediscovers the knack and opens the back of the watch. Engraved in the gold protective cover beneath it are the words “Fräulein Emma Rauschenbach de Dr. C. G. Jung, 16. Februar 1903”, numbers and symbols that can be read only with a magnifying class (“300000, 18 carat, 750, JWC”) and then an engraving of two hands touching – “the symbol of their engagement,” says Niehus as he lifts the protective cover to reveal the ticking movement, laughs and says, “It’s never stopped running in over 100 years.”
It quickly becomes clear that Rudolf Niehus is neither a connoisseur nor a watch collector. However, he is especially fond of this one watch. He keeps it in his safe and will one day leave it to his daughter or son. Which of his two long-since grown-up children finally inherits the watch is irrelevant. For him, only one thing matters: “It mustn’t be sold. It must stay in the family.” The watch is precious to him not because of what it is but because of what it stands for: a love at first sight that never ended.
“When we visited, we simply did what our grandfather C. G. Jung told us. Everyone always did what he told them"
The story goes like this: Jung, at the time a 21-year-old medical student, was visiting friends in Schaffhausen and had been asked by his mother to remember her to the Rauschenbachs, whom she had met on a previous occasion. As Jung stood in the hallway of the Rauschenbachs’ home, he saw Emma, then 15, on the stairs – and was dumbstruck. “He later told a friend that this girl would one day be his wife,” says Niehus.
It is only thanks to Jung’s memoirs that Niehus knows of this fateful meeting, since his grandfather had never spoken to him about it. Or about what happened afterwards. Six years later, Jung returned to propose to Emma Rauschenbach. He was by now a qualified doctor with a position in a reputable Zurich clinic. The story goes that the young woman initially turned him down before accepting his proposal at the second time of asking. In 1903, at the age of 21, Emma Rauschenbach became Emma Jung. Despite her well-to-do upbringing, she had never had the benefit of a real education. Now, as the lady of the house, the mother of five children and wife of C. G. Jung, she was able to make up for lost time.
I was dumbstruck. I had only seen her for a brief moment but I knew immediately with absolute certainty, that she would be my wife
—C. G. Jung
She learnt mathematics, Latin and Greek and took an interest in her husband’s work from the outset. She participated in his research, allowed him to analyse her and, over the years, qualified as a psychoanalyst in her own right. Indeed, from 1930 onwards, she was no longer just the woman at Jung’s side but also a professional colleague.
The biographer Aniela Jaffé has this to say about Emma Jung: “Her life was one of unbelievable richness and fulfilment because she was able to remain true to her own inner being while remaining true to her husband and to her profound understanding for his life’s work.” Despite all their good fortune – the Jungs, co-owners of IWC from 1905 onwards, were also financially well off – there was one major blight on Emma Jung’s happiness: her husband’s infidelity. Shortly after the birth of their fifth child, C. G. Jung embarked on a relationship with a young patient, Antonia “Toni” Wolff, which was to continue for almost 40 years and forced Emma Jung into a ménage à trois. Instead of leaving her husband, the woman Jung spoke of as “the foundation of my house” remained at his side. Instead of breaking down, she mustered her outstanding intelligence to bring a female approach to the often sexist work of the pioneers of psychoanalysis, such as Sigmund Freud. She left a record of her insights in “Animus and Anima”, the only book she ever wrote.
All that was a long time ago. Emma Jung died in 1955 and C. G. Jung in 1961. But despite that, Rudolf Niehus has vivid memories of his grandparents. “My grandmother was a very elegant lady: very reserved, very shy and always beautifully coiffured,” says Niehus, “and when we were ill, she would come and see us.” His relationship to his grandfather was also restrained rather than intimate. Niehus remembers C. G. Jung as the head of the family, a man who was intellectually superior to everyone around him. Not a grandfather who told stories or played games but a grandfather to admire – and to be slightly afraid of. “When we visited, we simply did what he told us,” says Niehus, “everyone always did what he told them.”
Although this could be a burden, it was sometimes also a blessing, as Niehus explains. “It was my grandfather who said I should study medicine.” Niehus, the son of an architect, hesitated, wavering between architecture and medicine. He explains why he finally chose to be a doctor as follows: “After doing my military training, I was invited by a friend of my grandfather to attend a dream analysis session. There were three dreams,” says Niehus. In the first, he was following his grandfather, who was holding a candle in his hand, up the stairs to his grandfather’s study. In the second, his grandfather handed him a golden casket, and in the third, he was fishing in front of his grandfather’s house where he landed an immense carp from the waters of Lake Zurich. The professor’s interpretation: “If I follow my grandfather, the light, I find my way to myself, symbolized by the giant carp.” The young Niehus enrolled to study medicine in Basel, as his grandfather had done before him. It is a decision he has never regretted: quite the opposite, in fact.