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IWC Schaffhausen

The Journal

The 579 Jones Pocket Watch Part II – The Homecoming

JOIN POCKET WATCH CUSTODIAN TJ STEWART AND IWC HISTORIAN DAVID SEYFFER AS THEY SHARE MORE DETAILS ABOUT THE RARE TIMEPIECE FROM 1870 AS IT ARRIVES AT THE IWC MUSEUM.

 

The 579th pocket watch produced by IWC has returned home. After spending more than a century and a half in the hands of the Jones-Stewart family from Western New York, the exclusive IWC timepiece with the nickname 579 Jones Pocket Watch– a nod to its first owner, Joseph Thomas Jones “Captain Jones” (1843-1916), who is unrelated to IWC’s founder F. A. Jones – is now part of the permanent exhibition at the IWC Museum in Schaffhausen. For Joseph Thomas Jones Stewart II (TJ) and his two brothers it was a clear choice: their great-great-grandfather's pocket watch had to be shared with the world and loaned to the museum for an indefinite period of time.

 

The IWC JOURNAL spoke with TJ during the handover of the beloved family heirloom at the IWC Flagship Boutique on Madison Avenue, New York, and asked museum curator, Dr. David Seyffer, about the significance of the watch. 

 

 

HANDOVER AT THE IWC FLAGSHIP BOUTIQUE NEW YORK ON MADISON

YOU JUST HANDED OVER A TRULY UNIQUE POCKET WATCH. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO TAKE HOME WITH YOU AT THE END OF THE DAY?

TJ: Let’s face it: This whole experience of being able to return a piece of history back to where it was manufactured… how do you NOT have something unique to take home? Reaching out to IWC and seeing your shared excitement over this piece of history was great. Being here in the boutique is a capstone of this journey so far. I would love to come to Schaffhausen to see it on display. The whole process seems surreal. It’s been a great day. 

 

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE IWC FLAGSHIP BOUTIQUE NEW YORK?

TJ: It is stunning. The architecture and design of the boutique itself is great and is only highlighted by the watches that are here. To actually see how much thought and intentionality IWC puts into each of the timepieces is a nod to their history while also looking to the future. This really adds a nice, cohesive blend of the past, present and future with regards to where the brand is going. The boutique is awesome!

It was our hope that IWC would receive this piece back in Schaffhausen and show that what you produce today will have a legacy 150 years from now

 

 

BUILT FOR A PURPOSE

TELL US HOW YOU FOUND OUT ABOUT YOUR FAMILY TIMEPIECE.

TJ: My father was a private man. We knew about some family heirloom pieces but there was no real history. So, when dad suddenly passed away at the age of 67, we were left looking through stuff, and we came across this pocket watch.

 

When we realized what this timepiece was, we also realized that, being a family with three sons, it is impossible to take what might be considered a significant part of history and divide it three ways. Therefore, it makes sense to share something like this with the world. It was our hope that IWC would receive this piece back in Schaffhausen and show that what you produce today will have a legacy 150 years from now.

 

WHAT MAKES THIS WATCH SO SPECIAL TO YOU, PERSONALLY?

TJ: The sound that this watch makes is phenomenal! When you take the pocket watch and you open its back case - it actually acts as a sound board like a piano. For me, that was the emotional component of it. It took it to a whole new level beyond telling time. We see time, but with this pocket watch you can also hear it.   

 

I understand IWC’s request to not wind it and not use it (David, I only did it this one time, I promise!) but it’s like having a really nice car, and just having it sit in the garage. This watch was built for a purpose, to tell time, to be functional. It’s not a matter of pride or ownership, it’s a matter of “this is built for a purpose”

TRAVELLING FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION

WHAT DOES TRADITION MEAN TO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY?

TJ: For my family, we tend to hang on to things. We don’t tend to buy something, use it for a little bit and then let it go - which I guess from a historical perspective is a good trait. That’s why we are here with the timepiece we have today. One of my brother’s and my takeaways from this experience as a family is to make sure that the story behind a timepiece travels with the watch to the next generation. One of the things my dad didn’t do was share the watch’s history and its story with us. We want to make sure we don’t replicate this with our kids going forward. 

 

 

WHAT VALUES DO YOU INTEND TO UPHOLD FROM YOUR FOREFATHERS?

TJ: In our family, there is the understanding that with hard work and perseverance, potentially comes blessing. With that blessing comes responsibility. That trait of sharing your success with others has been instilled in my family for generations. My brothers and I are constantly asking ourselves: How can we give back? It has been part of our family’s legacy and transcends material possession. At the end of the day, you take the material stuff away and ask yourself: What are your values? What has been instilled in you? Values and what you do with them have been passed down from my great-great-grandfather, Captain Jones. I’d like to think we are continuing this today with our kids.

 

Joseph T. “Captain” Jones (1843-1916), TJ’s great-great-grandfather who bought the pocket watch in the 1870s
— Joseph T. “Captain” Jones (1843-1916), TJ’s great-great-grandfather who bought the pocket watch in the 1870s
David [Seyffer]’s enthusiasm when he realized what he was looking at on his computer screen was infectious
The “579” has been in TJ’s family’s possession since the 1870s
— The “579” has been in TJ’s family’s possession since the 1870s

GIVING “579” A HOMECOMING

HOW DID YOU REACH THE DECISION TO LEND THE WATCH TO THE IWC MUSEUM?

TJ: David [Seyffer]'s enthusiasm when he realized what he was looking at on his computer screen was infectious. Once you fully understand what it is, and the uniqueness of it, you start asking yourself: “What good does a timepiece like this do in anyone’s house, sitting on my desk? Something like this deserves to be seen by the world!” So, it was our intention to return it home - to give it a homecoming. We were thrilled when IWC took the correspondence and continued to dialogue with us. We hope that David’s excitement will be shared across the IWC Team and visitors to the IWC Museum. We know it’s in good hands, and we know that IWC is going to be a phenomenal custodian of a piece of my family’s history.

 

WAS IT A TOUGH DECISION?

TJ: This was our intent all along, very much akin to a family having a piece of art from a famous artist and loaning it to a museum or art gallery. You can either put it in a bank’s safety deposit box, or you can share it with the world. And we decided to share it with the world. 


LET'S HEAR MUSEUM CURATOR DR. DAVID SEYFFER'S TAKE ON THE HOMECOMING OF "579"

 

 

HOW DID YOU FEEL WHEN YOU FIRST LEARNED ABOUT THIS RARE TIMEPIECE?

David Seyffer: I was completely overwhelmed. We are always highly interested in the story around a watch that you can't find in the records. When we realized that there was a pocket watch – one of the first ever made in Schaffhausen – we were thrilled. Then we started to realize step by step what a treasure this watch was. It was also very helpful that we had deeply researched the first decades of IWC as a company, and watch manufacturing in Schaffhausen, in general. So, we could immediately see what type of watch movement it was and – most importantly – that the watch was indeed one of the first manufactured in Schaffhausen. 

 

 

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE ERA WHEN THE POCKET WATCH WAS MANUFACTURED?

David Seyffer: From written sources we know for example, that the watch with the Nr. 579 was made not at Baumgartenstrasse 15 (where IWC production has been located since March 1875) but at the first atelier F.A. Jones rented from Schaffhausen city, which was located some 500 yards away.

 

In those days, only a few watchmakers were manufacturing IWC watches. Jones still had to organize the company and find investors, but he also had to start making and selling watches. IWC in the times the watch No. 579 was made was a start-up business that had to face a lot of different challenges. Sources at the City Archives in Schaffhausen helped us understand that F.A. Jones at that time had a very well-organized supply chain. Movement parts that he could not yet manufacture in Schaffhausen were purchased in the western part of Switzerland. Step by step and year by year the percentage of inhouse production was raised.

 

It is important to understand that Jones did something completely different in Schaffhausen and therefore was a pioneer. He implemented the so-called American system of watchmaking in Switzerland for the first time while in the western part of Switzerland manufacturing was still carried out in a kind of cottage. The huge step towards a modern way of manufacturing watches was established in Switzerland after 1878, ten years after F.A. Jones founded the International Watch Company. 

 

This email from TJ was probably the most important in my fifteen-year career working for IWC

 

 

DID YOU DISCOVER ANY WATCH DETAILS THAT BLEW YOUR MIND?

David Seyffer: The engraving “New York” on the movement reveals an interesting detail: The Schaffhausen manufacture was considered a “branch” of the New York based headquarters. F.A. Jones’ watches were to meet expectations of American customers who wanted “an American watch”. It was very common back then to give dedicated names to the movements. The best quality Jones caliber pocket watch movements were marked “D. H. Craig.” Daniel Hastings Craig was not only F.A. Jones’ uncle, but a main investor of IWC at that time – hence the additional engraving “D. H. Craig” on the movement. 

 

HOW OFTEN DO YOU STUMBLE UPON A TIMEPIECE LIKE THIS?

David Seyffer: To be very honest – taking all the facts into account – such as it being one of the first IWC watches, the documentation of the ownership, family history – this email from TJ was probably the most important in my fifteen-year career working for IWC. Because with the Stewart Family's watch we have physical evidence of what we theoretically already knew. We have sources on how F.A. Jones made watches and sold them in the USA but now we can see the artifact. 

 

WHAT EXACTLY MAKES THIS POCKET WATCH SO SPECIAL?

David Seyffer: It is – as far as I know – the only watch that can show us the customers' journey for more than 150 years. We know that the watch was shipped to Schaffhausen and sold in the USA but more importantly, we know who the customer is. Today big companies talk about how to build customer loyalty and with this watch we can see that for IWC it happened some 150 years ago. This is absolutely astonishing!


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