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IWC Schaffhausen

THE JOURNAL

THE 579 JONES POCKET WATCH

A RARE TIMEPIECE AND FAMILY HEIRLOOM FROM 1870 CELEBRATES ITS HOMECOMING FROM THE UNITED STATES TO SCHAFFHAUSEN

 

For five generations, they owned one of the first ever-produced IWC pocket watches – the 579th to be exact. Then, a family from the US East Coast decided to loan its beloved and rare timepiece, acquired by the great-great-grandfather, to the IWC Museum in Schaffhausen for an indefinite amount of time. Find out about their story here. 

In the spring of 2021, watch history buff and IWC museum curator David Seyffer received an email from Western New York. A gentleman explained that after his father’s recent death, he and his two brothers had found an old IWC pocket watch while sorting through their dad’s bequeathed belongings. He asked if David could possibly provide some historical background regarding this timepiece. David opened the attached images and was awestruck: Was he really looking at one of the first pocket watches manufactured by IWC?

 

The 579 Jones Pocket watch from 1870
—The 579 Jones Pocket watch from 1870

THE CHALLENGE TO TRACE BACK A POCKET WATCH FROM 1870

Back in the late 19th century, it was customary for the newly founded watchmaking company to export its early timepieces to the United States. IWC’s founder F. A. Jones was an American himself, and had come to Schaffhausen with the intention of producing exquisitely precise mechanical watches and selling them to the American market. The demand for pocket watches had been particularly high on the continent in the wake of the Civil War. The likelihood of this timepiece being a rare historical gem however, was exceptionally high.

 

What made this piece particularly attractive? According to David Seyffer, in nearly all cases, the IWC Heritage Team can identify if and when a vintage timepiece was made by IWC Schaffhausen. However, tracing back a timepiece’s whereabouts over a 150-year period is a whole different story. “We simply do not know what happened to our early watches after they were sold,” said David. 

LOAN TO THE IWC MUSEUM

This time, however, was different: Manufactured in 1870, the pocket watch had been proved to have been in the gentleman’s family possessions ever since it entered the country in the late 19th century. Recognizing its significance and value, the three brothers made a commendable decision: Instead of keeping it in a bank security deposit box, they would ship the watch back to its original birthplace in Schaffhausen, and loan it to the IWC Museum for an indefinite amount of time. 

 

A decision that was not taken lightly. Truly cherishing and respecting family values, tradition and legacy, the Stewart family likes to hang onto 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 today holding this beautiful timepiece,” said TJ, the gentleman behind the email. 

 

The “579 Pocket Watch” has been in the Stewart family’s possession since the 1870s
— The “579 Pocket Watch” has been in the Stewart family’s possession since the 1870s
That trait of sharing your success with others has been instilled in my family for generations

THE STORY OF CAPTAIN JONES

It was TJ’s great-great-grandfather, Joseph T. Jones (1843-1916) aka. “Captain Jones”, who had acquired the pocket watch in the early 1870s. Severely wounded during the civil war fighting for the north, he gained so much respect from his men that they gave him the rank of “Captain” – even though he would never fight again. From then on, he tried to find his luck in the oil industry. After several initial failures which brought him the nickname “dry-hole Jones”, he became a very successful business man in the oil industry, and had future success building a major shipping port in Mississippi.

 

“Although he was very shrewd in business, he was a very kind person,” TJ explained. “In our family, there is the understanding that with hard work and perseverance, potentially comes blessing, and with that blessing comes responsibility. That trait of sharing your success with others has been instilled in my family for generations.” 

 

HANDOVER OF A BELOVED FAMILY HEIRLOOM

 

Staying true to that thought, TJ Stewart handed over the beloved family heirloom to the IWC Flagship staff of the Madison Avenue, New York store, in May 2022. Long overdue for a service, it was still keeping time. “You can either put it in a safety deposit box, or you can share it with the world. And we decided to share it with the world,” he said during the emotional handover. In the meantime, the 579 Jones Pocket Watch – a reference not to IWC’s founder F.A. Jones, but to the family’s great-great-grandfather, Captain Jones – has received an enthusiastic and warm welcome upon its arrival in Schaffhausen. 

 

As of October 2022, the “579” has found a new home in the IWC Museum in the original headquarters of IWC Schaffhausen, and in one sense it is returning home as the museum is just a few meters away from where the pocket watch was created. 

 

Stay tuned for Part II of this story to find out more about the 579 Jones Pocket Watch’s homecoming to Schaffhausen, and to learn more about David Seyffer’s historical take on this extraordinary timepiece. 

 


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