When Florentine Ariosto Jones started up his watch manufacture at Schaffhausen in 1868, it lasted four years before the first watches could leave the factory. They are known as calibre ‘Jones’ pocket watches. Although IWC keeps one of the best watch archives known, the early production has not been documented perfectly and IWC states that the reliability of the archives is only acceptable after 1885.
At that time F.A. Jones and his successor Frederick Ferdinand Seeland had already left Switzerland and the production of Jones watches had stopped. During the last quarter of the 19th century, a major change had taken place in the construction of pocket watches in the USA and Europe. Until 1870 most pocket watches were wound and set by a key. Then a gradual shift took place in winding and setting a watch. It was more convenient to wind the movement over a crown and to set the hands by using a lever or as well by the crown, making a key redundant. Jones, working in the middle of this transition period, produced all three types simultaneously: key wind, key set as well as stem wind, lever set and stem wind, stem set.
A total of approximately 25.500 Jones watches have been made. It is estimated that no more than 2 % of the watches still exist, that is around 500 watches (ref. 1). A minority of these is key wind, key set: about 80 watches. Most of them are defect or incomplete movements without a case. About 50 % of all Jones movements were originally exported to the USA, where they were cased in gold or coin silver, engine turned cases, made by different American case makers. The majority of these original cases have been removed over time to recuperate the precious metal.
MATERIAL AND METHODS
The data for this article have been retrieved predominantly from the book: F.A. Jones, His Life, Legacy and Watches by David Seyffer, Thomas König and Alan Myers. These authors have researched and described all aspects of the earliest products of the International Watch Company. Alan Myers is responsible for the detailed information on the construction and development of the Jones watches. These watches have also been mentioned in the literature. However the technical description is limited and far from complete (ref. 2,3,4). The watch pattern ‘C’ described in this article was found in Mexico and turned out to be nearly original. It was possible to restore it to its original condition.
The three quarter movements of calibre Jones watches usually carry several engravements, among them a gracefully applied letter: B, C, D, E, H, R or S. (fig. 1). Calibre Jones movements are usually called pattern B, C etc. after the letter engraved on the movement. However, there are calibre Jones movements on which the letter is lacking. It is assumed that Jones has been inspired using a letter by his previous employer E. Howard, Watch and Clock Company, Boston. Howard applied a letter to indicate the diameter of a pocket watch movement. However, Jones used it as a kind of construction and quality mark. In the series, the movements marked ‘E’ or ‘H’ were of the highest quality, while ‘C’ represented the lowest quality level. Quality was determined by the number of jewels, the material of balance and balance spring, the use of screwed in jewels, the use of wolf teeth in the wheel train, to mention the most important. While an ‘E’ movement had 20 jewels, an ‘H’ movement equipped with 16, the ‘C’ movement had only 11 jewels. Often a flat balance wheel without compensation screws was present. This lesser quality and the limited number of ‘C’ movements produced, make it nearly impossible to find an intact movement with its original case.
Neither Jones, nor Seeland sold complete calibre Jones watches with a case assembled in Schaffhausen. All movements were cased outside the factory. About 50 % in the USA and when Seeland had taken over the other half in European countries. After the first bankruptcy in 1876, Jones left for America but thanks to Swiss banks IWC could continue. The stock holders appointed F.F. Seeland, who realised that he had to reduce costs dramatically. The North American watch market had collapsed and therefore Seeland ceased the export to the USA. He gave up the idea of making high quality expensive watches. But only half of the Jones production had been sold, the other half was still in stock finished and unfinished. He also produced 6900 new Jones movements, among them the open face (lépine) watches but tried to omit the expensive parts and production methods of the already partially made movements.
The three quarter Jones pattern ‘C’ movements were all key wind, key set. For a long time it was assumed that all Jones movements had been produced in one continuous series between 1872-1878. Finding a Jones implies that the movement number should fit in the serial number range between 500 and 26.000. However, in the sales records appears a single ‘C’ movement with serial number 37264 and two small series with movement numbers ranging from 76.967-77007 and from 79.500-79950, respectively. These high numbers indicate that obviously they have been produced as a second run, executed by Seeland, using the machines installed by Jones. In the second run, only pattern ‘C’ movements were manufactured. The gap between 26.000 (end of first Jones series) and 76.967 (start of the second Jones ‘C’ series) comprises roughly 50.000, numbers which Seeland had reserved for his full plate watches, introduced by him. These watches are known among collectors as Seeland calibres. Then remains the single ‘C’ calibre with the aberrant serial number 37264. There is no clear explanation for this but it can be assumed that more than one movement was made in this range. The early sales records are far from complete. This may explain the presence of only one watch sold.
The pattern ‘C’ watch discussed in this article was found in an open face (lépine) case (fig. 2). The dial as well as the case have the typical appearance of a watch from the Seeland period when he had embarked on thousands of cheap full plate watches. The numerals are bold Roman figures and the logo International Watch Co is lacking. The case is made of silver and hall marked with 3 bears, indicating that it is a Swiss produced case (fig. 3). The movement has a three quarter plate, but has not been signed as an IWC watch and lacks the letter ‘C’. The movement number is 76954 which does not fit in the second series reported in the sales records. However, it is very close to 76.967, marking the start of the second series sold. Although not signed there is no doubt that this is a calibre Jones, pattern ‘C’, exposing all the known features and resembling the pattern ‘C’ movements from the first series (fig. 4).
As it represents the only described watch from the second run, it is unknown whether Seeland maintained the original Jones dial with the International Watch Co logo. It might be that Seeland had switched to the same type of dial as he had mounted on the full plate calibre Seeland watches. Dismantling the watch (J.B.) reveals unexpected features. The movement has a hunter oriented construction. The dial should have feet at 11 and 5 o’clock, respectively. However the dial feet are located at 1 and 7 o’clock and do not correspond with the holes in the top plate. They have been filed off and the dial has been glued to the top plate (fig. 5). It certainly has not left Schaffhausen in this way, but it has been modified later in time by others. The movement does not have 11 but 7 jewels. All known ‘C’ movements from the first series have 11 jewels. In his reference book Richard Meis reports ‘C’ movements with 5-7 jewels. This is the first known pattern ‘C’ to confirm that there are ‘C’ movements with 7 jewels. The lever is of type II, with small pallet stones horizontally inserted in the pallet arms as described by Myers (fig. 6). There is a monometallic balance wheel without compensation screws and a flat balance spring. The typical long regulator index has a flat arrow head. All these findings, except for the number of jewels, correspond with a pattern ‘C’ from the first run. An ultrasonic cleaning and complete overhaul was carried out. An original dial with correct position of dial feet and correct dial logo was mounted. The lacking Malteser cross in the main barrel was applied (fig. 7). The silver, Swiss made case was maintained as it might well be the original case (fig. 8).
While the number of Jones watches which have survived 150 years is remarkably low, the number of known intact Jones ‘C’ watches is estimated less than ten. And there is only one known from the second run. Being of the lower quality level, it can be assumed that the life span of these movements was limited. Once defective, owners may have considered repair not worthwhile. Now sought after by IWC collectors because of its rarity and historical significance, an IWC Jones ‘C’ watch was more than a century ago one of many thousands of pocket watches of modest quality. Moreover, in Europe numerous pocket watches have not survived two world wars or were discarded after removing the case for its scrap value. In the well documented history of the International Watch Company at Schaffhausen, The Jones calibres were the first examples of many products which made IWC gradually important as a Swiss watch manufacture. Even, if the Jones calibre pattern ‘C’ was not the best one produced, it belongs to the series designed and developed by F.A. Jones, the American pioneer of machine made watches in Switzerland.
The authors thank Alan Myers for his valuable advice.
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