Piaget Polo S
4 Apr 2018
Man of the hour
Why did a young watchmaker from Boston sail across the globe to set up the International Watch Company in Schaffhausen?
The son of a New Hampshire shoemaker, Florentine Ariosto Jones dreamt bigger than any 27-year-old around him. While his peers sought out opportunities in the US where modern manufacturing technology boomed, he had in mind a far more ambitious goal. Then a watchmaker at the prominent E. Howard Watch & Clock Company in Boston, Jones had a vision to engineer the best pocket watch movements of his time.
Jones already had the first of the two-part equation needed to realise that vision, and that was the industrialised production which, during his time, was at its height in the US. What the young entrepreneur lacked was the savoir-faire of the Swiss – craftsmen who were highly-regarded for their unrivalled expertise in the assembly of watch movements.
Despite having little knowledge of the country’s culture and languages, Jones decided to take a big leap of faith by packing his bags and sailing across the Atlantic from America to Switzerland, all in hopes of finding that crucial missing link.
After his arrival in Switzerland, Jones was particularly drawn to a small unassuming town in the Northern tip of the country which, in a bid to attract start-up businesses and boost its economy, offered affordable facilities and even hydropower harnessed from a waterfall nearby. It was there, on the banks of the breathtaking Rhine River in Schaffhausen, where he set up his aptly named manufacture – the International Watch Company (IWC) – in 1868.
Jones’ industrial approach also came through in the pocket watch movements he produced. Instead of conventional finger bridges, the first calibres that emerged from IWC Schaffhausen’s manufacture two years later were adorned with three-quarter plates that were popular in the US market for being more stable, simpler and more cost-efficient to build. Impressively, within a short period of time, Jones was able to establish a strong manufacturing infrastructure capable of producing a whopping 10,000 movements annually for export.
Despite being forced to return to the US following a series of challenges, Jones’ legacy in modernising the creation of luxury timepiece movements lived on not only in Schaffhausen, but the incredible world of watches.