Some of the most-well-known rivers on earth are concurrently associated with the births of some of the greatest civilizations in known history. These immense, snaking bodies of water are born from the melting caps of distant mountains — flowing through vast horizons before they are welcomed into the open arms of Poseidon.
Mesopotamia, the oldest of recorded civilizations, was blessed by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Egypt has the Nile, China has the Yellow River, and the Indus River gave rise to the settlement that is the Indian subcontinent.
This is no mere coincidence but a matter of science and geography. These rivers were a source of life, of sustenance for the civilizations that took refuge next to their sides. However, a large part of the reason why these same civilizations grew from simple settlements into large thriving populations is because their rivers ultimately inspired the rise of industry.
Flowing water holds energy, which when harnessed allows man to explore his power to build and ultimately, create. But of all the famed rivers of history, there is one that is of particular importance to horology, specifically for its association with a very special manufacture that was born on its banks.
The river in question is the Rhine River, which starts in the Swiss canton of Graubünden in the southeastern Swiss Alps. It then forms part of the Swiss-Austrian, Swiss-Liechtenstein border, Swiss-German and the Franco-German border, before flowing through Rhineland and emptying out into the North Sea. Today, the largest metropolis along its 1,230km length is the city of Cologne. However, our city of interest, the city of Schaffhausen in northern Switzerland, lies quite early on in the river’s path.
You see, watchmaking had been a part of this city’s history as early as the 1400s and with the river flowing by its side, it was also quite a center for trade and business. But it wasn’t until in 1866, when a local industrialist by the name of Johann Heinrich Moser put the locality’s industrial progress on a fast track — by building a hydroelectric plant that tapped into the Rhine River — that things really took off.
Two years later, the availability of watchmaking talent and industrial fervor caught the attention of one Florentine Ariosto Jones. An engineer and watchmaker himself, the 27-year-old Bostonian had come to Switzerland in hopes of capitalizing on the country’s horological talent to build his own company. He was on a lookout at that point in time — assessing the many watchmaking localities in the country to see which one would best suit his ambition.