At the tender age of 27, American engineer and watchmaker Florentine Ariosto Jones had been deputy director and manager with the E. Howard Watch and Clock Co. in Boston, then a leading American watchmaker. At a time when most young men were trying their luck in the west, Jones went in the opposite direction. True to his adventurous pioneering spirit, he planned to combine the outstanding craftsmanship of the Swiss with modern engineering technology from overseas. Unfortunately, his business plan met with unconcealed scepticism from the skilled workers in the Geneva region and the remote valleys of western Switzerland.
THE EARLY YEARS
The heritage of IWC is deeply rooted in American pioneering spirit and entrepreneurship. Florentine Ariosto Jones, a watchmaker from Boston, founds the International Watch Company in 1868. He draws on the help of eminently qualified Swiss watchmakers, modern technology, and hydropower sourced from the nearby River Rhine to manufacture pocket watch movements of the highest possible quality. The Rauschenbachs, an industrialist family from Schaffhausen, take over the company following Jones’ return to the United States. During its early years, IWC produces pocket watches with a digital “Pallweber” display, as well as wristwatches for women and men.
Florentine Ariosto Jones (1841-1916), a watchmaker from Boston, Massachusetts, founds the International Watch Company in Schaffhausen. His aim: to produce high- quality pocket watches for the American market.
Construction of new premises and the current headquarters of IWC on the banks of the River Rhine. IWC has 196 employees.
Schaffhausen engine manufacturer Johannes Rauschenbach-Vogel (1815-1881) acquires IWC.
Following the death of his father, Johannes Rauschenbach-Schenk (1856-1905) takes over the helm at IWC.
Innovation: the first watches with a digital hours and minutes display (Pallweber system) leave the workshops in Schaffhausen.
Manufacture of the Magique, a pocket watch in a cabriolet case with a 24-hour display that can be used either as a hunter or an open-face pocket watch.
One of the first known wristwatches leaves Schaffhausen destined for the market. The company's small 64-calibre ladies' pocket watch movement is housed in a dainty case fitted with lugs for the wristband. The 63-calibre ladies' pocket watch movement is used for other wristwatches.
Emma Marie Rauschenbach (1882-1955), daughter of Johannes Rauschenbach, marries psychologist and psychiatrist Dr. Carl Gustav (C. G.) Jung (1875-1961). Her younger sister Bertha Margaretha marries Schaffhausen industrialist Ernst Jakob Homberger (1869-1955) the same year.
THE ERNST JAKOB HOMBERGER ERA
Following the death of Johannes Rauschenbach-Schenk, Schaffhausen industrialist Ernst Jakob Homberger takes over the company. This era sees the birth of two watch families which are still true icons to this day. The first “Spezialuhr für Flieger” establishes the tradition of producing Pilot’s Watches in Schaffhausen, which, thanks to their unmistakable design, are still popular across the world today. As Portuguese importers order a series of large wristwatches with high-precision pocket watch calibres, the first Portugieser model leaves IWC’s workshops.
Following the death of Johannes Rauschenbach, Ernst Jakob Homberger takes over the management of IWC on behalf of Rauschenbach's heirs.
Two newly developed calibres, the 75 (without seconds) and the 76 calibre (with small seconds), are the first movements designed by IWC specifically for wristwatches.
Ernst Jakob Homberger acquires the holding of his brother-in-law C.G. Jung and becomes the sole owner of IWC.
IWC creates elegant, rectangular watches that contain the newly designed, tonneau-shaped 87 calibre.
IWC's first “Special Pilot's Watch“ is launched. It features a rotating bezel with an arrowhead index that can be used to register take-off times. It is also fitted with an antimagnetic escapement.
The birth of the Portuguese watch: two importers from Portugal order a series of large wristwatches with high-precision pocket watch calibres.
In response to demand, IWC develops the Big Pilot's Watch 52 T. S. C. with a central seconds hand.
ALBERT PELLATON JOINS IWC
The post-war years are characterized by the increased use of technology in people’s everyday lives. More and more appliances create magnetic fields which can negatively impact the accuracy of mechanical watches. It is during this time that Albert Pellaton becomes Technical Director at IWC Schaffhausen. Among his inventions are the extremely accurate 89 calibre, or the soft-iron inner case, which protects watch movements against magnetic fields. He also develops a particularly efficient bidirectional pawl-winding system, which shoots to fame as the Pellaton winding system.
The appearance of IWC's first W. W. W.: a new wristwatch for military use by the British Army. The letters W. W. W. engraved on the back of the case stand for “Watch, Wrist, Waterproof”, and the royal arrowhead insignia is used as a mark of ownership. Albert Pellaton, born in 1898, takes up his post as Technical Director at IWC.
Pellaton's first design, the 89-calibre movement, has a central seconds hand and is extremely accurate.
Appearance of the Pilot's Watch Mark 11 from IWC with the 89 calibre. Its soft-iron inner case provides unusually high protection against magnetic fields.
The 85 calibre, designed by Albert Pellaton, features IWC's first automatic winding mechanism. The innovative pawl-winding system replaces the traditional reciprocal gearing and, at this time, is a patented proprietary development by IWC.
HANS ERNST HOMBERGER TAKES OVER
In the same year that Hans Ernst Homberger takes over at IWC, the first Ingenieur is launched. Its simple round design has since returned and become a distinctive feature of this sporty and elegant watch family. A few years later, IWC launches the first Aquatimer, and with it writes the first chapter in a success story of diver’s watches from Schaffhausen that continues to this day. The company also plays a key role in developing the first ever Swiss-made quartz movement “Beta 21”, which premieres in the first Da Vinci with a distinctive hexagonal gold case.
Hans Ernst Homberger becomes the company's last private owner. The launch of the Ingenieur with automatic winding.
Design of the 44 calibre, the first automatic women's movement from IWC.
With the Aquatimer, IWC marks the beginning of a successful series of diver's watches. Water-resistant to an unprecedented 20 bar, it is the watch of choice for professional use underwater. The Yacht Club Automatic is unveiled at the Basel Watch Show.
IWC is involved in the development of the Beta 21 quartz movement, a wristwatch calibre with quartz control (frequency 8192 hertz). It marks a watch-making revolution. The Da Vinci is the first IWC wristwatch to feature the Beta 21 quartz movement.
In 1976, the appearance of the Ingenieur changes significantly. The designer Gerald Genta (1931-2011) gives it a completely new look and designs. Today, the Ingenieur SL, Ref. 1832 is still one of the greatest design innovations by IWC. With its external appearance, it no longer appeals to just technicians but also trend-conscious watch connoisseurs with discerning requirements. Its movement is protected against magnetic fields up to 80,000 A/m, knocks and impacts of all kind through the additional inner case mounted on rubber buffers.
The unveiling of the 9721 calibre, the first pocket watch from IWC with a calendar and moon phase display. IWC embarks on the construction of its complications. These include a series of complicated pocket watches, some of which are also skeletonized.
THE VDO ADOLF SCHINDLING ERA
At the peak of the quartz crisis, IWC deliberately focuses on creating masterpieces of watchmaking art. With the world’s first watch case made from titanium, IWC lays the foundation for its unparalleled expertise in the area of materials. In the mid-1980s, the perpetual calendar from Kurt Klaus makes its debut in the Da Vinci family. Following seven years of development, IWC launches its first Grande Complication, and reaches the pinnacle of haute horlogerie. To mark its 125th anniversary, IWC unveils what is then the world’s most complicated mechanical wristwatch: Il Destriero Scafusia.
Cooperation with designer F.A. Porsche results in the first wristwatch with a built-in compass. The same year, German instrument manufacturer VDO Adolf Schindling AG takes over IWC.
IWC produces the world's first chronograph in a titanium case, designed by F. A. Porsche. IWC procures its expertise in the machining of titanium through an exchange of ideas with Aérospatiale and other leading technology specialists.
IWC launches the ultra-rugged Ocean 2000 diver's watch, made of titanium and pressure-resistant to 200 bar.
IWC begins to use zirconium oxide, a scratch-resistant and virtually unbreakable ceramic, as a new case material.
A quantum leap in precision watchmaking: the wristwatch-size Grande Complication appears with a wealth of functions: a chronograph with a perpetual calendar, minute repeater and moon phase display. It is a masterpiece that was seven years in the making.
The Pilot's Watch Mark XII maintains the tradition of the legendary Mark 11.
To commemorate the tenth birthday of the automatic Da Vinci Chronograph, the Da Vinci appears as a split-seconds chronograph with a tenth hand. Another new model is the Portuguese Chrono-Rattrapante, a large-calibre chronograph with split-seconds hand. There is also no mistaking the third new product: the Portuguese Minute Repeater.
THE RICHEMONT ERA
After IWC becomes a part of Richemont, the company continuously expands its six watch families with precision engineering and exclusive design. In the Portugieser line, a double moon display is added to the perpetual calendar, while this mechanism features a digital display for the date and month for the first time in the Da Vinci family. IWC introduces the external/internal rotating bezel for the Aquatimer and launches its first watch with a bronze case. The Annual Calendar complication shows the month, date and day in the format used in the U.S. – a tribute to the company’s American founder.
With the extra-large 5000 calibre, which runs for seven days non-stop and features a power reserve display and a Pellaton automatic winding system, IWC's designers develop the company's own movement for large wristwatches. IWC is taken over by Richemont.
Günter Blümlein (1943-2001), amongst other things Chairman of the Board of Directors at IWC, was an outstanding personality who had a decisive influence on the company's development.
At the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) in Geneva, IWC presents the Big Pilot's Watch with its 7-day movement, automatic winding, power reserve display and date display, and revives the company's tradition of the Big Pilot's Watch.
The Portuguese Perpetual Calendar with its newly designed perpetual calendar and exclusive hemisphere moon phase display is yet another demonstration of IWC's innovative tradition. A second highlight is the new Spitfire range of pilot's watches.
IWC launches several new models in the Portuguese watch collection. For the first time ever, the Portuguese Tourbillon Mystère Rétrograde combines the flying tourbillon with a retrograde date display. While the Grande Complication makes its debut in a Portuguese case, the Portuguese Yacht Club Chronograph brings an unmistakably sporty touch to the watch family. And the Da Vinci Chronograph Ceramic, with a case made of extremely durable high-tech ceramic and titanium, features a fascinating three-dimensional chapter ring that appears to hover above the dial.
In its new guise, the classically elegant Portofino watch family combines Swiss precision with Italian joie de vivre. The flagship is the Portofino Hand-Wound Eight Days with its new IWC-manufactured 59210-calibre movement. With its combination of titanium case, rubber strap and split-seconds hand, the Ingenieur Double Chronograph Titanium is a worthy addition to the Ingenieur watch family. In August, at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) on Cerro Paranal, Chile, IWC presents the most complex and exclusive mechanical wristwatch ever built in Schaffhausen: the Portugieser Sidérale Scafusia. It features a patented constant-force tourbillon together with numerous complications and individually calculated astronomical displays. Every watch is unmistakably unique and made specifically to order.
Roll-out of the new Aquatimer generation, with an innovative external/internal rotating bezel. It combines the advantages of an internal rotating bezel with the ease of use of an external rotating bezel. With the new digital perpetual calendar, the mechanical depth gauge and pressure-resistance to 200 bar, the watch family confirms its arrival at the highest level in haute horlogerie. It is also the first time IWC has used bronze, a material with a charisma of its own, for a watch case.
First time IWC has used the material “Ceratanium®” after more than 5 years of research & development.
150 year anniversary of IWC Schaffhausen. We launched the jubilee collection with the “IWC Tribute to Pallweber Edition” as one of the highlights as a reference to the design of the historical Pallweber watches and a tribute to F.A. Jones
The introduction of a sand-colored ceramics case. IWC as one of the pioneers in the use of ceramics in watchmaking.
Introduced the iconic Portugieser Chronograph for the first time equipped with the IWC manufactured caliber 69 and open case back.
Introduced the iconic Big Pilot’s Watch in 43mm with the IWC manufactured caliber 82 and open case back.