American Innovation Meets Swiss Craftsmanship

Oct 27, 2018 | Watches | 0 comments

The International Watch Company (IWC) is one of the most iconic manufacturers of Swiss luxury watches. For 150 years, this company has gained an international reputation for innovative solutions, flawless functionality, technical ingenuity, and extraordinary designs. These watches serve as prime examples of a special horological heritage.

Popular models from the Swiss company include the Portofino, the Da Vinci, the Portuguese, and Pilot’s Watches. The brand has a fascinating history that combines American innovation with Swiss craftsmanship, and has resulted in new heights for the watch manufacturer, such as being the official timekeeper of the world’s greatest yacht race – the Volvo Ocean Race. Let’s take a look at the rich heritage of Swiss watchmaker IWC.

The History Of IWC

The history of IWC starts in 1868, when an American engineer and watchmaker named Florentine Ariosto Jones decided to move to Switzerland and start his own watchmaking company to create first-class timepieces. Among the breathtaking Swiss backdrop, the northeastern town of Schaffhausen was chosen as the location for IWC because Jones found ideal conditions in this town, such as modern factory premises, a hydropower plant to run his machines, and a centuries-old horological tradition. As a result, IWC is notable for being the only major Swiss watchmaker located in eastern Switzerland, whereas the majority of well-known Swiss watch manufacturers are based in the western part of the country.

Jones’s intention was to make movements and watch parts for the American market. From the beginning, IWC lived up to the Latin phrase “Probus Scafusia”, which translates to “good, solid craftsmanship from Schaffhausen”. In 1880, Jones sold IWC to Johannes Rauschenbach-Vogel and returned to America. In doing so, IWC was owned and operated by the Rauschenbach family for four generations.

Photo: IWC Schaffhausen Facebook page

In 1885, IWC demonstrated its innovative spirit by releasing their first pocket watch with their revolutionary digital display for hours and minutes. This was an unusual concept at the time. In 1899, the company presented its first wristwatch. IWC has also manufactured timepieces that are widely popular with the military, aviation, and sports. In 1936, IWC launched its first aviator watch called the Special Pilot’s Watch, with an anti-magnetic mechanism.

In 1948, the legendary aviator Mark 11 watch was created for the Royal Air Force, and was in service for more than three decades. Over the years, IWC introduced Pilot’s Watches with a wide range of features, such as chronographs and date displays. In 1955, IWC’s management passed onto the hands of Hans Homberger, the last proprietor and heir of the Rauschenbach family. During that year, the company debuted one of its most recognizable models, the Ingenieur, which was notable for being an automatic or self-winding watch.

The 1960s and 70s were a productive period for IWC. In 1967, IWC introduced one of its most popular wristwatches, the Aquatimer. This watch had a watertight case down to a depth of 200 meters, and an internal rotating bezel to indicate the time of immersion. Two years later, the company produced its first quartz watch known as the Da Vinci.

In 1976, this watchmaking company presented the famous Ingenieur, a luxury sports watch designed by Charles Gérald Genta. In 1978, IWC developed the world’s first titanium watch case and bracelet. This was thought at the time to be impossible because of the difficulty of working with titanium, which required an oxygen-free environment. In the late 1970s, IWC added another iconic watch to its collection – the Portofino.

Ocean 2000 by IWC

In 1982, IWC introduced the Ocean 2000, world’s first titanium dive watch. In 1990, the manufacturer premiered its Grande Complication wristwatch, which included a chronograph, a perpetual calendar, a moon phase indicator, and a minute repeater. Since the late 20th century, IWC has continually refined its wristwatches and re-launched many of its most popular models, as well as introduced new models.

Today, IWC continues to thrive as part of the Swiss-based Richemont Group. Over the years, the company has changed ownership numerous times, and has had its share of success and failure. However, the company continues to create elegant timepieces. IWC has a watch to suit every taste, from sports watches to dress and heritage models. Many of today’s celebrities such as Bradley Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, former boxer Vitali Klitschko, and world-famous French footballer Zinedine Zidane are known to sport IWC watches, showing off the robustness, high quality craftsmanship, and the unique design of these timepieces.