IWC Schaffhausen Watches

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The history of IWC "Everything began when Florentine Aristo Jones"


1868 Florentine Ariosto Jones, an American watchmaker, travels to Switzerland to found a new company. His idea: to combine American inventiveness with the expertise of Swiss horology. His new brand is called International Watch Company, shortened to IWC. The northeastern Swiss town of Schaffhausen is chosen as the location for the IWC manufactory. IWC’s manufactory is founded in Schaffhausen for practical reasons: the French-speaking areas of Switzerland are resistant to Jones’ idea of an international horology company, fearing their cottage-industry style expertise will be threatened by American industrial processes. IWC thus becomes the only Swiss luxury watch manufacturer to create its timepieces in German-speaking Switzerland.

1869 IWC rents its own factory premises in Schaffhausen, and quickly has to rent extra space to accommodate its growing staff.

1875 IWC moves into its own factory, bought from a hydroelectric company and situated on the banks of the Rhine. The manufactory has space for 300 workers. 1880 IWC comes into the ownership of Johannes Rauschenbach-Vogel. His family will run IWC for four generations, and will eventually include, on the board of directors, by marriage, Dr Carl Jung.

1885 IWC begins a tradition of record keeping that will continue to the present day. Every luxury watch that leaves the manufactory is meticulously recorded in IWC’s sales record, including details referring to the movement, case and materials. IWC will come to retain spare parts from every decade of its existence, and will claim to be able to maintain and repair every luxury watch it has ever made: all the way back to 1868.

1888 Electricity comes to the IWC manufactory. Its manufacturing processes are fully electrified by the turn of the century. During the next 70 years, IWC will continue to create movements and timepieces here that are renowned for their reliability and sophistication.

1930s IWC is approached by two Portuguese businessmen, who want the brand to create wristwatches as precise as a marine chronometer. The legendary Portugieser is born. With its large dial and clean face, the Portugieser is not a success – but it will become one of the most famous luxury watches in the world, nearly 50 years later. In 1936, IWC creates the first of its Pilot’s watches. The Pilot family will become emblematic of IWC, with the Big Pilot taking pride of place in the collection.

1944 A bomb hits the IWC manufactory in Schaffhausen. Shortly after, the Iron Curtain comes down and dramatically alters the business landscape for IWC. During this time, IWC creates its Calibre 89, a movement that is found in every IWC watch created between the mid 1940s and 1990. The 89 movement becomes legendary for its accuracy and long life. 1948 The Big Pilot Mark II is created for the Royal Air Force. The Mark II will remain a standard RAF issue watch for more than 30 years.

1967 IWC unveils the Yacht Club Automatic at the Basel fair. The Yacht Club will go on to become one of IWC’s best selling luxury watches. In 1967, IWC also releases the Aquatimer, a pressure resistant dive watch that will become one of the standard tool watches for undersea work.

1969 IWC is part of the luxury watch industry’s response to the quartz revolution. The revolution all but kills traditional horology. However, unlike some traditional watchmakers, IWC ventures into the world of electronic watchmaking, co-founding the Centre Electronique Horloge (CEH) in the Swiss town of Neuchatel. The emblem of IWC’s involvement in the revolution is the first Da Vinci watch, which incorporates the Beta 21 quartz movement. 1974 Rising gold prices and cheap quartz watches destabilise IWC’s electronic efforts. The brand is forced to rethink its approach, and begins creating new luxury watch technologies instead. During the mid 1970s, IWC joins forces with designer Ferdinand Porsche.

1976 IWC presents the Ingenieur, a luxury sports watch designed by Gerald Genta. 1978 IWC develops the world’s first titanium luxury watch bracelet. 1982 The Ocean 2000 premiers – the world’s first titanium dive watch. 1985 IWC unveils the new Da Vinci – a mechanical version with chronograph function, a four-digit year display and a programmed mechanical calendar.

1990 IWC premieres its Grande Complication wristwatch, which includes minute repeater, moon phase and perpetual calendar.

1991 IWC becomes part of the Compagnie Financiere Richemont SA (LMH Group). 1993 IWC’s 125th birthday is celebrated with the return of a misunderstood classic: the Portugieser. This time, the public is ready for the shape and size of the watch, and the Portugieser becomes a legend of modern haute horlogerie. In the same year, IWC releases an astonishing watch – at this point the most complicated mechanical wristwatch ever made. ‘The Warhorse of Schaffhausen’ is made in a limited edition of 125 pieces, and includes split-seconds, a tourbillon and a minute repeater.

2000 IWC’s 5000 calibre is created for its oversized models. Richemont takes over the brand. 2002 The Big Pilot is revived, featuring a 7 day movement, a power reserve and automatic winding.

2013 IWC partners with the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg are invited to design their own IWC luxury watches. 2014 Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton’s watches are presented to the world. Both are based on the Ingenieur Chronograph. A new Aquatimer line is released.

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