Our story starts in 1868
The Rhine flows unhurriedly past the
windows of IWCs workshops in Schaffhausen. Just a few kilometres further
downstream it plunges over the cliff face of the Rhine Falls that have
made the town world-famous. And it was here, more than 140 years ago,
that a corporate story began which is still being written today. The
American engineer and watchmaker,
Florentine Ariosto Jones, was a director of E. Howard & Cie in
Boston, then one of Americas leading watchmaking companies, at the
tender age of 27. At a time when many Americans were trying their luck
in the west, Jones went in the opposite direction. His journey took him
across the Atlantic to Switzerland, where wages were comparatively low.
His plan was to found the International Watch Company, combining
outstanding craftsmanship of the Swiss with modern engineering
technology from overseas to manufacture movements and watch parts for
the American market.
Here in Schaffhausen he found a newly
constructed hydroelectric power station for his machines. Ideal
conditions for his passion to build perfect mechanical movements for an
international market. He also found watchmakers whose profession already
had a long tradition. The State Archives in Schaffhausen include an
entry dated 29 January 1583 relating to the Guild of Pyrotechnicians,
Gunsmiths, Watchmakers and Hoistmakers to the City Council. This proves
that the watchmaker's trade must already have existed in Schaffhausen at
Originals of chronometry appeared soon after the
company was established, for example in 1885 the Pallweber system pocket
watch with its digital display, today a sought-after collector's item.
At the end of the 19th century, IWC was one of the first watch
manufacturers to recognize the potential of the new and increasingly
fashionable wristwatch, for which it developed entirely new movements.
It also continued to build original pocket watch movements into
wristwatches when the market in the thirties demanded large, extremely
accurate wristwatches. This is how the Portuguese line came into being -
a trendsetting wristwatch in a "king-sized" format until today.
IWC was involved when watches had to learn to fly with the aviation
pioneers and today it offers a comprehensive range of professional
pilot's watches, which are fitted with special protection against
magnetic fields. In the fifties the company not only led the competition
in the race to introduce the first automatic movements, but also
developed the so-called Pellaton winding mechanism, an unsurpassed
winding system that it still uses exclusively today in its large
automatic factory movements.
In the severe turbulence of the
Swiss watch industry at the end of the seventies under its inspired
manager, Günter Blümlein, this is the period in Schaffhausen when the
points were set - contrary to the electronic spirit of the time - to
take the company onto the track of mechanical watches, innovation and
technically exacting men's watches. And from this conception of
ourselves there grew the eye-catching advertising message: "IWC. Since
1868. And for as long as there are men." Because men's watches have also
been a subject of interest to women for a long time.
perfection, the training of its specialists, the renunciation of
mass-market products: all of these are in keeping with the
old-established principle of IWC. To make watches for small numbers of
people, but watches of the highest quality. That is also the reason why,
if carefully maintained, our watches last for decades. And why today
they are rare items, which fetch collector's prices throughout the
Leading impulses for the mechanical watch come from IWC.
With its more than 600 employees, the company manufactures these
sought-after pieces. Since the year 2000 IWC has belonged to the watch
division of Richemont International SA.