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IWC Schaffhausen

Masterpieces of the art of watchmaking
The Pilot Watch Magazine
IWC Schaffhausen
11 January 2024

Passion for innovative solutions and technical ingenuity

IWC Schaffhausen’s history, rich in tradition, dates back to the middle of the century before last. At the age of just 27, U.S. engineer and watchmaker Florentine Ariosto Jones became deputy manager and general manager of the E. Howard Watch and Clock Co. in Boston – at the time one of America’s leading watch manufacturers.

At a time when most young men were trying their luck in the West, Jones set out in the opposite direction. As a pioneer and adventurer, he wanted to combine traditional Swiss craftsmanship with modern manufacturing techniques from his native USA. And so, in 1868, the young American founded the International Watch Company in the small Swiss town of Schaffhausen, marking the birth of IWC.

With the help of highly skilled Swiss watchmakers, modern technology and the water power of the nearby Rhine, Florentine Ariosto Jones produces watch movements of outstanding quality. In the early years, IWC produces one of the world’s first pocket watches with a mechanical digital display, an invention by Austrian engineer Josef Pallweber. Later, a wide variety of wristwatches for men and women followed.

IWC’s philosophy is based on a passion for the art of watchmaking, tireless commitment and perfect craftsmanship.

IWC Schaffhausen

The birth of IWC Pilot’s Watches

When Jones returned to the United States in 1880, the Rauschenbach family of industrialists from Schaffhausen first took the reins at IWC, followed a quarter of a century later by the entrepreneur Ernst Jakob Homberger, also from Schaffhausen. In this epoch of the company’s history, two watch families see the light of day that remain legendary to this day. Firstly, the first special watch for aviators established the tradition of manufacturing IWC Pilot’s Watches – still popular and coveted around the world today thanks to their unmistakable design. Secondly, the first models in the so-called Portugieser family – large wristwatches with high-precision pocket watch calibers.

Important inventions from Schaffhausen

The post-war years were characterized in particular by growing prosperity and technical progress in people’s everyday lives. However, more and more technical devices also generate magnetic fields and thus impair the accuracy of mechanical watches. It is precisely at this time that Swiss watchmaker and inventor Albert Pellaton takes over the technical management of IWC Schaffhausen. His outstanding inventions include the extremely accurate Caliber 89 and the soft-iron inner case, which shields movements from magnetic fields. He also developed a highly efficient bidirectional pawl winding system, which became famous under the name Pellaton winding system. Here, every movement, no matter how small, is optimally used to tension the spring.

New models conquer the market

In 1955, Swiss Olympic athlete and entrepreneur Hans Ernst Homberger took over the reins of the Schaffhausen watchmaking company. Under his leadership, the first Ingenieur is launched – to this day, its simple, rounded design remains the hallmark of this sporty, elegant watch family. A few years later, IWC launches the Aquatimer as a novelty, thus writing the first chapter in its success story of diving watches, which continues to this day. The company also plays a key role in the development of the first Swiss-made Beta 21 quartz movement, which makes its debut in the first Da Vinci with its characteristic hexagonal gold case.

IWC masters the quartz crisis

At the height of the so-called quartz crisis – i.e. the displacement of mechanical watches by electronic quartz watches in the 1970s and 80s, which threatened the existence of many traditional watchmakers – IWC deliberately focused on creating masterpieces of classical watchmaking. With the world’s first watch case made of titanium, the Schaffhausen watchmaker lays the foundation for its unparalleled expertise in materials. In the mid-1980s, the perpetual calendar designed by Swiss watchmaker and inventor Kurt Klaus makes its debut in the Da Vinci family. After seven years of development, IWC launches its first Grande Complication, reaching the zenith of haute horlogerie. To mark its 125th anniversary in 1993, IWC unveils the world’s most elaborate and complicated wristwatch to date – the Il Destriero Scafusia.

IWC in the new millennium

At the turn of the millennium, the Swiss luxury goods group Richemont acquires the watchmaker from Schaffhausen and, step by step, expands the existing product lines to include masterpieces of the highest technical precision and exclusive design. With a clear focus on technology and development, IWC continues to manufacture precise timepieces of lasting value in its manufactory on the banks of the Rhine. With a passion for innovative solutions and technical ingenuity, IWC Schaffhausen has made an international name for itself. As one of the world’s leading brands in the luxury watch segment, IWC creates masterpieces of haute horlogerie that combine engineering and precision with exclusive design.

More from IWC Schaffhausen

More information at iwc.com

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