The IWC Wristwatch

The IWC Wristwatch Company (International Watch Company) was founded by an American, Florentine Ariosto Jones, in 1869. He had worked for the Howard Watch & Clock Company in Boston for several years. In the late 1800s watches were still being made by hand and because of the lack of skilled watchmakers, costs were relatively high although the perspective of watch buyers changed from the watch regarded as a symbol of high status to that of an everyday item. This change in thinking called for a change in the method of production.

Jones took over a failed firm run by Aaron Lufkin Dennison, that had originally planned to import a watch from Switzerland to America in order to benefit from lower wages and Swiss watch making know-how. He then set up a business in Schaffhausen on the banks of the Rhine. Here Jones met Johann Heinrich Moser who advised him to build a dam that would enable him to harness the power of the local river and hence use hydropower to power the machines. However, just like Aaron had failed, Jones couldn't overcome a high tariff on imported goods, and therefore had trouble selling the watches in America. By 1875 the company filed for bankruptcy and Jones was forced to relinquish control of the company.

Grand Complication

A Swiss consortium acquired IWC’s shares. With another American, Frederick Seeland, the company's performance improved somewhat but not sufficient enough to continue. As a result, the company was sold to one of IWC's stockholders, Johannes Raschenbach-Vogel at auction for 280,000 Francs. Soon afterwards the company achieved improvements in scale and production efficiencies and sales increased. Development of the Calibre 52 movement, which was quite revolutionary in its concept at the time, further enhanced the company’s standing in the horological industry.

World War I interrupted the company’s good fortune under the proprietorship of Ernst Homberger-Rauschenbach. But by World War II, the company picked up its growth again as there was high demand from the military for modern timepieces. Around this time IWC created the first oversize anti-magnetic pilot's watch, followed by the famous Mark X, featuring Calibre 83. In 1944, IWC almost met its end when allies targeted Schaffhausen by mistake, but luckily the factory narrowly escaped damage.

After the war, IWC continued its international growth. The exports to America increased and the company became famous for its specialty watches, such as Mark XI as well as the Ingenieur; the first automatic watch with a soft-iron inner case that protected the movements against magnetic fields. In 1969, IWC made its first quartz IWC wristwatch, using the Beta 21 movement and in 1978, the company was sold to VDO Adolf Schindling AG.

Grand Complication

Subsequent developments from IWC include the Porche series of sports watches, the 'Davinci', a perpetual calendar chronograph IWC wristwatch that will not need any date adjustments for 500 years. In 1993, when the company unveiled the famous II Destriero, it caused quite a stir as it was the most complicated wristwatch ever made at the time. 1999 was the most successful year for IWC throughout its history, recording 39,000 watches sold and 115 million Swiss Francs in revenue. In 2000, the company started a new advertising campaign to introduce the 5000 calibre, a new automatic mechanical movement with a power lasting seven days. This movement, another IWC wristwatch exclusive is a further development of the patented pellaton system. Stylish and precise, IWC has always been on the leading edge of technology.

IWC Pocket Watches for Auction

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