Everything began when Florentine Ariosto Jones, an American engineer and watchmaker, decided to travel to Switzerland and found the “International Watch Company” in 1868. With a highly-qualified Swiss crew and the most modern machines from overseas, he expected to make high-quality mechanisms and watch parts for the American market.
Later, he met Johann Heinrich Moser, a watchmaker and a manufacturer from Schaffhausen that made pocket watches for, among others, the empire of tsars. Moser, a pioneer in the industry, had just installed in Schaffhausen a hydraulic station run by the Rhin waters. This station provided cheap energy but to very few people. It was just what Jones needed and he settled the company IWC there. Jones, besides being an excellent businessman, was an excellent watch designer. His first mechanic pocket watches with “Jones caliber” presented exceptional characteristics.
Some years later after its foundation, the ownership of the “American” watch factory was taken by Swiss hands. At the same time the philosophy of the product “Probus Scafusia” (the confirmed excellence of Schaffhausen) would arise maintained unalterable till our day. Johannes Rauschenbach-Vogel bought the company in 1880. Four generations of the Rauschenbach family owned IWC, with varying names. Only a year after the sale, Johannes Rauschenbach died. His son, Johannes Rauschenbach-Schenk, was 25 years old when he took over the IWC company and ran it successfully until his own death on March 2 of 1905. The manufacture showed IWC’s spirit of innovation already in 1885 with the first pocket watches with digital indication according to Mr. Pallweber patent. Soon, IWC developed pocket watch mechanisms that even today and once revised would reach the precision of a chronometer. Nowadays these IWC watches are extremely rare and sought after collector’s items.
After the death of J. Rauschenbach-Schenk in 1905, his wife, two daughters and their husbands, Ernst Jakob Homberger (director of G. Fischer AG in Schaffhausen) and Dr. Carl Jung (psychologist and psychiatrist), became the new owners of IWC. Following the death of his father-in-law, Ernst Jakob Homberger had a considerable influence on the Schaffhausen watchmaking company’s affairs and guided IWC through one of the most turbulent epochs in Europe’s history.
During the 1930’s, IWC presented the first watch especially designed for aviators with antimagnetic mechanism. In 1940 the Big Pilot’s watch marked another important milestone for IWC. Towards 1948, the Mark 11 appeared armored against magnetic fields. This protection would be later used by the Ingenieur and nowadays by many IWC watches. Hans Ernst Homberger was the third and last of the Rauschenbach heirs to run IWC as a sole proprietor. He had joined his father’s company in 1934 and took control of IWC after his death in April 1955. In 1957 he added a new wing to the factory and in the same year set up a modern pension fund for the staff. He bought new machines to meet new demands and continuously brought his production technology up to what were considered the very latest standards.
Nearly the end of the forties, during the hard competition among Swiss manufacturers to create the first automatic mechanism that allowed to wind up the watch both sides, IWC was right ahead. IWC’s patented automatic spring has not been improved to our days. The IWC 1955 Ingenieur equipped with it was the most advanced of its time. Edmund Hillary climbed the highest mountains with it. Today it has become a classic object of desire for collectors. The Yatch Club or the Ingenieur SL from the sixties and seventies were even more robust. The growing popularity of water sports made IWC launch the Aquatimer in 1967. It was water-resistant to 200 meters and had and internal revolving ring to indicate the time of immersion.
1969 saw IWC present its first quartz wristwatch. The Da Vinci quartz watch was fitted with a Beta 21 caliber movement. Due to an industry crisis, IWC avoided heavy investment in this technology and went back to produce what it was best at – mechanical movements of great technical refinement. In 1978, IWC introduced the world’s first titanium watchcase and bracelet, which at the time was thought impossible because of the difficulty of working with titanium which required an oxygen-free environment. Today, IWC manufacturers the world’s most sophisticated bracelet system using a solid pin held in each bracelet link by a push-button lock on the underside of each bracelet link – allowing the pin to be totally locked in regardless of any damage.
Today, IWC is most famous for its Pilot line of watches whose design was inspired by World War 2 and the Portuguese line of watches. They have approximately 390 employees and since 2000 IWC have belonged to the watch division of Richemont SA.