A History of IWC Watches
The International Watch Company, established in Switzerland in 1868, is the creator of some of the world’s most iconic watches. The headquarters are still situated at the original site in Schaffhausen, where power was generated by the Rhine Falls. The company has always been proud of its engineering roots, being founded by the American Florentine Aristo Jones who was a watchmaker and an engineer in partnership with Johann Heinrich Moser. Watch making was already an established industry in Switzerland and the new company benefited from local knowledge and craftsmanship while also having access to new technology from the United States.
One of the differences in the way the new company worked was to base itself in a factory, while most Swiss watch makers worked from home. An electrical power line was introduced in 1885 for lighting and some short time later this was extended to power the machinery.
Global events have had their influence on the progress of the company and its markets. After the Second World War when the Iron Curtain isolated Eastern Europe, the IWC had to look to new markets in the rest of Europe, the United States, Asia and Australia. Another challenge has been the ready availability of cheap watches such as the quartz watch from Japan.
Over the years, the company has designed many innovative watches. In 1890 the first Grand Complication pocket watch was developed, with over 1300 parts. Ten years later the company became the official supplier to both the British Royal Navy and the Imperial German Navy. The advent of flying created a need for an antimagnetic watch and this was developed by IWC Watches in 1940. In the same year the Portuguese collection of large watches was launched. There are many other developments of which IWC can be proud. 1997 saw the launch of a series of sports watches; a year later the Aquatimer, the first watch to be water resistant at 2000 meters was developed. The excellence in technological developments from IWC is shown by their selection as the official timekeeper of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-2012.
Over the years, the IWC have been involved in social projects. For example, in the early part of the twentieth century a fund for widows and orphans was established and the housing for workers was extended. Much more recently, the company has been a major sponsor of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. This organization uses sporting prowess to promote social change and support 140 projects in 34 countries.
The IWC are able to repair any watch they have sold since they opened and have kept records of every watch sold since 1880. The company has opened a museum on the ground floor of its headquarters. Here visitors can see many of the watches they are famed for as well as an exhibition showing the company’s history.
Hilary Rudd has written articles for blogs and websites on the high-end watch industry for many years. She follows developments and fashions in the industry, including IWC Watches, with a keen interest.