Probus Scafusia – pride of workmanship, is the underlying motto of the International Watch Company. Established almost 150 years ago, IWC is one of the world’s leading premium brand’s in the luxury watch segment. It has distinguished itself for its passion for exquisite craftsmanship, and understated elegance.
The fascinating history of the brand reaches back to year 1868, when Florentine Ariosto Jones – a young American engineer and watchmaker, crossed the Atlantic to establish a company which would combine Swiss craftsmanship with a pioneering spirit, in order to make top quality watches for the American market.
Set in Schaffhausen, in the remote valleys of eastern Switzerland, Jones chose an unlikely spot for his business, far from the watchmaking centres of the Jura and Geneva. Characterised by innovation and technical inventiveness from its early beginnings, the IWC factory was established on the banks of the Rhine, where its modern premises relied on a hydropower plant to run its machinery.
Despite its advanced modes of production, the company faced problems in its early years resulting from an industry-wide crisis. This eventually led to bankruptcy, converting the business to a stock company in 1874. Six year later, it was taken over by the Schaffhausen industrialist of agricultural machinery – Johannes Rauschenbach. In 1883 Rauschenbach employed Urs Haenggi, who proved an important pillar in establishing the company anew, bringing order to its affairs. Along with Haenggi came Johann Vogel. He too was an important agent in ensuring prosperity of IWC by setting a clear technical direction.
Four generations of the Rauschenbach family owned IWC, under changing names. In 1905 the company was bequeathed to Ernst Homberger-Rauschenbach and to 25% to the psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung and his wife Emma Marie Rauschenbach-Jung. In 1978, Hans Ernst Homberger, son of Ernst Homberger-Rauschenbach, became the last sole proprietor of the family business, selling it to the German VDO Adolf Schindling AG. Since 2000, the company has been part of the Richemont group.
Having a long tradition of exquisite craftsmanship, favouring manual dexterity over machinery, IWC watchmakers have successfully combined horological excellence with innovation. In 1977, IWC created the open-face pocket watch with a calendar and moon phase display – the firm’s first truly complicated timepiece. Following that, in 1985 the company produced a true milestone in watchmaking: the perpetual calendar from Kurt Klaus, found in the Portugieser as well as Da Vinci models.
Since 1978, the company has co-operated with the designer F.A. Porche. This resulted in the world’s first titanium-case chronograph produced in 1980, along with a collection of extra sleek, all black titanium-cased models with automatic chronograph movements. Original in appearance, their push buttons were completely integrated into the case.
In the 1990s, the engineers from Schaffhausen showcased their exceptional watchmaking skills, creating the first Grande Complication – a wristwatch featuring the automatic 79091-calibre movement. To mark the company’s 125th anniversary, 1993 saw the development of an even more advanced watch, the II Destriero Scafusia. At the time it was the world’s most complicated mechanical wristwatch. It sold in a one-off limited edition of 125 pieces, retailing in Britain for £125,000.
Currently the IWC watch family offers a wide diversity of styles. Among the most sought after models is the beautiful Portugieser. The line reaches back to the early 1930s when two Portuguese businessmen ordered wristwatches with the precision of marine chronometers. The eye-catching line consists of reliable pieces fit for ocean navigation, encompassing a classic design reminiscent of the epoch of great discoveries. The Portugieser Yacht Club Chronograph is one of the most popular models of the brand and is the sportiest timepiece of the line.
The history of the Portofino watch began in the late 1970s, which coincided with a steady increase in demand for simple, classic models. IWC’s Lépine pocket watch served as the basis for the new model. Thus, the Portofino became known as the ‘pocket-watch style wristwatch’.The classically elegant Porofino watch family reflects the laid back life-style of Southern Europe. Furthermore, the wide choice of colours of the Portofino midsize collection was inspired by the brightly coloured facades of the houses in Italian fishing village, after which the line takes its name. Ever since it premiered, it has been one of the brand’s most successful lines, and a symbol of understated good taste. The Portofino Midsize Automatic Day & Night combines the luxury of diamonds and mother-of-pearl for a more nonchalant appeal.
In 1967, diving’s growing popularity prompted the company to launch the first Aquatimer. The current watches from this line are more purist in appearance and feature a subdued colour range. They are water-resistant to 30 bar and include an internal revolving ring to indicate the time of immersion. Designed to accommodate the timekeeping needs of divers, they are an expression of truly advanced watchmaking.
The Ingenieur was developed in 1950s. It was created as the brand’s leading antimagnetic watch. It is characterised by a practical design and a stainless steel case. It is a perfect blend of functionality and advanced technology.
IWC started producing the Big Pilot’s watch in accordance with military specifications for a navigation or deck watch. Mark 11, produced from1948 onwards featured a plain, easy-to-read design, inspired by cockpit instrumentation of a contemporary aircraft. This was the best known of the Pilot’s watches. It was built for the Royal Air Force and was in service for more than 30 years. With its black dial and clear white numbers, date display, and slim centre seconds hand, it became the flagship of IWC’s line.
While producing an extensive collection of watches for a wide range of tastes and purposes, IWC remains true to its primary focus of crafting exceptional pieces, maintaining meticulous attention to the slightest detail. Each IWC watch is a captivating display of exceptional workmanship, functionality and design.