The International Watch Company from Schaffhausen, Switzerland
IWC can look back at almost 150 years of corporate history characterised by striking success and an outstanding passion for watchmaking. At a time when the predominant attitude was to “go west”, a young American engineer decided to do the opposite. Originally from Boston, Massachusetts, Florentine Ariosto Jones set forth to fulfil his dreams: to combine Swiss craftsmanship with modern technology from his home country, in order to create first-class timepieces.
Schaffhausen is a place with a long tradition of watchmaking - which makes it hardly surprising that the ambitious watchmaker chose this city for his enterprise. Among the magnificent Swiss landscape, Florentine Ariosto Jones set up his firm in 1868, calling it the International Watch Company – a subtle hint at his American roots.
A global watch brand
The road to success was not always easy for IWC. With just a couple of years into the business, the company was forced to declare bankruptcy and Florentine Ariosto Jones returned to America. In 1880, the company was sold to Johannes Rauschenbach-Vogel and was soon taken over by his son, Johannes Rauschenbach-Schenk.
Five years after the acquisition of the company by the Rauschenbach-family, IWC launched its first watch that featured a digital hours and minutes display in 1885 - a sensational novelty during that time. When Johannes Rauschenbach-Schenk passed away in 1905, his son-in-law Ernst Jakob Homberger took over IWC. Changes in IWC management were not uncommon during the 20th century.
Since 1903, the official motto of the Swiss manufacturer reads “Probus Scafusia”, a latin phrase meaning “Craftsmanship made in Schaffhausen”. But more widely known are the slogans of IWC’s promotional campaigns. In 1999, the company wanted to emphasize the masculine characteristics of its watches, which resulted in the phrase, “IWC. Since 1968. And for as long as there are men.” From a present-day perspective, the slogan is slightly ironic as IWC timepieces have become more popular among women over the years.
Today, the International Watch Co. is led by CEO Georges Kern, and is part of the Swiss Richemont Group. With today’s slogan, “IWC. Engineered for men.”, Schaffhausen watches stand for robustness, functionality, as well as an exceptional combination of tradition and innovation, securing the success of IWC in haute horlogerie.
Big watches for big adventures
The largest aviator watch and the legendary Big Pilot
Pioneers of aviation have always displayed great courage. Defying gravity in heady heights, pilots have to keep their cool - and they have to be able to rely on their equipment for measuring distance and speed. In 1936, IWC launched its first aviator watch - a “Special Pilot’s Watch”. The Big Pilot’s Watch 52 T. S. C. followed in 1940, produced specifically for military purposes. With its 55 millimetre case, the Big Pilot’s Watch 52 T. S. C. is IWC’s largest wristwatch, making the timepiece an exceptional eye-catcher in spite of the reductionist design that is inspired by the onboard instruments of aeroplanes. To this day, the legendary aviator watch by the International Watch Company is the largest of its kind. The Big Pilot’s Watch 52 T. S. C. later influenced the design of the legendary Big Pilot. Launched in 2002, the Big Pilot measures 46 millimetres in diameter, making it much smaller than the voluminous original from the ‘30s. However, the little brother of the Big Pilot’s Watch 52 T. S. C. is certainly no ordinary wristwatch: the Big Pilot is equipped with the manufacture calibre 51111, the biggest automatic movement produced by IWC.
IWC aviator watches fly high
The legendary aviator watch Mark 11 was created in 1948 for the Royal Air Force and was in service for more than three decades. Hidden under the surface of this timepiece is an inner case comprised of soft iron, which was specially developed to keep the 89 calibre safe from damage caused by magnetic fields.
The Mark 11 owes its popularity to its robust characteristics and its classic design. It comes as no surprise then that the International Watch Company chose to extend the line starting with the Mark 12 and following through to the current Mark 17. The IWC Mark has served as an inspiration for a wide range of aviator watches.
The Pilot’s Watch Chronograph was launched fresh off the production line in 1988 and was met with immediate success. In the 1990s, the International Watch Company took a big step forward when the manufacturer developed numerous complications, including the UTC (Universal Time Coordinated) and the split-seconds mechanism, further generating the desirability of IWC timepieces.
2003 marked the creation of a Pilot’s Watch named after the Supermarine Spitfire - a British fighter aircraft that was utilized during the Second World War. Four years later, the first TOP GUN watch was introduced by IWC.
Named after the United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor programme - a special training course at the US Navy Fighter Weapons School made famous by the 1986 film starring Tom Cruise - the Top Gun watch series offers several outstanding models. The Big Pilot’s Watch Top Gun Miramar is named after the pilot’s school of the US Marines in Miramar, California, which is the location where the Topgun-legend was born.
Both the Top Gun Miramar and its sister model, the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Top Gun Miramar, impress with a simplistic military design that camouflages the modern technology driving these timepieces. Expanded with five new models in 2012, the TOP GUN collection offers luxury timepieces for every taste.
IWC Schaffhausen’s technical geniuses
Albert Pellaton and Kurt Klaus
In 1944, Albert Pellaton became Technical Director at the International Watch Company - an office he held for 22 years. His masterpiece was without a doubt the 85 calibre that was presented in 1950. The 85 calibre was the company’s first automatic winding mechanism and completely replaced traditional reciprocal gearing, thanks to the pawl-winding system. Known as the Pellaton automatic winding system, this technological innovation quickly established itself on the market. Since 1955, the 85 calibre and its successors movements have been utilised in the IWC Ingenieur collection.
In the year 2000, IWC revived the Pellaton winding system with the 5000 calibre and equipped the Portugieser Automatic 2000 with this innovative instrument, which is attributable to Pellaton’s disciple: Kurt Klaus. For many IWC experts, Kurt Klaus is a household name, as the IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Edition Kurt Klaus was named after him. Indicated by its name, this exceptional watch is equipped with an ingenious feature: a mechanically programmed perpetual calendar shows the year in four digits whose mechanism was developed by Kurt Klaus.
Albert Pellaton and Kurt Klaus have undoubtedly shaped the history of the International Watch Company as well the entire watch industry as a whole.
A watch for the successful
Not many brands have a fanbase as vast and well-known as the International Watch Company. Worldwide stars are consistently sporting IWC timepieces. Top athletes including former boxer Vitali Klitschko, German tennis player Boris Becker, and world-famous French footballer Zinédine
The list of IWC admirers when it comes to the world of cinema may be too long to present in its entirety here. Actors who can be spotted with an IWC watch include Kevin Spacey, Bradley Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Jeremy Renner, Channing Tatum, among many others. The International Watch Company is also popular behind the scenes: Academy Award nominee John Malkovich and Academy Award winner Quentin Tarantino both wear IWC’s Big Pilot - they enjoy the watch for its charismatic appearance and comfortable fit, which are main characteristics that have made this IWC classic exceptionally popular all over the world. A small delegation of IWC’s star-studded fan base can be seen in the short film “Portofino”, by Peter Lindbergh, which features Matthew Fox, Tim Jefferies, Hiroyuki Sanada, Elle Macpherson, Marc Forster, and Eric Dane.
As the only female, Australian supermodel on this list, Elle Macpherson stands out as an IWC admirer. However, she is not the only woman to have taken a liking to the watches of the International Watch Company - Cate Blanchett, a fellow Australian citizen, is the face of the campaign for IWC’s Portofino Midsize collection.
The German Football Association
In 2008, IWC and the German Football Association (DFB) started a successful collaboration when the Pilot’s Watch Double Chronograph Edition DFB accompanied the team to the UEFA European Football Championship. Four years later, during the UEFA European Championship in Poland and Ukraine, the IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Edition DFB became the official timepiece of the German national football team. Finally, in 2014, an IWC
Innovative and traditional
Throughout the years, watches by IWC have achieved true greatness both inside and out. The timepieces produced by the International Watch Company enjoy great popularity due to their robustness, masculine charisma, and unique design. Not one for those who desire delicate accessories, IWC has long been known for large watches including the classic
But an IWC watch does not always have to be oversized: the Portofino Midsize watches with a diameter of 37 millimetres are relatively small compared to the 55 millimetres of the Big Pilot, and are therefore considered to be the first IWC models for a more delicate wrist. The second-hand market proves to be a treasure trove of watches when it comes to the International Watch Company. New or used, IWC watches are worthwhile investments that show true strength in both design and technology.
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