IWC – The history of ‘IWC’ International Watch Company

IWC stands for International Watch Company and is a Swiss watch manufacturer of high-end watches.

IWC - International Watch Company Schaffhausen Switzerland, since 1868.

IWC – International Watch Company Schaffhausen Switzerland, since 1868.

 

To be honest with you, my view on IWC watches has changed dramatically in the past couple of months. In fact, if you would have asked me about IWC watches prior to my visit to SIHH in January, I’d be quick to tell you that they don’t really interest me at all. IWC was never one of those brands that grabbed my attention in the haute horlogerie world. Prior to SIHH, I never gave them the deserved attention, not for their design nor for their history. My view on IWC watches changed dramatically when I had the pleasure to see their new Da Vinci models when I was in Geneva this January.

 

Recently in my studies and daily readings, I came across the history of IWC watches and the manufacturing itself. I must say, it is one of the most intriguing and defying brand histories I’ve ever read about. 

IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar

IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Chronograph – Photo by aBlogtoWatch

IWC stands for International Watch Company, and is actually the only watch manufacturer placed on the eastern side of Switzerland. You may think, that like all of those other haute horlogerie brands, IWC has a Swiss, French or even German family behind its creation , but guess what, it hasn’t. In terms of ownership the Rauschenbach family has owned IWC for four generations but  IWC was actually founded by an american named Florentine Ariosto Jones in 1868. IWC is as mentioned earlier based on the eastern side of Switzerland in Schaffhausen where the language spoken is German.

I believe, most of the times people get confused and think IWC is a German brand, just because of the name “Schaffhausen” and the design of the logo and their watches. That mostly occurs in countries that have few or none language connection to the German/French/Dutch dialog.

In an effort of mixing the excellent Swiss craftsmanship with the modern and innovative american idealism of watchmaking and their engineering technology, Florentine Ariosto Jones previously director of E. Howard & Co (Boston), created IWC with a vision that this new brand could rival and create a new segment in the watch world. Through the years IWC watch designers and CEO’s has been creating several iconic models, this way creating multiple model series. Such as the Pilot’s Watches, Portugieser, Ingenieur, Aquatimer, Da Vinci, and Portofino.

The Pilot’s is one of the most popular families among watch enthusiasts, created in 1936 the Pilot’s Watch served the Royal Air Force and were mainly made for pilots, with their large dials, easily readable hour markers and in some cases huge case dimensions, and of course..that signature crown.

IWC BIG PILOT “LE PETIT PRINCE”

 

Next in line is the popular and beautiful Portugieser. The Portugieser line of IWC watches has quite a nice history behind itself. Back in 1930 two businessman contacted IWC watches to order a watch that had the same precision as the marine chronometers. The only way possible of completing this challenge was to use a pocket watch caliber that had the crown placed at the right side of the dial, in a wrist watch case. That lead up to the birth of the IWC Portugieser.

IWC Portugieser Perpetual Calendar, Ref. 5033 -PHOTO BY IWC

 

Portofino is yet another IWC model that have truly grown on me. In my opinion the Portofino model series is the classiest IWC watch out there. The design of the Portofino models was inspired by one very glamorous village on the North-West coast of Italy, more precisely in the Gulf of Tigullio. Where most jet-setters, rich celebrities and personalities from the fashion world came to relax in Portofino’s calm environment and classy streets and houses. The design was based on this simple and elegant lifestyle and for the demand of simpler wrist watches.

IWC AUTOMATIC MOONPHASE – PHOTO BY IWC


As you might have noticed already, I’m a big fan of Sports watches. This is where the
Ingenieur comes in, definitely one of my favorites if not “THE” favorite IWC watch. Nothing like a good old integrated bracelet and perfect case shape. Designed in the 1970’s by the great Gérald Genta, the iconic watch designer who have also designed the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, and Patek Philippe Nautilus. Gérald Genta retrieved his inspiration for the Ingenieur from the helmet the divers wore.

But the creation of the Ingenieur model series came already in the 1950’s. Since our world was undergoing huge technological improvements, machines and magnetism started to get into our daily lives and wristwatches was being affected by the magnetism. This led to the birth of the IWC Ingenieur watch, it was one of the first watches that could withstand high levels of magnetism due to its mechanism.

Ingenieur Chronograph Edition “74th Members’ Meeting at Goodwood” (Ref. IW380703) – PHOTO BY IWC

 

Due to the increased popularity in divers watches, IWC launched its diver model called the Aquatimer in 1967. The Aquatimer was one of the first wristwatches to feature a titanium case and depth gauge and a bi-rotational bezel, so divers could keep a precise measure of time and depth. It is without any doubt one of IWC’s toughest watches, it also offers the most complications related to diving and sports.

IWC AQUATIMER – PHOTO BY IWC

 

In 1935 IWC released the first Da Vinci model, that featured a design that was ahead of its time. IWC created a mechanical chronograph with a perpetual calendar, moon phase display and four-digit year display that was simply regulated by the crown. Using the favorite shapes of Leonardo Da Vinci, the circle, IWC made one of the classiest models that exist till this day.

IWC DA VINCI FAMILY – PHOTO BY IWC

 

Now that you know more about the brand ‘IWC’ and its different model series, what’s your thoughts about their watches? Is it a brand that you would acquire a watch from? And whats your favorite model? 

Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below!

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