IWC History

Written By: Kaelyn Harding

Founded originally in 1868 by Florentine Ariosto Jones, the International Watch Company (IWC) has been in business for nearly 150 years. Their early start in the watch-making industry was influenced by Jones’ desire to join the idea of American production techniques together with the renown craftsmanship and prestige of the swiss watch-making families that even to this day, we recognize as being the best in the world.

Jones’s dream came true in Schaffhausen, where he was able to secure a workshop that was not only equipped with modern production facilities, but near a hydro-power plant that was charged by the currents of the river Rhine. In addition to these many boons, the local community also had experience in horology for nearly a century prior to his arrival in the area. In fact, the first clock ever recorded in 1409 was credited to a small church not more than ten miles from the IWC factory. If that was not enough, Schaffhausen had noted records of clockmakers’ guilds as far back as 1583. Together, Jones’ vision and the men and women that brought their expertise into his capable hands drew the inspiration of two cultures together into what we now know as IWC.

In 1885, after the IWC has changed hands to a new successor, the company produced the first ever digital watch – long before display screens of any sort were conceived on a small-scale, let alone in a wristwatch. Then in 1899, one of the world’s first known wrist-watches is made and shipped from IWC for the market. Alongside Breguet, IWC is one of the longest-standing companies in the creation of wrist-watches in the world.

IWC watch factory

A picture from Schaffhausen's history - a factory working to assemble IWC watches.

Another generation passed in the IWC family and the company took a new manager named Ernest Jakob Homberger. Under his guidance in 1936, the company produces its first Pilot Family watch, which to this day, is one of the sets you can purchase from IWC. Only three years later, in 1939, the predecessor of the Portuguese Family line was also made, helping to define the standards and designs of the future company that so many see as the luxury brand that it is.

In 1944, IWC marketed watched for the British army, whereupon they were inscribed with the letters W. W. W., which stood for watch, wrist, and waterproof. This is the same year that the revolutionary technical designer, Albert Pellaton, joined the IWC team and proceeded to create some of the leading mechanics to ensure watch accuracy of the era.

1955-1957 saw the company through a fertile period of production, where the remaining families of watches, Aquatimer, DaVinci, and Ingenieur, were all produced, and as you will see, still continue to be improved in the modern fashion industry.

An advertisement for part of the Pilot Family line of watches.

It was in 1990, however, that the greatest leap in watchmaking was unveiled. IWC’s Grande Complication featured not only a perpetual calender, moon phase display, but minute repeater as well. It was the single most complicated wristwatch in existence at the time – a clear indication of IWC’s ingenuity and dedication to advancement.

Today, IWC sports hundreds of quality watches that are worth every penny saved. They are present in many charities, world events, and competitions around the globe. Consider an IWC if you have a taste for a little bit of history with your wardrobe.