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Why IWC Schaffhausen Is Central To World Time

August 2019Words by Mr Jim Merrett

From the word go, IWC Schaffhausen has done things differently. In fact, unlike most other Swiss watchmakers, the word go wouldn’t be the verb aller (French), but gehen (or fahren, or machen depending on context, and most likely machen, to make). That’s because at this end of the Upper Rhine Valley, folk speak German, and the Teutonic language within the company is the lingua franca, even if this itself was originally a mash-up of Italian, Spanish, French, Greek and Turkish, but that’s neither here nor there.

But what is here and there is, however, a concern of IWC, which, to confuse matters even further, was set up by an American. The firm may have its roots in Switzerland’s 19th-century explosion in watchmaking – the International Watch Company was founded to apply Swiss expertise to the American watch market – but it came into its own upon the invention of powered flight.

Once transcontinental flight became a possibility, it soon became apparent that a device that could tell you the time in several places across the globe became a necessity, and IWC made items that did it better than most. This rich heritage underpins its current lineup. The brand’s signature watch, the Big Pilot’s Watch (or “Große Fliegeruhr”, if you’re referring to it in-house), is based on a model dating back to 1940 that was developed for military navigators. It owes its proportions to the fact that Germany’s Air Force personnel, the Luftwaffe, required a watch that was clearly visible, could be worn over a flight jacket sleeve and could be adjusted while the user was wearing gloves.