IWC founder and wonderfully named person Mr Florentine Ariosto Jones was an American who decided to set up his own high-tech factory in the German-speaking town of Schaffhausen in 1868. From the outset, Mr Jones’ International Watch Company harnessed the skills of Swiss workers, the efficiency of US-made machinery and the mighty hydropower of the Rhine to nurture a varied lineage of pocket watches, early wristwatches, dress and tool watches. Since the Richemont group took ownership in 2000, the brand has enlarged upon this heritage with a historically respectful suite of anti-magnetic pilot’s watches, diving innovations and modern takes on haute horlogerie complications.
IWC watches combine precision engineering and technical ingenuity with a timeless utilitarian aesthetic. The brand is particularly famed for its pilot watches – it’s been producing military endorsed examples since 1936.
Le Petit Prince
Mr Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s tale of a little prince and his journey to seven planets has charmed millions in more than 300 languages since 1943. Since 2013, IWC Schaffhausen has paid tribute to the pioneering French aviator and author with an exclusive series of blue-dial pilot’s watches, the proceeds of which directly benefit the international charitable work of the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Youth Foundation.
In 1939, two watch importers from Portugal ordered a series of large wristwatches from IWC – large, because they wanted them kitted out with precision pocket-watch movements. The brand wisely rebooted these styles in 1993 – now, the Portugieser now incorporates most of IWC’s technical tours de force.
After WWII there was a technological boom. And so, in 1954, IWC launched a no-frills instrument for the wrist, fit for pipe-smoking boffins. Then, the Ingenieur’s delicate innards were protected from whatever magnetic rays their equipment emanated. Today, the range distils IWC’s passion for engineering.
You can get a lot done in 150 years. Scroll down to read more about the world of IWC.
A River Runs Through It
An early investor in sustainable energy, or what passed for it back then, IWC founder Mr Florentine Ariosto Jones deliberately perched his first IWC factory on the banks of the Rhine. Giant paddles fed hydropower into permanently spinning shafts that ran the length of each workshop’s ceiling. The watchmakers’ lathes and mills all fed off them via belts.
The Collector’s Piece
By 1944, just 12 Swiss watchmakers, including IWC, had the job of turning out high-grade wristwear for the Allied infantry, according to the Ministry of Defence’s strict WWW (watch, wrist, waterproof) spec of high-legibility ruggedness. To collectors, assembling the complete “Dirty Dozen” suite is the holy grail. To IWC, WWW was the forerunner to its legendary Mark 11 of 1948, which remained in service to RAF pilots until 1981.
Fade To Black
IWC worked closely with Porsche Design in the late 1970s and 1980s, pioneering the use of matt-black PVD coatings and, most importantly, titanium. The Titan of 1980 was the world’s first in this lightweight-yet-tricky-to-engineer metal, followed by the Ocean 2000, resistant down to an unprecedented 2,000m.
The Digital Display
The exotic Pallweber digital display was first introduced into a range of pocket watches in 1875 by an Austrian watchmaker, Mr Josef Pallweber. IWC bought the rights in 1883, sat on them and has perfected the system via a new independent powertrain, just in time for its 150th anniversary.
The Perpetual Calendar
Watchmaking legend Mr Kurt Klaus spent over five decades working with IWC and was responsible for inventing several horological launches during quartz’s war on Switzerland. His most famous is the perpetual calendar module of 1985 – the first to boast a four-digit year display.
The Pawl Winder
The mainsprings of IWC’s automatic watches (and several others since the patent ran out) are still wound up via a clever pawl winding mechanism dreamt up by technical director Mr Albert Pellaton in the 1950s. It’s the closest you’ll get to wearing a perpetual-motion machine.
Watch The Video: Inside Mr Xabi Alonso’s Watch Collection
The footballer takes MR PORTER through some impressive timepieces from IWC Schaffhausen and more