IWC Watches


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IWC Schaffhausen History and Buying Guide 

IWC Schaffhausen has a truly unique history that sets it apart from other luxury Swiss watch brands in several ways. To begin with, it is located in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, away from the main French-speaking watchmaking regions. The more important factor setting the brand apart from others, though, is the fact that it was founded by an American: Florentine Ariosto Jones from Boston. 

Facts and Insights About IWC Watches

Founded in 1868, the International Watch Company — now referred to as IWC — was a dream in the mind of the young 27-year-old watchmaker and engineer Florentine Ariosto Jones. After serving in the Civil War in America, Jones, trained as a watchmaker and employed by the E. Howard Watch and Clock Co. in Boston, opted to strike out on his own. His goal was to create quality timepieces in Switzerland to export back to the United States, but he wanted to use American engineering and industrialization processes that were not yet established in Switzerland. 

Jones journeyed across the ocean and traversed the tiny country to find the perfect place to set up his workshops. When he saw the incredible Rhine Falls in Schaffhausen, he knew he could harness the power of the water to run the machinery. Despite skepticism from watchmakers in the French-speaking regions, Jones forged on and eventually was able to create high-quality pocket watch movements that bore the IWC insignia. By 1875, the company employed nearly 200 people and built a new three-story workshop on the Rhine River.

After some disagreements with investors back in America, Jones left Switzerland and returned home defeated. An engineer manufacturer in Schaffhausen, Johannes Rauschenbach-Vogel, bought IWC, and the company continued making top-notch pocket watch movements, even introducing the first watches with a digital display for the hours and minutes in 1885. Those first digital movements were special because they displayed time differently. Named for watchmaker Josef Pallweber, the Pallweber movement eliminated the use of hands and instead displayed a simple digit for the hours and minutes. Pallweber licensed his system to IWC. To this day, IWC is one of the brands best known for its Pallweber watches.

By 1925, IWC was producing its first movements for wristwatches and was continually looking for technical advancements on all fronts. It was under the ownership of Jakob Homberger (who acquired it from the previous owners) that the brand created its first Pilot watches. Homberger’s two sons were pilots and needed watches that could withstand the magnetic fields and temperature changes while in the air. The first Special Pilot’s watch made its debut in 1936 and wowed pilots around the world. 

Later notable innovations that continue to define IWC are the Pellaton winding system, developed by in-house watchmaker and technical director Albert Pellaton in 1944. The revolutionary bidirectional pawl-winding system was just one of his many inventions. It was incorporated into a watch in 1946, and IWC still uses the system for certain watches today.

Key IWC Watches and Complications

From complications to chronographs, pilot watches and classically elegant timepieces, IWC boasts a nice selection of finely made watches. IWC creates complicated watches across several of its lines. These complications include tourbillons, jumping hour watches and — a specialty of the brand — perpetual calendar watches. These complexities can be found in the Portugieser line, the Pilot watches and the beloved DaVinci series. 

IWC Da Vinci

First unveiled in 1969, the Da Vinci series today offers elegant yet avant-garde appeal. The collection got a face-lift again in 1985, and the new watches put the series on the collector map. The IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar watch that made its debut that year was developed by master watchmaker Kurt Klaus and features a calendar that is accurate for 500 years. It was unheard of in the industry. The line was revamped again in 2017 and continues to evolve. It is a favorite classic look among collectors. 

IWC Pilot and Top Gun 

Since it unveiled its first pilot watch in 1936, IWC has continually launched new and evolved versions of its aviation watches, including Flieger chronographs, the famed Mark II and even the Spitfire. Its affiliation with the elite United States Navy Fighter Weapons School, also known as Top Gun, in 2012 brought the brand to all-new heights as it unveiled multiple lines that embrace high-tech materials known in the aviation field, as well as high-mech movements. Certain IWC Pilot and Top Gun watches are highly desirable among collectors. 

IWC Portugieser 

Another watch first released in the late 1930s, this coveted collection was the first real oversized watch for the brand and was created in response to a request from watch importers from Portugal (as its name implies). The Portugieser watch has always maintained its original codes of clean lines and easy-to-read dials. Favorites in the series include the Portugieser Automatic and the Chronograph.

Value of IWC Watches

With such strong history and top-notch watchmaking, IWC watches are generally thought to be in the top tier of horology, often regarded and collected with the same enthusiasm as a Rolex or OMEGA. In addition, IWC watches offer attractive looks and high-quality mechanics without breaking the bank.