With a clear focus on technology and development, the Swiss watch manufacturer IWC Schaffhausen has been producing watches of lasting value for over 140 years.
In 1868, Boston watchmaker Florentine Ariosto Jones founded the International Watch Company in Schaffhausen, far from the watch-making centres of French-speaking Switzerland.
His plan was to bring together progressive American production techniques with the skilled craftsmanship for which Swiss watchmakers were renowned. The company’s excellent reputation was established right from the start with the very first Jones calibre named after its founder. And to this day IWC has gained an international reputation based on a passion for innovative solutions and technical ingenuity. As one of the world’s leading brands in the luxury watch segment, IWC crafts masterpieces of haute horlogerie at their finest, combining supreme precision with exclusive design.
Almost 1,000 employees around the world, including 180 eminently qualified watchmakers, are involved in the development, manufacture and distribution of mechanical masterpieces. The renowned watch manufacturer in eastern Switzerland has over 1,000 sales outlets worldwide, including more than 60 company-owned boutiques in cities such as Dubai, New York, Hong Kong, Beijing,Zurich and Moscow. Since 2000, IWC has been part of Richemont International SA, based in Geneva, Switzerland.
Origins of the Brand
Roaring masses of water plunge over the rocky cliffs that make up the world-famous Rhine Falls. A few kilometres upstream, in Schaffhausen, the Rhine glides at a leisurely pace past the workshop windows of IWC. Here, over 140 years ago, a company began a story that is still being written today. American engineer and watchmaker Florentine Ariosto Jones learnt the watchmaker’s trade from scratch. While still a young man, he was appointed deputy director and production manager of the E. Howard Watch & Clock Company in Boston, which was then a leading American watchmaker.
At that time, the American market appeared to have a virtually insatiable hunger for quality watches and its production methods were among the most modern in the world. What it lacked was skilled, qualified local labour and this led to rising wages. By contrast, the conditions prevailing in Switzerland for American watch manufacturers were almost perfect: low wages, a plentiful supply of skilled craftsmen and an enormous production capacity.
At the tender age of 27, Jones crossed the Atlantic Ocean, planning to combine the excellence of Switzerland’s craftsmen with modern engineering from abroad and a generous helping of pioneering spirit in order to make top-quality watches for the American market. The locals in Geneva and the remote valleys of the Jura in French-speaking Switzerland, however, reacted skeptically to his proposal. Since the 17th century, they had been working from their homes or in tiny workshops. Jones, on the other hand, was dreaming of building a modern factory with centralized production. At this time, Schaffhausen, at the north-eastern tip of the country, could reflect on a long watchmaking tradition.
The first mechanical clock ever mentioned in the records was made way back in 1409 at the Rheinau monastery, 10 kilometres further down the Rhine. It had been produced for the Church of St. John in Schaffhausen. There are also official records of a clock makers’ guild in the town from 1583, and it was home to the famed Habrecht family of clockmakers, who built one of history’s most outstanding astronomical clocks for Strasbourg Cathedral.
Nevertheless, it was Jones’s plan to manufacture relatively large numbers of high-quality watches internally to precisely the same tolerances which enabled these watches made in Schaffhausen to become famous all over the world.
In Schaffhausen, Jones found all he needed to turn his plans into reality, including a hydro station powered by the Rhine. The energy it harnessed was transmitted directly, via shafts and long cables, to the newly built factory and supplied the power needed to drive the machines. The railway line to Schaffhausen had been completed in 1857, so it was no wonder that the town was enjoying an economic boom. For the man from Boston, it was a case of being in precisely the right place at the right time and, in 1868, F. A. Jones founded his watch company: the International Watch Co. (IWC).
THE FAMILY TRADITION AT IWC
IWC’s watch families – the Pilot’s Watches, Portuguese, Ingenieur, Aquatimer, Da Vinci and Portofino – look back on a long tradition. They attest the innovative spirit of the engineers in Schaffhausen through several generations and embrace the broad range of the company’s watchmaking expertise: from robust watches for everyday use to professional sports watches and the complexities of haute horlogerie at it’s finest. These are joined by watch specialties such as the Grande Complication and the Portuguese Sidérale Scafusia, the most complicated watch ever designed by IWC.
Furthermore, each IWC watch family does not just represent the product as such but is also embedded in a unique storytelling environment. These stories are rich and evocative expressions of the IWC Schaffhausen universe and are the inspiration for their partnerships (MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One™ Team), events (Filmmakers Dinners and Awards), exclusive brand experiences (SIHH, Watches & Wonders) and unique projects.
IWC’S CORPORATE SOCIAL COMMITMENT
As an ecologically and socially responsible company, IWC is committed to sustainable production, supports institutions worldwide in their work with children and young people, and maintains partnerships with organisations dedicated to climate and environmental protection. For instance, IWC supports the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, which works for physically and socially handicapped children and young people worldwide, and in the interests of ecological sustainability the Swiss watch manufacturer works together with the Charles Darwin Foundation.