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IWC watches: history, innovations and best 2021 models


Florentine Ariosto Jones, a watchmaker from Boston, Massachusetts, moved to Schaffhausen, where he founded the International Watch Company best known today as IWC Schaffhausen.

iwc-history-florentine-ariosto-jonesHe aimed at producing high-quality pocket watches for the American market.


F.A. Jones founded the original IWC headquarters and located the building on the banks of the Rhine river.

iwc-history-headquarter-1870 Back then, IWC employed 196 employees. Below, instead, is a picture showing the components adopted on the mid-1870s Jones caliber.

iwc-history-raw-movements-jonesLa scatola di lavoro utilizzata durante il processo di assemblaggio indica il processo utilizzato per realizzare ed assemblare le parti del movimento.


Johannes Rauschenbach-Vogel, a machine manufacturer in Schaffhausen, takes over at IWC.

iwc-history-rauschenbach-vogelJohannes had been a shareholder of IWC since 1874, and in 1880 he acquired the ownership of the company.


Once Johannes Rauschenbach-Vogel passed by, his son Johannes Rauschenbach-Schenk took over at IWC.


On 17 June 1884, Johann Rauschenbach acquired the rights to the Pallweber system from the watchmaker Joseph Pallweber and assembled the first “digital watches” in the history of IWC.

iwc-history-pallweber-dialside1 In the summer of 1884, IWC ushered in the digital era, and the first pocket watches with jumping numerals left the workshops. They were based on the Pallweber system developed by Salzburg-based watchmaker, Josef Pallweber, and showed the hours and minutes in large numerals on rotating discs. Johannes Rauschenbach-Schenk, head of IWC at the time, was fascinated by this modern approach to displaying the time and secured the patents for the handless watches.

iwc-history-pallweber-02Although IWC succeeded in significantly improving the design, the Pallweber pocket watches, of which around 20,000 were produced in Schaffhausen, were a commercial success for only a limited time. Production was discontinued in 1890.


After Johannes Rauschenbach's death and by appointment of his heirs, Ernst Jacob Homberger took the leadership.


IWC starts manufacturing custom-made movements for wristwatches: the caliber 75 (no running seconds) and caliber 76 (with small seconds), an entirely new design.


This page from an IWC catalog, dating back to the early 1920s (precisely 1924), shows the brand's watch comprehensive offering at the time.

iwc-history-advertisement-1924IWC produces any watch: men's and women's wristwatches and pocket watches too.


IWC introduces its first-ever Pilot's Watch.

iwc-first-pilot-watch-1936It comes equipped with a rotating bezel with a arrowhead index that can be used to register take-off times, and an anti-magnetic escapement.


In 1939, two businessmen from Portugal placed an order with IWC for a series of large wristwatches that were to run as precisely as a marine chronometer. The captains and officers of the Portuguese merchant navy wanted a "seriously big watch" to wear on their wrists. Schaffhausen's design engineers decided to put the men's pocket watch 74 caliber into a wristwatch case. The hunter movement was particularly well-suited for this purpose because the small seconds was at an angle of 90 degrees relative to the crown. On top of that, it had an extremely accurate rate. The first Portugieser, Reference IW325, had a case diameter of 41,5 millimeters and far exceeded the dimensions of conventional wristwatches of the era.


In 1955 Hans Ernst Homberger, the last private owner of IWC, takes over. The automatic IWC Ingenieur debuts. The caliber 85 equipped with Pellaton automatic winding system was acclaimed by customers and specialists alike; it appeared inside the first Ingenieur, the reference IW666, too.

iwc-ingenieur-1956The new Ingenieur, featuring a soft-iron inner case, was designed to resist the effects of magnetic fields due to the increase in the adoption of electronic devices.


The 1960s saw the rise of scuba diving as a popular sport. In response, IWC unveiled its first diver’s watch, the Aquatimer, reference IW812AD, at the Basel Watch Show in 1967. Powered by the legendary 8541 calibre, the watch was water-resistant to a depth of 200 metres. Instead of a classic external bezel for setting the dive time, the watch featured a rotating bezel under the glass that was operated using a second crown.

iwc-aquatimer-1967-2The advantage of this design lay in the fact that the bezel was inside the watch and therefore did not impact the water-resistance of the case and avoided unwanted rotation while diving. The black dial with its large numerals and luminescent hands guaranteed optimum legibility, even at great depths and in conditions of poor visibility. It thus enabled divers to keep constant track of their dive time.

1969: the quartz era.

IWC introduces the caliber Beta 21, a quartz movement operating at 8192Hz.

iwc-davinci-beta-21The IWC Da Vinci is the first timepiece to adopt this caliber.


In 1976 IWC unveils the new IWC Ingenieur SL.


The caliber 9721 debuts, and equips the first IWC pocket watch to adopt a calendar and display moon phases. IWC starts developing the first mechanical complications.

1978: IWC and Porsche Design partner.

In this year, IWC and Porsche Design begin a successful collaboration, the first outcome being a wristwatch equipped with a compass.


Next in the pipeline is the first chronograph crafted in titanium: it is the IWC Titan, built in partnership with Aérospatiale.


Here comes a brand's icon and a reference for diving watches: the IWC Ocean 2000.

Ocean-2000It is crafted entirely in titanium, features an integrated bracelet and is water resistant up to 200 bar.


The IWC Da Vinci Perpatual Calendar is the first IWC chronograph equipped with a perpetual calendar programmed for the next 500 years, that can operated exclusively via the winding crown.

IWC-Da-Vinci-Perpetual-Calendar-Ref-3750Also, it displays a four-digit year indication.

1986: ceramics meets horology.

The IWC Da Vinci featuring a zirconia-oxide case hits the market.

IWC-Da-Vinci-Ceramic-1986This is a first-ever in watchmaking.


The IWC Novecento is the first-ever automatic IWC watch to adopt a rectangular case and showcase a perpetual calendar.

1990: la Grande Complication.

The IWC Grande Complication includes a perpetual calendar, a minute-repeater and moon phases indication. It has requested a seven-year intense development.

1993: Destriero Scafusia, the most complicated wristwatch ever.

IWC introduces the Destriero Scafusia, the most complicated wristwatch, back then, crafted in just 125 pieces. It includes a tourbillon, a rattrapante, a minute repeater, and a perpetual calendar. It celebrates the 125th anniversary of IWC.

1994: here is the Pilot's Watch Mark XII.

The IWC Pilot's Watch Mark XII hits the market.


The IWC GST hits the market.

1998: the year of the UTC.

The IWC UTC (Universal Time Coordinated) lets the wearer adjust the hour hand separately from the minute hand, and offers a 24-hour indication. This is the very first IWC we have covered, hands-on, on our magazine.

1999: the GST Deep One is a landmark among diving watches.

The IWC GST Deep One proves IWC's mastery in building professional diving instruments.

iwc-gst-deep-oneThe Deep One is the first-ever diving watch to adopt a mechanical depth gauge. It is powered by a Jaeger-LeCoultre caliber.



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