The story of IWC

A pioneering spirit

The story of IWC begins with a pioneering spirit and a brave business idea: in 1868, American watchmaker Florentine Ariosto Jones founded the International Watch Company in Schaffhausen. With the help of highly skilled Swiss craftsmen, modern engineering and water power from the Rhine, the company produced pocket watch movements of the very highest quality for the US market. In 1880, the Rauschenbachs, an industrialist family from Schaffhausen, bought the entire company and began selling the watches across the globe. In the years that followed, the Rauschenbach family established IWC as one of the most renowned Swiss watch manufacturers. IWC began production of the world’s first Pallweber pocket watches with a digital display for the hours and minutes in 1884.

You can download the official audio guide for the exhibition, “150 years of IWC", via the IWC app:

IWC – the family company and the international markets

Ernst Jakob Homberger took the company reins in 1905 following the death of Johannes Rauschenbach-Schenk. Homberger became a part of the family through his marriage to Rauschenbach’s youngest daughter. During the highs and lows of the 20th century, the Homberger family not only succeeded in continuing to run IWC in the spirit of F. A. Jones, but also in presenting iconic creations to the world in the form of the Pilot’s Watch, Portugieser and Ingenieur models. In 1944, IWC hired Albert Pellaton, a technical specialist and expert in production processes, as Technical Director of the company. Following the death of Ernst Jakob Homberger in 1955, his son, Hans Ernst, took control of IWC, a role he occupied until 1978.

Built to last an eternity

The high price of gold, a strong Swiss franc and the rise of low-priced quartz watches ushered in an era of significant struggle for the Swiss watch industry in the mid-1970s. By developing complicated timepieces during the quartz crisis, IWC staged a counter-revolution against the cheap quartz watches, and haute horlogerie began to truly thrive in Schaffhausen. Master watchmaker Kurt Klaus developed the Da Vinci, a timepiece that was quite literally built to last an eternity, featuring a perpetual calendar and moon phase display. The calendar module requires almost no manual corrections until the year 2499 and can be set using just the crown. In 1990, IWC reached the zenith of haute horlogerie with the Grande Complication. To mark its 125th anniversary in 1993, IWC unveiled what was then the world’s most complicated mechanical wristwatch: Il Destriero Scafusia.

Innovative materials and designs

In the 1980s, IWC not only paved the way for the return of mechanical watches, but also established its expertise in using different materials – 1980 saw the company become the world’s first watch manufacturer to use titanium, a groundbreaking development at the time. The Schaffhausen-based watch manufacturer followed this up in 1986 by presenting the world’s first wristwatch with a case made from zirconium oxide ceramic. The Porsche Design watches heralded the beginning of an era of sporty and distinctly masculine timepieces with bold designs, while IWC created further legendary timepieces in the form of the first wristwatch with a built-in compass and the Ocean 2000, which was water-resistant up to a depth of 2,000 metres.