IWC

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IWC

IWC - International Watch Co. Schaffhausen

Swiss watch manufacturer

Contents

Distinctive originals of horology, that is the undisputed specialty of the watch manufacture IWC Schaffhausen: The famous Da Vinci with perpetual calendar for example, as well as the Grande Complication, which was the first of this type for the wrist. But also the super-antimagnetic Ingenieur or the dive watches, which can even withstand the pressure of a water depth of 2000 meters, and the GST Deep One as the first dive watch with mechanical depth gauge have to be mentioned here. From IWC stem decades of professional pilot's watches. And since the founding year of 1868 there are the unsurpassed high-quality pocket watches by IWC.

Company founded by an American

It was no coincidence that an American engineer from Boston, Florentine Ariosto Jones, founded the "International Watch Co." in Schaffhausen in 1868. The manufacture on the Rhine owes the American both its name and its existence - so far away from the watch centers of Western Switzerland. There, near the famous Rhine Falls, he found a newly built hydroelectric power plant for his machines: ideal conditions for his passion to build perfect mechanical movements for an international market. While pursuing his project he came to know the watch manufacturer and industrialist Johann Heinrich Moser, probably in Le Locle. And it was in Schaffhausen where he found watchmakers whose profession already had a long tradition. Because in the State Archives of Schaffhausen lies a request, dated 29 January 1583, from the guild of pyrotechnicians, bushing forges, clock- and wind-makers to the City Council. It proves that in Schaffhausen even then the craft of watchmaking had existed. And the beginnings of clockmaking in Schaffhausen can be traced back even further back: up to the year 1409, in which a monk from the nearby monastery Rheinau built the church clock of St. Johann.

After two bankruptcies back on the road of success

IWC, factory building (historical engraving of the 19th century.) [1]

Jones failed, partly because of the high U.S. import duties, with his attempt to export the watches produced in bis company to his home country. Also the subsequent owner, the Schaffhauser Handelsbank, with another American named Frank Frederik Zealand as the new director, had to capitulate.

1874 the IWC was converted into a stock company. After two bankruptcies IWC 1880 was taken over by the Schaffhausen industrialist of agricultural machinery Johannes Rauschenbach. The new employee Urs Haenggi, who entered into the company in 1883, proved as an important pillar by establishing valuable contacts on business trips. Another employee, Johann Vogel, who was responsible for the technical direction, ensured the smooth running of the watch production, which was now steadily rising. It was he who introduced a new numbering system for the IWC calibres.

In 1889, the factory had 104 employees, and in the year 1901, it were already 190.

At the death of Rauschenbach's son in 1905 the IWC was inherited to Ernst Homberger-Rauschenbach and to 25% to the psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung and his wife Emma Marie Rauschenbach-Jung. It now traded under the name J. Rauschenbach's heirs. The former took over the exclusive possession in 1929 and led it until 1955, during this time under the name "Uhrenfabrik von Ernst Homberger Rauschenbach".

During the 2nd World War, on 1 April 1944, the IWC factory site escaped closely its total destruction. A bomb thrown by an American pilot hit exactly the adjacent building and set it on fire.

In 1952 Ernst Homberger was awarded an honorary doctorate of the University of St. Gallen for his outstanding merits. He died in 1955 at the age of 85 years.

From H. E. Homberger AG to Mannesmann

Hans Ernst Homberger, son of Ernst Homberger-Rauschenbach, sold the family business, struck by then rise of the gold price and the fall of the dollar, in 1978 to the German VDO Adolf Schindling AG, also owner of the traditional manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre. Both watch brands came to Mannesmann in 1991. Hans Ernst Homberger died 1986 at the age of 77 years.

The era Günter Blümlein

IWC Destriero Scafusia
© IWC
IWC Destriero Scafusia Rückseite
© IWC

During the severe turbulences in the Swiss watch industry at the end of the seventies, in Schaffhausen the gifted patron Günter Blümlein paved the way - against the Zeitgeist of the electronic age - in favour of mechanics, of innovation and of the technically demanding men's watch. Out of this self-understanding the winking message has been developed: "IWC - since 1868. And as long as there are still men." Because after long the men's watch has become also a women's issue.

The Ingenieur (Engineer), first published in 1955 and redesigned by the famous watch designer Gérald Genta, becomes a classic. Other well-known models are the Pilot's Watch Mark XI, presented in 1948, with its protection against magnetic fields. For 25 years it is the official timepiece of the British Air Force. Then its successors gradually appear: Mark XII, Mark XV and Mark XVI, the Pilot's Chronograph and of course the series Porsche Design by IWC, created by Ferdinand Alexander Porsche. This includes titanium watches like the Ocean 2000 and the famous in Compass watch, published in 1978. In 1980 the world's first titanium chronograph is presented.

In 1985 the Da Vinci was launched, a sophisticated and patented chronograph with perpetual calendar and moon phase indication. For the 125-year anniversary in 1993 the Destriero Scafusia appears (in English: Schaffhausen War-Horse). It brings together all 22 complications in itself, making it the world's most complicated watch built as standard. It is limited to 125 pieces and sold out soon.

In 1991 the IWC Director Günter Blümlein establishes the LMH group based in Schaffhausen. It holds 100% interest in the IWC, 60% of the traditional manufacture Jaeger-LeCoultre and 90% interest in the revived Saxon watch manufacturer A. Lange & Söhne, and it employs a workforce of approximately 1,440.

In the year 2000, the sale of Mannesmann to the British company Vodafone takes place, followed by the takeover of the Mannesmann watches group LMH by the South African Richemont Group (Rupert Family) at a price of 2.8 billion francs [2]. By the takeover the independence and continuity of the LMH brands as a closed unit under the existing management is ensured. 2001 IWC has 400 employees and an annual production of about 44,000 watches.

Technical innovations

IWC GST Deep One - the world's first mechanical diving watch with depth gauge
© IWC

Originals of horology emerged soon after the founding of the company, such as the Pallweber pocket watch with digital display of hours and minutes in 1885, which is now a coveted collector's item. As one of the first watch manufacturers IWC recognized the great potential of the emerging wristwatch at the end of the 19th century and developed new movements for it. But on the other hand they also installed the original pocket watch movements in wristwatches, when the market in the 1930s demanded large precision watches. Thus, upon request of two Portuguese businessmen to IWC, the Portugiese series emerged - trendsetter of the wristwatch in the "king" format until today.

IWC was there when the watches learned flying with the pioneers of aviation - and now has an extensive range of professional pilot's watches, equipped with a special magnetic field protection. And in the 1950s they not only competed in the race for the first self-winding movement, but with the so-called Pellaton winding developed an unmatched winding system, which is now back in their exclusive big automatic manufacture movements.

The special position of IWC

The special position of IWC is fundamental not only in history, but also in geography. So it remains the only watch manufacturer in eastern Switzerland, and therefore it is important for the manufacture's commitment and passion at the same time, to ensure the education of qualified talents producing high-quality mechanical watches. The apprenticeship with the federal diploma of Horloger completis the standard at IWC since 1950. This led 1968, to match the 100-year anniversary of the company, to the foundation of an own training center with 15 education places and two training courses. 2001, a new training regulation was established, offering more flexible perspectives to the prospective watchmakers.

The perfection of the craft, the training of its specialists, the renunciation of the production of bulk products: all this fits to the old principle of IWC to make watches only for a few, but with highest quality. That is also why the watches survive decades when careful maintained. And why they are now rare collectors' items which attain fancy prices everywhere in the world.

Since the company exists from IWC always originate important impulses for the mechanical watch. With about 500 employees, the manufacture produces the coveted pieces and despite a substantial annual production of about 70,000 watches it puts more emphasis on classical and high-quality watchmaking than on high quantities. [3]

Literature

Address

International Watch Co.
Baumgartenstr. 15
CH-8200 Schaffhausen
Tel. +41 (0) 52/635 65 65

Weblinks

Resources

  1. Source: Gerd-Lothar Reschke Das ZEITGEFÜHL-Uhrenbuch , Leipzig 2005, p. 104; all rights to IWC, with the permission of the author
  2. see report of 21 July 2000 in www.news.ch: Richemont acquires LMH watches for 3 billion Franks (as seen at 26.1.2008)
  3. Parts of the original article in German have been to my knowledge been created by Franz Mattes, so he should be named as part of resource.

If page is in German,
please translate here