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IWC's first movement was the so-called Jones calibre, named for the company founder. It was technically advanced for the 19th century, with a compensating balance, Breguet spring, and elongated regulation index. Soon the company introduced a smaller Cal. 64 for use in ladies watches as well as early wrist watches. In 1915, IWC introduced its first wristwatch-specific movements, Cal. 75 and 76.
In 1939, IWC created a series of oversized “Portugieser” watches using their Cal. 74 pocket watch movement. The company created another oversized watch around Cal. 52 T.S.C., the "Big" Pilot's Watch. Legendary engineer Albert Pellaton began contributing to the IWC legend in 1946 with the production of his Cal. 89, used in the Mark 11 Pilot's Watch from 1948.
In 1950, IWC introduced its first automatic movement, Cal. 81. This featured Pellaton's namesake winding system, which used levers rather than oscillating gears for greater torque. This movement's successors would remain in production through the company's golden age, ceasing in 1974.
Rebirth of the Manufacture
Like most Swiss manufacturers, IWC was hard-hit by the advent of quartz technology. In the 1980s, however, veteran engineer and Pellaton protege Kurt Klaus proposed that the company develop a complicated mechanical movement as a showcase piece. Klaus' novel perpetual calendar system appeared in 1985's Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar, launching the company and the entire Swiss watch industry on a new steadier course. This was followed by a grand complication, the appropriately-named 1990 Grande Complication, Ref. 3770 with Cal. 79091 which remains in production to this day.
IWC still used proven designs and ebauches for their movements, however. Like Klaus' Perpetual, the Grande Complication was modular, pairing IWC's revolutionary technology with the common Valjoux 7750 automatic chronograph movement. IWC would produce an entire family of movements on this base, reworking the movement into their Cal. 7900 and 79000 family. But they remained tied to rival Swatch Group's ETA as a movement supplier. This remains one of the most common IWC movements, though IWC switched to Sellita in the 2010s as a supplier of 7750 clones for their Cal. 75000 family.
IWC's other major family of mainstream movements was the time-only Cal. 3000 family. Like the 7900 family, these movements were based on an ETA ebauche The respected but common ETA 2892. IWC paired this movement with Klaus perpetual calendar and refined and refinished it to their specifications, but they remained tied to the fortunes of the Swatch Group. Beginning in 1998, IWC switched to the ETA 2892A2 for their Cal. 30000 family, all of which featured a refined winding system partly developed by former IWC engineer Richard Habring. The company still uses this design, switching to Sellita as a supplier for their Cal. 35000 family in the 2000s.
But IWC desired to be a true manufacture, having seen that this was the path ahead for the company. In 2000, IWC launched an in-house movement with less reliance on outside suppliers. Their Cal. 5000 required 6 years in development and was like nothing else in the industry. A huge 38.2 mm movement, it featured a 7-day power reserve from a single spring, wound by a new dual-lever version of the Pellaton winding system. Enthusiasts recognized the significance of this movement and raced to buy them, though production was severely limited.
Focus on In-House Movements
The company continued to expand in-house movement capability with Cal. 80000 family, launched in 2005. It was the company's first compact in-house movement since their heyday in the 1950s and 1960s. Although similar in design to common ETA movements, Cal. 80110 capitalized on the ruggedness of the Pellaton winding system to show the company's technical capabilities. Two years later, IWC launched the Cal. 89000 family of automatic chronograph movements. Again, IWC used the basic architecture of the Cal. 80110 but created their own unique movement on this base, this time an automatic chronograph with the signature flyback complication and Pellaton winding system. With the Cal 80110 and 89360 families, IWC achieved mass production of in-house movements once again.
2011 saw two more movement families launched, the hand-wound eight-day Cal. 59000 family and powerful double barrel Cal. 94000 family. Cal. 59360 is an oversized movement featuring traditional complications Monopusher chronograph, rocking pinion coupling, and a sautoir for the chronograph minutes indicator. Like Cal. 5000, it has a single barrel despite the long eight-day power reserve. Although conceptually similar, Cal. 94000 features two barrels for greater torque, allowing it to power complications like a tourbillon.
As of the 2010s, IWC is focusing on moving to all in-house movements. This is cemented with the Cal. 52000 family of 2015, Cal. 69000 family of 2016, and Cal. 82000 family of 2017. Cal. 52000 models feature automatic winding and double barrel power for the company's high-end time-only product offerings, replacing the Cal. 5000/50000 family. Cal. 69000 is an automatic chronograph movement and will appear in the majority of the company's chronograph watches, replacing the Valjoux-based Cal. 7900/75000/79000 family. Cal. 82000 is for mainstream time-only watches, replacing the ETA-based Cal. 3000/30000 family.
Current Movement Families
IWC's current movement strategy is as follows