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02/17/2015
 3 minutes

Legendary Watch Brands: IWC Schaffhausen

By Christopher Beccan
IWC-Schaffhausen-Portugieser-Automatic
IWC Schaffhausen Portuguese Automatic Ref. 5001

The story of one of the most revered watch brands all started when 27-year-old engineer and watchmaker, Florentine Ariosto Jones from Boston, America, travelled to Switzerland and established the watch brand “International Watch Company” in 1868. With a highly skilled crew and some of the most modern machinery from overseas, Florentine had a vision. His initial intentions were to fuse Swiss crafted movements with modern engineering technology from America, to sell in the US market. However, Florentine encountered some problems, as the skilled craftsmen in the Geneva region and the remote valleys of western Switzerland met his plans with scepticism.

IWC Schaffhausen vintage watch
IWC Schaffhausen vintage watchImage: Auctionata

Some years later, in fear of being left behind in the industrial age, Florentine had the great luck of meeting Heinrich Moser, a watchmaker and a manufacturer from Schaffhausen that made pocket watches for, among others, the Russian empire. Moser, a pioneer in the industry, had just installed in Schaffhausen a hydraulic station run by the Rhine falls. This station provided cheap energy but to very few people. It was just what Jones needed and he settled the company IWC there. Not only was Florentine on his way to creating a great brand because of his excellent business acumen but he was also a very handy watch designer too. During the late 19th and early 20th century, IWC experienced some changes at the helm but their commitment to developing great timepieces never wavered.

In 1936 IWC presented the first watch designed especially for pilots that incorporated a rotating bezel with an arrowhead index that could be used to register take-off times. It was also fitted with an antimagnetic escapement. In 1939 IWC introduced, arguably one of their most iconic timepieces, the Portuguese. It was the result of two Portuguese business men who required a wristwatch that featured the precision of a marine chronometer. At the time the only way this was possible was to use a calibre from a high-quality pocket watch, simply because it had a larger balance, which delivers greater inertia, making the timepiece more precise. But little did IWC know that aesthetically, the Portuguese was ahead of its time.

IWC Schaffhausen Pilot Chronograph 3717
IWC Schaffhausen Pilot Chronograph

In 1948 the Mark 11 pilot’s watch marked another important milestone for IWC, which incorporated a soft inner case that protected the movement against magnetic fields. Many IWC wristwatches would later employ this protection and would lead to the wristwatch that would bear the name Ingenieur. In the latter part of the 1960s IWC would further increase their watch range by introducing the Aquatimer, IWC’s professional divers watch and also around that time, one of my personal favourites, the Yacht Club.

Today, like Vacheron Constantin and many other watch brands, IWC Schaffhausen are a part of the luxury corporation that is Richemont Group. And though some may argue this has somewhat diminished their character? IWC are still producing some of the world’s most simply stunning timepieces within their vast watch range that incorporates in-house manufactured movements. And today IWC are one of the very few watch manufacturers to have mastered and offer almost all complications in the watch industry that include: chronographs, perpetual calendars, minute repeaters and tourbillons, as well as some unique offerings like a digital perpetual calendar with flyback chronograph.

Today, like many years ago IWC timepieces still bear the same inscription – “Probus Scafusia”.

IWC Portuguese Chronograph Ref. 3714
IWC Portuguese Chronograph Ref. 3714Image: Auctionata

About the Author

Christopher Beccan

Christopher Beccan is the founder of the online magazine "Bexsonn," where he regularly writes about his two passions: extraordinary timepieces and whiskey. His work …

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