Over 140 years ago, at the age of 27, American watchmaker and engineer Florentine Ariosto Jones started the International Watch Company. Although living in America for most of his life, his work took him to Switzerland, where he hoped to combine the craftsmanship of Swiss watches, with the technologies he’d learnt as an engineer in America.
Initially, when he started the company, Aristo Jones was met with scepticism. Here he was, an American with dreams of starting a major, modern watch company, whilst most other watchmakers of the time worked from small workshops, with well-practiced traditions and an adherence to traditional rules.
One of the main reasons that the pioneering engineer was able to make a success of this endeavour was because of his ability to combine this proud tradition and heritage of Schaffhausen with his pioneering and futuristic spirit. From its humble beginnings in the year 1868, by 1875 IWC was building a new headquarters on the banks of the river Rhine. The company employed 196 people by this point, and had already developed a reputation for quality and technically excellent watches.
Through the years, IWC changed hands a number of times, whilst retaining its core values and prestige. The company created the first watches with a digital hour and minutes display in 1885, and created their famed Magique pocket watch for the first time in 1887. The first “Special Pilot’s watch” – one of the brand’s most famous styles to this day – was released in 1936. This watch had a rotating bezel, and could be used to register take off times. Due to high demand, International Watch Company developed the Big Pilots Watch which had a central seconds hand in 1940. The industry-changing Portuguese was born just 3 years later, known for their large size and high precision.
The markings W.W.W. (watch, wrist, waterproof) started to appear on the back of cases in 1944, and Albert Pellaton Joined as Director of the International Watch Company in this year. Six Years later, Pellaton designed his first model, the 89 calibre movement, which came with a central seconds hand and the characteristic accuracy which IWC have become renowned for through the decades.
In 1955, Hans Ernst Homberger became International Watch Company’s last private owner, and the Ingenieur with an automatic winding mechanism was launched. Water resistant watches for divers also started to become successful at this point, notably the Aquatimer, which set a new standard for professional underwater watches.
The year 1978 saw a new owner - VDO Adolf Schindling - take the helm. An instrument manufacturer from Germany, the company created the world’s first titanium-cased chronograph in a titanium case just 2 years later. In 1986, zirconium oxide, a scratch-resistant modern ceramic was used as a new case material, once again proving the brand’s dedication to modernity and quality.
Through the late 20th century, and to this day, the International Watch Company continue to design and launch many different designs of timepiece, suited to both the men’s and women’s markets. The year 2000 saw International Watch Company’s new owners, Richemont take over.
As the years go by, the company continues to launch new models, driven by a passion for technical excellence which has been retained for over 140 years. In 2016, IWC launched a new Portugeiser line, and 2016 saw a new Pilot’s line introduced. There’s certainly a lot more to look forward to from this fascinating company.