International Watch Company

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International Watch Company
Type Watch maker
Industry Watch making
Founded 1868
Headquarters Schaffhausen, Switzerland
Area served Worldwide
Products Watches
Employees 309
Parent Richemont International SA
Website iwc.com

International Watch Co., also known as IWC, is a high-end Swiss watch manufacturer located in Schaffhausen, Switzerland. IWC is an active member of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry FH.

IWC Schaffhausen is notable for being the only major Swiss watch factory located in eastern Switzerland, as the majority of the well-known Swiss watch manufacturers are located in western Switzerland.[1] The lingua franca of IWC is German.[2]

Motto[edit]

IWC's motto is Probus Scafusia (L.), meaning "good, solid craftsmanship from Schaffhausen"[3] and was established in 1903 as the "Official Motto".[4]

History[edit]

Creation[edit]

IWC Grande Complication

In 1868, an American engineer and watchmaker Florentine Ariosto Jones (1841–1916) [5] who had been a director of E. Howard & Co., in Boston, then America's leading watchmaking company, founded the International Watch Company with the intention of combining the craftsmanship of the Swiss with the modern engineering technology from the U.S. to manufacture movements and watch parts for the American market."[6] At the time, wages in Switzerland were relatively low although there was a ready supply of skilled watchmaking labor"[6] mainly carried out by people in their homes. Jones encountered opposition to his plans in French-speaking Switzerland because people feared for their jobs"[6] and the work they did at home because Jones wanted to open a factory.

In 1850 the town of Schaffhausen was in danger of being left behind in the Industrial Age. It was at this stage that watch manufacturer and industrialist Johann Heinrich Moser stepped in and did the region a huge service. As a pioneer of hydropower, he built Schaffhausen's first hydroelectric plant and laid the cornerstone for future industrialization."[7] He probably met F.A. Jones in Le Locle and showed great interest in his plans. Together, they laid the foundations for the only watch manufacturers in north-eastern Switzerland: The International Watch Company in Schaffhausen.

Early stages[edit]

IWC factory in Schaffhausen.

In 1869 F.A. Jones rented the first factory premises in an industrial building owned by J.H. Moser in Rheinstraße. Very soon he had to rent further rooms in the Oberhaus, one of the oldest buildings in Schaffhausen. By 1874 plans were already being made for a new factory and a site was purchased from Moser's hydroelectric company which was directly adjacent to the banks of the Rhine and called the Baumgarten. Schaffhausen architect G. Meyer won the order to design and build the factory. A year later, in the spring of 1875, the construction work was completed. At first, 196 people worked in the 45 meter long factory, which could accommodate up to 300 workplaces.

IWC and the Rauschenbach family[edit]

The Portuguese series of watches

Johann Rauschenbach-Vogel, Chief Executive Officer and a machine manufacturer from Schaffhausen, took over the INTERNATIONALE UHRENFABRIK on 17 February 1880. Four generations of the Rauschenbach family owned IWC, with varying names.

Only a year after the sale, Johannes Rauschenbach died. His son, Johannes Rauschenbach-Schenk, was 25 years old when he took over the UHRENFABRIK VON J. RAUSCHENBACH and ran it successfully until his own death on 2 March 1905.

Another significant role on the way to the company's success was played by Urs Haenggi from Nunningen in the canton of Solothurn. He had got to know the watch business in French-speaking Switzerland and France; in 1883 he joined IWC and stayed with the company for 52 years. He was responsible for getting factory operations up and running smoothly and acquiring new customers. He was also responsible for warding off the prospect of the outside interests acquiring IWC "in the interest of the noble Rauschenbach family".

After the death of J. Rauschenbach-Schenk in 1905, his wife, two daughters and their husbands, Ernst Jakob Homberger (director of G. Fischer AG in Schaffhausen) and Dr. Carl Jung (psychoanalyst and psychiatrist), took over the watch factory as an open trading company by the name of the UHRENFABRIK VON J. RAUSCHENBACH'S ERBEN. E.J. Homberger was the only authorized signatory, Haenggi and Vogel were directors.

Following the death of his father-in-law, Ernst Jakob Homberger had a considerable influence on the Schaffhausen watchmaking company's affairs and guided it through one of the most turbulent epochs in Europe's history. Just before the world economic crisis, he took over as sole proprietor and renamed the company UHRENFABRIK VON ERNST HOMBERGER-RAUSCHENBACH, formerly INTERNATIONAL WATCH CO. His contribution was honored in 1952, when he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of St. Gallen. He died in 1955, aged 85 years.

Hans Ernst Homberger was the third and last of the Rauschenbach heirs to run the factory as a sole proprietor. He had joined his father's company in 1934 and took control after his death in April 1955. In 1957 he added a new wing to the factory and in the same year set up a modern pension fund for the staff. He bought new machines to meet new demands and continuously brought his production technology up to what were considered the very latest standards. He died in 1986 at the age of 77.

Prominent technicians[edit]

Technician Johann Vogel from Wangen an der Aare in Solothurn played an important role as technical director. He designed and developed IWC calibers until 1919.

In 1885, IWC manufactured the first digital watch based on a patent granted to an Austrian by the name of Pallweber. It was a simple design, but was unable to replace the traditional analogue display.

Electrical era[edit]

In 1888 electricity began to take over at the watch factory. J. Rauschenbach had a power line installed which supplied it with electricity. During the first few years the electrical power was probably used only for lighting purposes and the galvanic gold-plating of watch movement parts. Shortly before the turn of the century, the company started converting its production machines to electricity. An electric motor made by Brown, Boveri & Co. from Baden powered the engines in the factory, transmitting the energy via a complicated arrangement of shafts and drive belts in the factory workshops. These were later replaced during the 1930s with individually powered machines.

1900-1960[edit]

During the period just before and after the First World War, E.J. Homberger devoted himself to devising and setting up social institutions. He extended the living quarters for factory employees and established a fund for widows and orphans. In 1929, the name of the fund was changed to the J.Rauschenbach Foundation and in 1949 he founded the Watch Company Welfare Foundation.

On April 1, 1944, as a result of a fatal error, Schaffhausen was bombed by the United States Army Air Forces. The watch factory was hit by a bomb which failed to detonate after crashing through the rafters. The flames from incendiaries exploding nearby penetrated the building through the broken windows but were extinguished by the company's own fire brigade.

After World War II, IWC was forced to change its focus. All of Eastern Europe had fallen under the Iron Curtain, and the economy of Germany was in shambles. As a result, old contacts and connections with other countries in Europe and the Americas as well as Australia and the Far East were revived and intensified or established.

1970s - present[edit]

The IWC Da Vinci (Musée International d'Horlogerie, La Chaux-De-Fonds, Switzerland)
IWC Fliegeruhr day date chronograph.

In the 1970s and 80s, the Swiss watchmaking industry underwent a phase of far-reaching technological change. Following in the wake of the use of miniaturized electric batteries as a source of energy for wristwatches from the late 1940s onwards and the invention of the transistor in 1947, purely mechanical watch technology developed into a hybrid discipline of precision mechanics and electronics.

IWC managed to avoid investing heavily in expensive and eventually unsuccessful technologies, such as the electronically controlled balance. The UHRENFABRIK H. E. HOMBERGER co-founded and was a shareholder in the "Centre Électronique Horloger" (CEH) in Neuchâtel and was financially involved in the development of the Beta 21 quartz wristwatch movement, which was first presented to the public at the 1969 Industrial Fair in Basel. In actual value terms, this movement accounted for about 5-6% of total sales of quartz watches. Parallel to this, the company expanded its collection of jeweler watches to include ladies watches with mechanical movements. The year 1973 was IWC's most successful of the post-war period.

The cataclysmic rise in gold prices in 1974 had grave consequences for the watch exporting industry. Between 1970 and 1974 the price of gold rose from 4850 to 18 000 francs and the value of the dollar against the Swiss currency plummeted by up to 40%. As a result, the price of watch exports rose by as much as 250%. At the same time Japan was flooding the market with cheap quartz watches.

A change of direction was necessary and this led to the adoption of a number of measures. In order to survive, IWC, under the leadership of Director and CEO Otto Heller, built up a line of high-quality pocket watches, and, apart from setting up its own modern wristwatch and case manufacturing facilities, began working closely with Ferdinand A. Porsche as an external designer. In addition, IWC pioneered new watchmaking technologies, notably the first titanium bracelets, developed in 1978.

For its new plans IWC required a high level of venture capital. With the help of the Swiss Banking Corporation, the company was put in contact with VDO Adolf Schindling AG, which took a majority interest in IWC in 1978.

The IWC GST (Ref. 3707)

At the same time, IWC reacquired the name it had originally been given by its founder F.A. Jones (INTERNATIONAL WATCH CO. AG).

In 1981, Kawal Singh succeeded H.E. Homberger as general manager following the latter's retirement on age grounds. The new director, Günter Blümlein, pushed for rapid implementation of planned changes, put the existing advertising campaign to work, built up the customer base, and solidified IWC's finances.

In 1991 IWC director Günter Blümlein founded the LMH Group with its headquarters in Schaffhausen. With a 100% stake in IWC, 60% in Jaeger-LeCoultre and 90% in the Saxony-based watchmaking company of A. Lange & Söhne, the Group employed some 1440 persons.

In July 2000, LMH was acquired by Richemont, a Zug-based luxury goods group, for CHF 2.8 bn. Despite the takeover by Richemont, IWC was guaranteed that it would continue to be managed by the same executives from the LMH Group.

In the year 2001 IWC went online with the Collectors Forum.

Sales history[edit]

The company began keeping detailed records for every watch that has left the factory since 1885. Since 1885, details of the caliber, materials used and cases have been entered into the records. In the case of later models, these also include the reference number, delivery date and the name of the authorized dealer. For a small fee, the owner can obtain precise information about their watch, as long as the watch is at least ten years old.[8]

The company claims that its service department has the parts and is capable of repairing and maintaining watches from every era since IWC's foundation in 1868."[9]

IWC movements[edit]

Movements in the bulk of IWC's lower range watches and chronographs (including the Portuguese Chronograph) use movements delivered directly from Swatch-owned ETA, previously in line with industry practice IWC purchased ebauche kits from ETA and its subsidiary Valjoux which it heavily modified but due to ETA's decision to stop selling ebauche kits to its competitors it now delivers the movements fully completed. It is no longer the case that the Caliber 30110 is a modified ETA 2892A2, and the Caliber 79230/79320/79350 is a modified ETA/Valjoux 7750. The shift began taking place in approximately 2006 according to industry sources and was entirely complete across all movements by 2010.

Movements not based on ETA movements include the Caliber 5000 and the Caliber 8000, which use the Pellaton winding system, and the pocket watch movements used in the Portuguese F.A. Jones and other IWC pocket watches. IWC also used a JLC meca-quartz movement in their older Portofino chronographs.

On-line auction[edit]

The Big Pilot Saint Exupéry edition.

Since 1997, IWC has been offering a unique horological item for on-line auction annually on its website. The proceeds are donated to the Ecole des Sables – Antoine de Saint Exupéry school in Mali. The school provides education for Tuareg children.

In 2007, the Company auctioned a platinum version of the Pilot's Watch Automatic Edition Antoine de Saint Exupéry, Reference 3201. The watch was made as a tribute to the French author and aviation pioneer. It was auctioned together with an original copy of Exupery's debut novel, Courrier Sud (Southern Mail), featuring a handwritten dedication by the author.[10] In 2009 IWC introduced the Big Pilot edition Antoine de Saint Exupéry in 1900 pieces. Only one of them will be in platinum and will be auctioned for charity.[11]

Publication[edit]

The IWC Flagship Store in Hong Kong

Four times a year, IWC publishes a customer magazine titled, Watch International. This publication is available in German, French and English, and includes stories, articles and features about IWC. "[12][13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Watches from IWC, IWC Schaffausen, Branch of Richemont International SA, Schaffhausen, March 2006, at page 226.
  2. ^ Shaping up, Watch International, IWC, Schaffausen, Nr.2/2005, July 2005, at p.43
  3. ^ Watches from IWC, at page 226.
  4. ^ Watches from IWC, at page 11; 227, n. 3.
  5. ^ Watch-Wiki: Florentine Ariosto Jones
  6. ^ a b c Watches from IWC, at page 9.
  7. ^ Watches from IWC, at page 10.
  8. ^ Watches from IWC, at page 246.
  9. ^ Watches from IWC, at page 249.
  10. ^ IWC in Tribute of Antoine de Saint Exupery
  11. ^ Big Pilot's Watch Edition Antoine de Saint Exupéry, iwc.com
  12. ^ Watches from IWC, at page 259.
  13. ^ Watch International Magazine, IWC website.

External links[edit]