Very few watch companies can compete with the prestigious quality and stunning craftsmanship that IWC employs at its manufacturing headquarters in Schaffhausen, Switzerland. Collectors consider IWC timepieces to be coveted rarities. Discovering the company’s rich history and special role in the great horologic feats of the 19th and 20th centuries allows one to truly value the watchmaker’s grandeur.
An American engineer from Boston by the name of Florentine Ariosto Jones established the International Watch Company in 1868. Schaffhausen’s rich history in horology dates back to the 15th century, and provided a nurturing home full of skilled watch makers for the newly founded company. The original watch factory was located in the city’s oldest building positioned alongside the Rhine River, far from the watch making centers of western Switzerland. The city’s romantic scenery was untouched by the bustle and roar of the industrialization that had swept the rest of Europe. The only “modern” machine in the city was a hydroelectric power station that utilized the river’s water for energy. Ariosto decided to build the factory alongside the river in order to have access to the power station. This was revolutionary, as electricity was something unheard of in factories at the time.
Remaining loyal to their traditional means of manufacturing, IWC continues to construct all of its watches by hand, utilizing as little machinery as possible. The luxury timepieces go through a fully manual assembly line that creates every single part of the watch. IWC does not purchase any components from third parties. The factory creates everything from the case material, to leather straps, to each movement out of scratch.
In 1885 the company created the world’s first digital watch that displayed time with numbers rather than analogously. The Palwebb watch was created with the help of a patent by an Austrian man named Patwebb. The genius design allowed the watch to display time with rotating digits. Today, the Patwebb is one of the most sought after timepiece collector’s items.
IWC also charters a watch making school inside the same manufacturing facility. The prestigious school has room for 30 students, and courses generally last for 2 years. The institute allows students to have hands on experience with incredibly complex movements. The school demonstrates IWC’s dedication to the art of horology. As maker of genius timepieces, teacher for the next generation of watchmakers, and pioneer in the field of watch-making, IWC is a brand whose legacy will not soon be forgotten.