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Watch Brands 101: IWC Schaffhausen

By: B.A Morley, Editor, TheWatchIndex.com
Updated July 03, 2019
Watch Brands 101 IWC Schaffhausen

Watch Brands 101: IWC Schaffhausen

The International Watch Company (IWC) is based in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, and the brand is best known for their pilot watches and dress watches. Today IWC Schaffhausen is a part of the Richemont Group.

Brand: IWC Schaffhausen

Pronunciation: IWC shaff HOWZ in

Location: Switzerland

Average Cost: $5,000 to $20,000 

The History of IWC

The History of IWC

Florentine Ariosto Jones was a watchmaker from Boston Massachusetts, and in 1868 he founded the International Watch Company in Schaffhausen, Switzerland. From its beginning, the brand has been inspired by the American spirit, and Jones’s primary aim was to produce high-quality pocket watches for the American market.

In 1880 Jones decided to return to the United States, and he sold the company to the Rauschenbach family, an industrialist family from Schaffhausen. In 1899 the International Watch Company produced their first wristwatch, a ladies wristwatch with a 63-calibre ladies’ pocket watch movement (pictured).

In 1903 Bertha Margaretha, a Rauschenbach daughter, married Ernst Jakob Homberger, and in 1905 Homberger took control of the company. During the Homberger era, the International Watch Company produced the first “Spezialuhr fur Flieger” (also known as the “Special Pilot’s Watch) and the first Portugieser. The “Special Pilot’s Watch” (pictured) was the brand’s first pilot’s watch, but it was not the last. Today IWC is known for creating reliable pilot watches. As for the first Portugieser, this watch launched a collection that is still very popular today.

In 1955 Hans Ernst Homberger became the last private owner of IWC, and in that same year, the brand launched the first Ingenieur. A few years later in 1967, IWC launched their first dive watch, the Aquatimer.

During the quartz crisis in the 1970s and 80s, IWC focused on creating highly technical watches with elaborate complications. This strategy of focusing on the beauty of mechanical watches set IWC apart from their competition, and this helped the brand survive the quartz crisis. The first Da Vinci watch was produced during this time, and this was the first watch to feature both a chronograph and a perpetual calendar.

In 2000, IWC was acquired by the Richemont Group and today the brand continues to produce quality watches with innovative designs and complications. 

IWC Pilot’s Watch Collection

IWC Pilot's Watch Mark XVIII Edition "Le Petit Prince"

The two most popular collections from IWC are the Portugieser collection and the Pilot’s Watch collection. Both of these collections launched in the 1930s, and they are IWC’s two oldest collections.

The Pilot’s Watch collection was launched in 1936 with the “Spezialuhr fur Flieger” (the “Special Pilot’s Watch”), and this watch was anti-magnetic and resistant to fluctuations in temperature. Due to demand, the collection was expanded in 1940 to include the first Big Pilot’s Watch.

IWC’s pilot watches were inspired by the cockpit instruments found in planes. The dial is reduced to the bare essentials to make it easy to quickly read the time. The dial also features luminescent hands and indices, so the time can be read in less than ideal conditions. As for the crown, the original pilot watches had large crowns that were designed to be easy to grip even when wearing thick gloves.

IWC pilot watches generally cost between $4,000 and $15,000; however, some of their more complicated watches are priced up to $35,000.  

The watch pictured is the IWC Pilot's Watch Mark XVIII Edition "Le Petit Prince."

IWC Portugieser Collection

IWC Portugieser Chronograph

The Portugieser collection is also incredibly popular among watch collectors. This collection was launched in 1939, and it is comprised of highly technical dress watches. The Portugieser has an iconic design that originated in the 1930s. This design features simple Arabic numerals, slim feuille hands, a railway-track-style chapter ring, and a large dial.    

This IWC collection features complications such as the tourbillon, chronograph, perpetual calendar, minute repeater, and moonphase display. But IWC doesn’t just focus on the technology, these watches also feature highly detailed movements and dials.

IWC Portugieser watches generally cost between $7,000 and $50,000; however, some of their more complicated watches are priced up to $200,000.

The watch pictured is the IWC Portugieser Chronograph. 

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