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Since its inception in 1868, IWC has been cementing its motto of 'Probus Scafusia', meaning 'good, solid craftsmanship from Schaffhausen'. Modern IWC watches undergo rigorous development and extensive testing, using advanced electric discharge machines, to ensure these standards are still adhered to over a century later. Read moreView all
Some watch brands have a certain inimitable style, and the International Watch Company is one of them. Distinguished by striking designs and unmatchable quality, IWC watches have held a special place in the hearts of watch enthusiasts since the company’s inception in 1868.
Fresh from his directorship at the American watch company E. Howard and Co., engineer and watchmaker Florentine Ariosto Jones set about opening a factory in Switzerland with the intention of combining American engineering with Swiss precision. It would be the basis of his new company, IWC. He immediately hit a snag when the watchmakers in the French-speaking areas of Switzerland—who traditionally worked from home—opposed his decision to open a factory.
White coal pioneer Johann Heinrich Moser began discussions with Florentine to open the factory in the German-speaking area of Switzerland instead, specifically in Schaffhausen. Johann had brought industrialisation to Schaffhausen with his hydro-electric plant, and the power it produced was perfect for the machines Florentine needed to make watches. In 1868, under the power of the River Rhine, IWC was born.
The company came on to the watchmaking scene with a bang, introducing the world’s first digital mechanical pocket watches in 1885. The Pallweber had windows cut into the dial, through which rotating discs displayed the hours and minutes. The public began to take notice of the watchmaker immediately.
The brand continued developing pocket watch movements to make them smaller and more compact for use in ladies’ pocket watches. These movements ended up in the first IWC watches that could be worn on the wrist, produced towards the end of the 19th century. The in-house Calibre 64 movement was particularly favoured for its crown and sub-seconds arrangement.
It wasn’t until 1944 that the next significant advancement occurred at the company, when Albert Pellaton started his career as Technical Director. The first of his developments was a soft iron core in the case of the brand’s pilots’ watch, which protected the movement from magnetic fields. Next came the Pellaton automatic winding system, an ingenious pawl-operated design that allowed a movement to be wound in both directions while simultaneously providing exceptional shock resistance. It remains a patented feature in the company’s watches to this day.
But it’s not just the final product that demonstrates the brand’s level of quality: it’s the journey it takes to get there. Modern IWC watches undergo rigorous development and testing using advanced electric discharge machines and computer-aided design. The manufacture’s parts can be made with tolerances as little as 0.001 millimetres—one hundredth the width of a human hair. This applies to all of the brand’s models: the Pilots’ Watches, the Portofino, the Ingenieur, the Aquatimer, the Da Vinci and the Portuguese included.
It would be safe to assume that components manufactured to this level of detail would be delicate, but IWC watches refuse to obey the laws of physics. Each development watch undergoes a rigorous set of tests, one of which being the ‘chapuis extreme’, a test that involves the watch being shaken 264,000 times in a box at forces of up 500 G.
It is therefore fitting for the brand, whose quality and technology are unmatched by others, to have the motto ‘Probus Scafusia’—meaning ‘good, solid craftsmanship from Schaffhausen’. Perhaps that is an understatement.
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