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IWC International Watch Co. AG, doing business as IWC Schaffhausen, is a luxury Swiss watch manufacturer located in Schaffhausen, Switzerland. It was founded by American watchmaker Florentine Ariosto Jones in 1868.
IWC is a subsidiary of Switzerland-based Richemont Group. IWC 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. The lingua franca of IWC is German. In addition, IWC has been recognized as a forerunner in watchmaking industry committed to environmental protection and sustainable development.
In 1868, American engineer and watchmaker Florentine Ariosto Jones (1841–1916), 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 Swiss craftsmanship with the modern engineering technology from the U.S. to manufacture watch movements and other watch parts for the American market." At the time, wages in Switzerland were relatively low although there was a ready supply of skilled watchmaking labor, mainly carried out by people in their homes. Jones encountered opposition to his plans in French-speaking Switzerland because Jones wanted to open a factory.
In 1850 the town of Schaffhausen was in danger of being left behind in the Industrial Age. At this stage, watch manufacturer and industrialist Johann Heinrich Moser built Schaffhausen's first hydroelectric plant and laid the cornerstone for future industrialization.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.
IWC factory in Schaffhausen.
In 1869 F.A. Jones rented the first factory premises in an industrial building owned by J.H. Moser at the 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
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 Carl Gustav Jung, took over the watch factory as an open trading company named as the Uhrenfabrik von J. Rauschenbach's Erben - watch manufacturer of the heirs of J. Rauschenbach. 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 honoured in 1952, when he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of St. Gallen. He died in 1955, aged 85 years.
Hans 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 latest standards. He died in 1986 at the age of 77.
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.
In 1888 electricity began to take over at the watch factory. J. Rauschenbach had a powerline 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.
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 1 April 1944, as a result of an 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.
In the mid century, IWC rolled out its famed Caliber 89 movement. This mechanically-wound movement powered IWC models from the 1940s until the early 1990s. It gained a reputation for exceptional accuracy and longevity. Many of the early models are still fully functional.
1970s - present
The IWC Da Vinci (Musée International d'Horlogerie, La Chaux-De-Fonds, Switzerland)
In the 1970s and 80s, the Swiss watchmaking industry underwent a phase of far-reaching technological change. The era saw the first use of miniaturized electric batteries as a source of energy for wristwatches and some 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 and used by other manufactures such as the Omega Electroquartz watches. In value terms, this movement accounted for about 5-6% of total sales of quartz watches. Parallel to this, the company expanded its collection of jeweller watches to include ladies watches with mechanical movements. 1973 was IWC's most successful year 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 4,850 to 18,000 francs and the value of the US 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 Bank 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 (the other 40% was owned by Audemars Piguet), and 90% in the Saxony-based watchmaking company of A. Lange & Söhne. The Group employed some 1,440 persons.
In July 2000, LMH was acquired by Richemont, a Zug-based luxury goods behemoth, for CHF 2.8 billion. Despite the takeover by Richemont, IWC was guaranteed that it would continue to be managed by the same executives from the LMH Group.
In 2001 IWC went online with the Collectors Forum.
The company began keeping detailed records for each 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.
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.
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. Despite ETA/Swatch's decision to stop selling ebauche kits to its competitors beginning in 2007, significant modifications are made to the completed ETA 2892 by IWC at the manufacture to create the Caliber 30110, as is the case with Calibers 79230/79320/79350 which are modified ETA/Valjoux 7750 movements.
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 Portugieser chronographs.
Top 5 gold producing nations
In December 2018, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) released an official report giving environmental ratings for 15 major watch manufacturers and jewelers in Switzerland. IWC received a high rating as "Ambitious" and was ranked No. 1 among the 15 manufacturers.Being the only manufacturer examined to receive such rating, IWC was reported to have shown some "serious commitment towards a sustainable transformation, but with substantial potential for improvement".
In jewelry and watchmaking industry, there are general concerns over the lack of transparency in manufacturing activities and the sourcing of precious raw materials such as gold, which is a major cause of environmental issues such as pollution, soil degradation and deforestation.It is estimated that the watch and jewelry sector uses over 50% of world's annual gold production (over 2,000 tons), but in most cases the watch companies are not able to or are unwilling to demonstrate where their raw materials come from and if the material suppliers use eco-friendly sourcing technologies.Since early 2000s, IWC has been actively engaged in environmental protection and sustainable development. In 2018, IWC committed to transparency and became the first Swiss luxury watch brand to publish a sustainability report based on the global best-practice standards of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).
The Big Pilot Saint Exupéry edition.
Since 1997, IWC has been offering a unique horological item for online auction annually on its website, donating proceeds 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. In 2009 IWC introduced the Big Pilot edition Antoine de Saint Exupéry in 1,900 pieces. Only one of them will be in platinum and will be auctioned for charity.
The IWC Flagship Store in Hong Kong
Four times a year, IWC publishes a customer magazine, Watch International. This publication is available in German, French, and English. The magazine includes feature stories about IWC, and other articles.
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