Established in 1868, IWC Schaffhausen has continued to make waves in the horology world since producing its first watch movement known as the Jones calibre.
Named after the company's founder, American watchmaker and engineer Florentine Arisoto Jones, it represented the first step to his dream: producing high quality watch movements and parts for the American market by melding modern technologies from the continent with skilled Swiss labour.
Some 70 stores worldwide and numerous collections later, IWC celebrates its 150th anniversary this year.
A family tradition
IWC’s history is a long and storied one, marked by business and technical triumphs. The brand has also weathered its share of storms including tumultuous periods such as the Quartz Crisis that almost crippled the Swiss watchmaking industry.
Since its acquisition by the Richemont Group in 2000, IWC’s revenue has not only grown an estimated 20 times — making it the largest pure watchmaking brand within the group’s portfolio — the brand has also consolidated the numerous watches that it has produced over the years into six distinct product families.
These have undergone periodic revisions and reinventions to maintain their relevance. The Pilot’s Watch collection is among its most recognisable, featuring design and technical codes established by B-Uhr watches (Beobachtungs-uhren, literally translated as “observation watch”) produced by IWC and a few of its contemporaries in the 1940s.
The Portugieser is another calling card for IWC. First introduced in 1939 as the Ref. 325, it was created to fulfil two Portuguese businessmen’s requests for a wristwatch with high timekeeping precision. Following a generally muted reception among consumers, Ref. 325 was discontinued in the 1970s. Its reintroduction in 1993 as the Portugieser, however, was met with much fanfare, and it has remained a mainstay within IWC’s product line-up since then.
Like the Portugieser, the Portofino is a dressier option within IWC’s stable, but comes pared down with simpler designs. Its baton-shaped hour markers are punctuated with Roman numeral indexes at six and 12 o’clock, while the watch’s bezel is thicker, with similarly proportioned lugs rounding out its design.
The Da Vinci is IWC’s shapeshifting collection, with designs and movements closely reflecting the zeitgeist dating back to 1969. Although the watch has had shaped (instead of round) cases at different points in its history, its present iteration most closely reflects a design from 1985, with a round case and articulating lugs.
Rounding up the watch families are the Aquatimer and the Ingenieur. The former features timepieces purpose-built for diving, characterised by overtly sporty creations with tough oversized cases, notched bezels and high water resistance.
The latter, designed with scientists, explorers, and other similar professions in mind, veers aesthetically between the classic and the avant-garde. It has enjoyed several revisions over the years, but at its heart remain its shock-, water-, and magnetic-resistances that ensure its dependability in various conditions.
Heralding a new era of watchmaking excellence
With the exception of the Aquatimer and the Ingenieur, these watch families are featured in the Jubilee Collection marking IWC's 150th anniversary. The collection of 29 new limited edition designs was unveiled at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie Genève 2018 in January.
In distilling 150 years of history into one cohesive collection, IWC has put together a remarkable range with varying prices and technical complexities that will speak to both aficionados and newcomers alike.
Overall, the Jubilee Collection is an ode to classic timepieces, sporting a unified look that recalls wrist and pocket watches of an earlier age. All the designs feature polished cases, even those like the Pilot’s Watch that normally have satin-brushed cases to better convey their technical slant.
The polished cases are matched with alligator leather straps — yet another anomaly given how some models typically feature rugged calf leather instead. Dials are also rendered in lacquer with either white-on-blue or black-on-white colourways, a fitting nod to the enamelled dials of yesterday.
Reinventing the classics
The Jubilee Collection’s flagship is the Tribute To Pallweber Edition “150 Years” timepiece, a modern take on a similar pocket watch IWC produced from 1884 and based on a patented system developed by Austrian watchmaker Josef Pallweber.
It is available as a pocket watch measuring 52mm across, or a smaller wristwatch with a 45mm case. Both feature have identical movements that took five years to develop; the technical highlight here is a set of digital displays for both the hour and the minutes.
The rest of the collection comprises aesthetically adapted new and existing models of the Pilot’s Watch, Portugieser, Portofino, and Da Vinci families.
The Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “150 Years” has a fresh design while the Big Pilot’s Watch Big Date Edition “150 Years” marks the first time a large date complication has been implemented in the Pilot’s Watch collection.
The Portugieser collection, too, has contributed staples such as the Portugieser Hand-Wound Eight Days Edition “150 Years”. This is balanced by the new Portugieser Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon Edition “150 Years”, which combines the tourbillon with celebrated IWC watchmaker Kurt Klaus’s perpetual calendar module for the first time.
Entries from the Da Vinci and Portofino collection have focused on popular existing models, with the former also offering gem-set models that will appeal to ladies.
With the Jubilee Collection, IWC celebrates its accomplishments in watchmaking in both the areas of design and technical development.
Beyond a commemorative milestone, the collection’s sheer breadth of designs and technical complexities is a strong signal of the brand’s capabilities - signalling its intentions to build on its successes for many more years.
For more information about the collection, click here.