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In 1868, an American watchmaker and engineer named F A Jones left E. Howard and Co. of Boston, America’s leading watchmaking company and headed for Switzerland. Not for the first time, an American had held the idea of combining Swiss craftsmanship with American industrial technology. Where other had failed, Jones was determined to succeed.
He rented his first factory premises from J. H. Moser, a Swiss industrialist and pocket watch manufacturer who had just transformed the fortunes of the town of Schaffhausen by building a hydro-electric power station. Only 5 years later, plans were being laid for a larger factory and in 1875 work on the new premises was completed.
In 1880 Johann Rauschenbach-Vogel, a machine maker from Schaffhausen, took over the company. He and the next three generations of his family ran the company for the next hundred years.
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.
IWC passed through the generations of the Rauchenbach family changing its name as it did so. In 1905 acclaimed psychiatrist Dr Carl Jung became involved in the running of the company as he was the son-in law of J. Rauschenbach-Schenk, along with Ernst Jakob Homberger. Just before the Great Depression, Homberger took over as sole proprietor and changed the name to Uhrenfabrik Von Ernst Homberger-Rauschenbach.
The position of the factory near to the hydro-electric plant in Schaffhausen meant that the company was one of the early adopters of electricity, initially for lighting and electro-plating but later for powering the machines.
In the 1960s IWC managed to avoid investing in electronic technology. Instead they were involved in the development of the Beta21 quartz movement, launched in 1969. In the early 1970s the same “perfect storm” of circumstance that overwhelmed the whole Swiss watchmaking industry caused a radical shake-up at IWC. I huge rise in the gold price, coupled with a plunging dollar and a flood of quartz watches from Japan, demanded a new direction.
In 1978 this led to collaboration with Ferdinand A. Porsche to create the first range of Porsche design watches. This featured a number of innovations, principally the first use of titanium as a material for watch bracelets. In this year the company re-acquired the name IWC.
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 and 90% in the Saxony-based watchmaking company of A. Lange & Söhne. In 2000, the group was acquired by the Richemont group.
Number of times sold at auction