The most important watches in IWC history
It was the spirit of endeavor that started the International Watch Company or, as you know it now, IWC.
In 1868, with the vision of creating Swiss-made pocket watch movements for the American market, watchmaker Florentine Ariosto Jones founded IWC in the town of Schaffhausen in Switzerland (that's where the last bit of its name originates), and the rest, as they say, is glorious history.
This year, IWC celebrates 150 years of tracking seconds, minutes, hours, months, and even years with a roster of highly technical and also beautiful watches such as the Portugieser, Ingenieur, Big Pilot, and Portofino.
Without a doubt, it stands among the very best luxury watchmakers in the world. And here, we count the most important timepieces that have led to this moment.
The Jones Calibre
Unlike conventional Swiss movements in 1870, the first Jones calibres were not fitted with finger bridges, but with three-quarter plates. This type of construction, widely adopted in the US, gave them greater stability and simplified the production of small parts.
The Pallweber Pocket Watch
In the summer of 1884, IWC ushered in the digital era with the introduction of the first pocket watches with jumping numerals. These were based on the Pallweber system, and showed the hours and minutes in large numerals on rotating discs.
In 1939, two businessmen from Portugal placed an order for a series of large wristwatches that could run as precisely as a marine chronometer. The curious request was for the captains and officers of the Portuguese merchant navy, who wanted a “seriously big watch” to wear on their wrists.
IWC decided to place the 74 calibre of a men’s pocket watch into a wristwatch case, and thus the first Portugieser—with an extra-large case diameter of 41.5 millimeters—was born. The railway-track-style chapter ring, the Arabic numerals, and the slender feuille hands that defined this piece's timeless quality were all introduced here.
The 85 Calibre And Ingenieur
In 1950, IWC launched its first in-house automatic movement, the 85 calibre. The highlight? A highly efficient automatic winding, which, unlike similar systems of the time, used the movement of the rotor in both directions to wind the mainspring. The 85 calibre with Pellaton winding was enthusiastically received and subsequently used in the first Ingenieur of 1955.
With the rise of scuba diving, IWC unveiled its first diver’s watch at the 1967 Basel Watch Show. Aside from being water-resistant to a depth of 200 meters, the Aquatimer featured a rotating bezel under the glass (read: zero impact on the case's water-resistance), which was operated using a second crown to set the dive time. The black dial with its large numerals and luminescent hands guaranteed optimum legibility even in conditions of poor visibility.
The Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar
Probably no other watch has left its mark on IWC's history than the Da Vinci with Kurt Klaus’ perpetual calendar. In 1985, with the quartz crisis at its height, IWC decided to create a mechanical perpetual calendar comprised of 82 individual components.
It was a design of ingenious simplicity: a calendar module combined with a chronograph. Many, many things to like here including a highly precise moon phase display that will deviate from the actual moon cycle by a single day after 122 years.
The Big Pilot’s Watch
Inspired by the Pilot’s Watch Calibre 52 T.S.C., IWC created the Big Pilot’s Watch, with its imposing diameter of 46 millimeters, in 2002. The big, chunky crown and extra long straps hark back to the early days of flying when pilots wore quilted flying suits and thick gloves, which otherwise made setting and winding difficult when synchronizing watches before each mission.