IWC Schaffhausen || 150 Years of Simple Elegance

How does a pioneering brand in the watch industry celebrate its history while continuing to look towards the future?

We had a conversation with David Seyffer, IWC Museum Curator, to discover the intricacies of watch design and how the brand has continued to evolve in all aspects to stay a recognized leader with its quality, craftsmanship and innovation.

P: Pendulum Magazine

D: David Seyffer, IWC Museum Curator


P: What makes an IWC watch different and unique from other timepieces? If a customer picked up an IWC watch, what would be the unique about the experience?

D: Since its foundation IWC has been famous for pure, clear and archetypical 'watch' design codes, which result in simple elegance. If you look at our 6 watch families, all have a well-established design history. I’d like to give you an example: our Big Pilot watch - this a remarkable design featuring an oversized case and clear dial graphics. All these design codes are based on the 1940s tradition but are translated for today. So the unique experience for a customer is to choose a very iconic timepiece that combines classic proportions with luxurious materials, which blend perfectly in casual and relaxed sartorial settings. Offering such a range of variety allows a customer to choose the perfect watch that fits their mind set and lifestyle.

Portofino Hand-Wound Moon Phase Edition «150 Years» 


P: Who is the target audience for the IWC brand? What is their lifestyle like and how does an IWC timepiece complement their personal brand?

D: That’s a really interesting question. I would see it from another perspective. IWC has got so many interesting models and characters in its portfolio that our audience can find the perfect match for their lifestyle. If you like surfing and live the lifestyle of a guy like Hayden Cox you would go for an Aquatimer. If you need the perfect match for your business outfit maybe a Portugieser Automatic with a nice Santoni Strap in the same colour as your shoes and belt is the best choice.  

 

P: On Craftsmanship – what is the unique process of crafting an IWC watch?

D: The process starts with the design. The objective is to create a new watch that matches the DNA of IWC and the dedicated watch family. If a new watch movement is needed, the research and development takes 3 to 5 years. Within the serial production then the case and the small parts have to be made in Schaffhausen. This is done with the help of the latest manufacturing tools. Then, we are in need of our skilled watchmakers and the process turns completely into handcraft. The watchmakers assemble the movement and case, and depending on the watch model, it may take up to 4 weeks for the assembly. IWC has a strong commitment to quality; therefore during the whole process quality checks are mandatory.  

 Big Pilot’s Watch Big Date Edition “150 Years”


P: Tell us about the origin story of the brand. How did it all begin? The brand is celebrating 150 years; how has the brand, craftsmanship, and design for IWC watches evolved with the times and changing consumer needs?

D: IWC’s story begins with the spirit of endeavor and a bold, entrepreneurial idea: in 1868, American watchmaker Florentine Ariosto Jones founded the International Watch Company in Schaffhausen. With the aid of eminently qualified Swiss professionals, state-of-the-art machine technology and hydropower from the Rhine, his aim was to produce top-quality pocket watch movements for the US market.

IWC SAVONETTE POCKET WATCH CALIBRE JONES 1874. The first Jones calibres were produced around 1870. Unlike conventional Swiss movements of the time, they were not fitted with finger bridges, but with three-quarter plates. Other notable features included the wolf’s tooth winding on the cogs and the elaborate finishing on the plates and bridges.

Within a short time span, Jones was able to set up a strongly industrialized manufacturing infrastructure in Schaffhausen. Jones’ successor kept on with his dream and vision. IWC was always ahead of the changing times with its designs. In 1884, IWC started producing the first Pallweber pocket watches with digital displays for hours and minutes. During the first half of the 1890s, the company manufactured 20,000 of the handless watches; records show that the first wristwatches from Schaffhausen went on sale as early as 1899.

IWC Tribute to Pallweber Edition “150 Years”


The company’s watchmakers housed the 64-calibre ladies’ pocket watch movement in a dainty case fitted with lugs for the strap. Other examples are the Portugieser watches and Pilot’s watches. The launch of the watches was highly related with the socio-economic and lifestyle environment of the 1930s. In 1936, inspired by his aviation-enthusiast sons, Homberger launched the Special Pilot’s Watch: it established a tradition that has been maintained to this day. In the 1930s IWC was searching for new markets as a result of the economic crisis. An order from two Portuguese importers for a series of large wristwatches with extremely precise pocket watch calibers marked the birth of the Portugieser watch.

Portugieser Perpetual Calendar Edition «150 Years»

Without the jet set beach life in Saint Tropez and the spirit of the 1960s, two other important IWC watch families would never have been launched. In 1967, the company unveiled the Aquatimer and established a tradition for elegant sports watches. The watch was water-resistant to a depth of 200 metres and had an internal rotating bezel used to set dive times. 1967 also saw the launch of the Yacht Club Automatic, a quality watch that took everything in its stride.

 

P: Being a worldwide brand, how do you ensure a consistent experience with every customer touch point?

D: Our colleagues worldwide work very close together with IWC headquarters to ensure that IWC point of sales, exhibitions etc. fit with our design codes. For all employees working for IWC all over the world, this a great chance to exchange and work together. So like our brand name says: we are truly an “INTERNATIONAL Watch company”. 

 

P: How has the vision of the company evolved (or has it remained the same) in the past 150 years?  

D: IWC founder, Florentine Ariosto Jones, who was born in Rumney, New Hampshire 1841, and had the vision to combine the traditional watchmaking of Switzerland with the latest manufacturing technology to produce small parts for movements and cases. We still and will continue to follow this approach because it is the best way to follow technologies that will last and secure the longevity of our products. It is not only about functionality and uncompromising ease of use, but also about state-of-the-art manufacturing and efficiency.

 

P: The “manufakturzentrum” is an exciting new addition for IWC, what was the inspiration behind its design?

D: The new '“manufakturzentrum” was inspired by modernist exhibition pavilions, as our CEO, Christoph Grainger-Herr, feels that these pavilions have allowed countries to showcase their greatest achievements in terms of technology, trade and art. With this concept as a base, the new Manufakturzentrum is not only a functional building, but a creation that embodies the spirit of our brand and provides an optimal working conditions and is “home” to our 230 employees.

The classical modernist exterior facade of the new IWC Schaffhausen Manufakturzentrum.

P: What exciting developments can consumers look forward to coming from the IWC lineup?

D: People should mark January 2019 in their calendar; at the Geneva Fair we will present our novelties. Of course I cannot go into detail, but I can give the hint that for people who like iconic IWC design and innovative technology, there will be very interesting timepieces to see.

We want to thank David Seyffer for taking time out of his busy schedule to share the impressive brand story of the iconic IWC Schaffhausen brand. With the completion of the new Manufakturzentrum, we look forward to the Geneva Fair, where the brand will unveil its newest timepieces embodying luxury lifestyle and precision engineering.

Find out more about the brand’s extensive history and view its entire watch collection on iwc.com.