In 1868, an 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 the craftsmanship of the Swiss with the modern engineering technology from the U.S. to manufacture movements and 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 people feared for their jobs” and the work they did at home because Jones wanted to open a factory.
In 1850 the town of Schaffhausen was in danger of being left behind in the Industrial Age. It was at this stage that watch manufacturer and industrialist Johann Heinrich Moser stepped in and did the region a huge service. As a pioneer of hydropower, he 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.
In 1869 F.A. Jones rented the first factory premises in an industrial building owned by J.H. Moser in 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.
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. 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. Hans Ernst 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.
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 April 1, 1944, as a result of a fatal 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 1970s and 80s, the Swiss watchmaking industry underwent a phase of far-reaching technological change. Following in the wake of the use of miniaturized electric batteries as a source of energy for wristwatches from the late 1940s onwards and the invention of the transistor in 1947, purely mechanical watch technology developed into a hybrid discipline of precision mechanics and electronics.
In the year 2000, IWC is taken over by Richemont.
This is just a brief glance to IWC history. For more detailed reference please visit IWC’s official website.
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