In celebration of its 150th year, IWC Schaffhausen has chosen to highlight its fine watchmaking heritage with a retrospective two-week exhibition that runs from now till 13 May at ION Orchard, Singapore. Designed to evoke the industrial style of its manufacture in its early days, the exhibition showcases the company’s defining creations throughout history, alongside highlights from the new Jubilee collection.
In 1868, with a vision to engineer the best pocket watch movements of his time, ambitious, young Boston watchmaker Florentine Ariosto Jones sailed across the Atlantic from America to Switzerland to set up the International Watch Company on the bank of the magnificent Rhine Falls in Schaffhausen.
By combining the unrivalled expertise of home-based Swiss craftsmen with state-of-the-art machinery from America, the 27-year-old quickly established a strong industrialised manufacturing infrastructure that was geared, impressively, for the production of more than 10,000 first-class mechanical movements per year.
“For 150 years, IWC has remained true to the legacy of its founder F.A. Jones and made many lasting impressions from both an artistic and a technical perspective in the world of fine watchmaking,” says IWC SEA managing director Stanislas Rambaud. “Looking back, for us, is just as important as looking forward. The juxtaposition of IWC’s most iconic historical creations against the new Jubilee collection makes for a compelling story and, surely, there’s no better way to showcase the company’s heritage than that,” he adds.
Making a special appearance at the launch of the exhibition was living legend and one of IWC’s, as well as the industry’s, most cherished master watchmakers Kurt Klaus, who has dedicated 60 years of his career to IWC. The man was responsible for turning the quartz crisis around for IWC with the epic invention of the mechanical Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar. In the anniversary video below, “#IWC150: Engineering Time Machines. Since 1868.”, Klaus is shown working on the new Pallweber movement. By setting the date, he magically travels through time and space, experiencing IWC’s iconic watch universes.
The following are the 10 most iconic historical models by IWC taking centrestage at the 150th anniversary exhibition at ION Orchard, specially flown in from the storied archives of IWC in Schaffhausen.
10 ICONIC MODELS THAT HELPED SHAPE IWC’S 150-YEAR HISTORY
Lepine Pocket Watch Pallweber III, 1886
In 1884, IWC ushered in the digital era with the first pocket watches featuring jumping numerals. They were based on a system developed by Salzburg-based watchmaker, Josef Pallweber, and showed the hours and minutes in large numerals on rotating discs. Fascinated by this modern approach, IWC secured the patents for the “hand-less” timepiece. However, since toothed cogs were responsible for the energy-intensive job of advancing the display discs, the power reserve of the Pallweber pocket watches was relatively limited. Although IWC succeeded in significantly improving the design, the Pallweber pocket watches, of which around 20,000 were produced in Schaffhausen, were a commercial success for only a limited period of time. Production was discontinued in 1890. It was only almost 100 years later, with the advent of quartz watches, that digital time display reappeared.
Special Watch for Pilots, 1936
IWC started producing watches specially purposed for aviation at a very early stage and holds a pioneering role in this field. During the 1930s, managing director Ernst Jakob Homberger (1869 – 1955), had two sons who were so passionate about aviation that they produced the first IWC Special Watch for Pilots in 1936. The watch came with a shatter-proof glass, a rotating bezel with an index for recording short periods of time and an antimagnetic escapement, together with high-contrast luminescent hands and numerals. It was particularly robust against fluctuations in temperature ranging from -40 to 40 degrees Celsius. The first of a long series of professional pilot watches also had a rotating ring with a luminous triangle which helped with calculating flight time and fuel consumption.
Ref. 347, Wristwatch, 1952
1950 marked the start of an era for IWC when technical director Albert Pellaton developed the revolutionary pawl-winding system that featured in the company’s first automatic movement, the Calibre 85. The Ref. 347 was one of the first IWC watches to be powered by the Calibre 85. This very typical model appeared in different variations throughout the 1950s. The shape of the watch can be considered the forerunner of IWC’s classic designs, which ultimately also inspired the Portofino collection in the 1980s.
Magnetic fields have a negative effect on mechanical precision, particularly the spring, pallet and escape wheel. IWC manufactured the first antimagnetic pocket watches as early as 1888. As more an more technical devices generated magnetic fields in people’s daily lives, IWC launched in 1955 the Ingenieur, equipped with a soft iron cage that protected the movement from the influence of magnetic fields up to 80,000A/m. This was the famous automatic Calibre 85 with the Pellaton self-winding system. IWC made a quantum leap in watchmaking and the Ingenieur developed into the platform for constant optimisation and innovation in watch technology.
Yacht Club Automatic, 1967
One of IWC’s best-selling watches back in its day, particularly as gifts or anniversary presents, the Yacht Club combined classic elegance and durability like no other watch. The movement was spring-mounted inside the case – a shock-absorber system which has shown itself to be equally effective against both horizontal and vertical impacts. Highly appreciated by customers were the white gold and stainless steel versions, both of which were adorned with the IWC blue dial.
IWC Porsche Design Ocean 2000, 1984
At the end of the 1970s, the German Federal Navy was seeking a professional timepiece for its mine clearance divers and commando frogmen. It found such a piece at IWC. Conquering the civilian market since 1982, the watch can withstand water pressure to a record depth of 2,000m. IWC developed an antimagnetic case made of a special titanium alloy, which was considerably more robust than pure titanium. With three pressure locking devices, the screw-in crown offered additional security during deep-sea diving.
Grande Complication, 1991
Despite the quartz crisis that plagued the 1970s and 80s, IWC employed a radical strategy and decided to concentrate on the production of high-value complicated pocket watches. Master watchmakers such as Kurt Klaus designed exclusive, complicated movements for the few remaining collectors of fine mechanical timepieces. In 1990, the Grande Complication was born, following seven years of development, and introduced Haute Horlogerie into IWC wristwatches. The watch combined classical automatic mechanism, mechanical chronograph, perpetual calendar, a precise lunar phase display and minute repeater in one superlative watch.
Portofino Chronograph Quartz, Steel, 1994
Since 1984, Portofino has conveyed the lightness of the Italian way of life and continued the tradition of the classical round gold case. Initially, the collection had gold cases only, but stainless steel was integrated over time. In 1988, IWC introduced a hybrid chronograph movement, the IWC Calibre 630, into the Portofino family. The Portofino Chronograph became an instant hit among customers and was highly appreciated throughout the 1990s.
Da Vinci Rattrapante, 1995
Driven by his deep desire to create a perpetual calendar for the wrist, master watchmaker Kurt Klaus successfully incorporated the module into the Da Vinci collection in 1985. The congenial watch in which the module could be assembled revolutionised the assembly of watchmaking complications. The movement was programmed to stretch 500 years into the future with no help from electronics – a true homage to the all-round genius Leonardo da Vinci. Ten years later, for the 10th birthday of the Da Vinci, IWC launched the Da Vinci Rattrapante, designed to record two separate times, precisely to the second, within any given minute, thanks to the addition of a split-seconds hand on the mechanical chronograph.
Portugieser F.A. Jones, 2005
Inspired by its visionary founder Florentine Ariosto Jones (1841 – 1916), who brought a wealth of watchmaking expertise with him from the US and founded the International Watch Company in Schaffhausen, IWC dedicated the Calibre 98290, also known as the F.A. Jones Calibre, to its founder from Boston. The movement featured a nickel-silver three-quarter bridge, an elongated index to facilitate precision adjustment, and decorations inspired by the original. In 2005, a link was forged between IWC’s founder and the company’s Portugieser watches in the form of the Portugieser F.A. Jones. The dial with its three hands took its cue from IWC’s classic “Heures Breguet”-type dial. The watch was released in a limited edition of 500 pieces in platinum, 1,000 in 18ct rose gold and 3,000 in stainless steel.
THE JUBILEE COLLECTION
Comprising a total of 29 limited-edition models from the Portugieser, Portofino, Pilot’s Watch and Da Vinci families, including tributes to historical Pallweber pocket watches, the one thing all the Jubilee watches have in common is their white or blue dial.
“In a long and complex process, these dials are coated with up to 12 layers of high-quality lacquer, flat-polished, brushed and then imprinted several times. We drew our inspiration from the unusual aesthetic appeal of the enamelled dials used for the historical Pallweber watches,” explains Christian Knoop, IWC creative director.
The idea for the imprinted dials and blued hands came from the first Portugieser models from 1939. All the watches in the Jubilee collection are fitted with black alligator leather strap, each model bearing the Jubilee insignia “150 Years”, either as a medallion or an engraving. Here are the highlights:
IWC Tribute to Pallweber Edition “150 Years”
This is the first-ever IWC wristwatch featuring a jumping numeral module. Just like the historical Pallweber pocket watches, which were made in Schaffhausen back in 1884, it displays the hours and minutes through large numerals on rotating discs. A total of 25 watches are made in platinum, 250 in red gold and 500 in stainless steel.
This tribute also comes in an exclusive pocket watch design, limited to just 50 pieces. It is housed in an 18k red gold case and features a white dial with lacquered finish and a blue small seconds hand. Two windows in the spring cover reveal the hours and minutes, so the time can be read even when it is closed. In addition, the case back features a closed dust cover. The in-house movement advances the display discs by using a separate wheel train with a barrel of its own. The fact that the flow of power in the main wheel train operates independently guarantees precision and 60 hours of power reserve.
Portugieser Constant-Force Tourbillon Edition “150 Years”
With five new limited-edition Portugieser watches, IWC is once again underscoring its haute horlogerie expertise. The highlight is, no doubt, the Constant-Force Tourbillon, one of the most sophisticated watches in the collection that combines a constant-force tourbillon and a simple moon phase display for the very first time. The patented constant-force mechanism transmits completely even impulses to the escape wheel, allowing for a constant level of precision. Equipped with a power reserve of 96 hours, the watch showcases the moon phases in a display that only needs to be adjusted by one day after 577.5 years. It comes in just 15 pieces in platinum with white dial and another 15 with blue dial.
Portofino Hand-Wound Moon Phase Edition “150 Years”
Limited to 150 pieces in red gold and 350 in steel, this exclusive timepiece combines a classic Portofino Hand-Wound Eight Days with a moon phase display. The first version is the only gold watch in the Jubilee collection with a blue dial. The hands, as well as the moon and stars in the moon phase display, have been gold-plated to match, whereas those on the stainless steel variants are rhodium-plated. This moon phase will only deviate from th actual cycle of the moon by just one day after 122 years.
Da Vinci Automatic Edition “150 Years”
A year ago, IWC relaunched the Da Vinci collection with its iconic 1980s-style circular shape. For the manufacture’s 150th anniversary, IWC welcomes two new anniversary models, one of which is the Da Vinci Automatic Edition “150 Years”. Limited to 250 pieces in red gold and 500 in stainless steel, the watch is the first in IWC to be powered by the in-house Calibre 82200 with a Pellaton winding system that boasts a power reserve of 60 hours. The system’s components are made of virtually wear-proof ceramic, making it exceptionally robust against impact and hard use.
Big Pilot’s Watch Annual Calendar Edition “150 Years”
Limited to just 150 pieces in stainless steel with blue-lacquered dial, this is the only model in the collection that is equipped with an annual calendar. The annual calendar features an American-format display for the month, date and day in three separate windows and requires adjustment only once a year at the end of February. The Pellaton winding of the in-house movement comes with wear-proof ceramic components and generates a 7-day power reserve in two barrels.
For a complete guide to the IWC Jubilee collection, click here.