IWC was founded in 1868 by an American, Florentine Ariosto Jones, in Schaffhausen -the northernmost corner of Switzerland- breathing new life into a town struggling with its industrial development. In 1888, IWC was one of the first companies to install electricity in its factory providing it with an manufacturing advantage. In 1944, a fatal error caused the air bombing of IWC Schaffhausen’s manufacturing facility; however the company soon picked up its pieces and by 1957, Hans Ernst Homberger, the founder’s son added a new wing and purchased more efficient machines to accommodate the soaring demand for precise mechanical watches. In the mid to late 1960’s, IWC’s decision to embrace the latest quartz technology rather than fearing the demise of its watch company ensured the continuation of its success. In fact IWC became co founder and shareholder in the “Centre Electronique l”Horlogerie Suisse” (CEH) contributing funds towards the development of the Beta 21 quartz wristwatch movement, which was unveiled at the 1969 Basel Fair, accounting for 5-6% of the total sale of quartz watches at the time. While the “Quartz Scare” of the 1970’s intimidated all the other Swiss Watch Companies, 1973 was one of the most successful years for IWC Schaffhausen. However, in 1974 the gold price tripled and the US Dollar fell 40% against the Swiss Franc causing watch export costs to rise by 250%. Simultaneously Japan had found an even cheaper way to manufacture cheap quartz watches with acceptable precision, and began to flood the watch market world wide.
The Quartz Crisis had reached a peak, and many mechanical watch companies went under. Blancpain for example became dormant for many years until its relatively recent revival. IWC realized it must implement drastic changes to ensure the survival of the company. Still stringently adhering to its watchmaking tradition, IWC decided to become a watch comany at the forefront of technological advancements geared towards specific professional pursuits such as piloting aircraft. In 1978, IWC unveiled the first ever compass watch followed by its introduction of titanium, a resilient, corrosion resistant lightweight watch material making it the first company to implement titanium as a watch making material. Otto Heller, Director and Chief Officer, was a great part on IWC’s success securing venture capital from Swiss Banking Corporation. After Otto Heller’s retirement, Gunter Blumlein took over making some drastic company changes including ramping up the existing advertising campaign by targeting the young and free- spending customer base. This direction proved a success. In 1991, Gunter Blumlein founded the LMH Group, having a 100% stake in IWC, 60% in Jaeger-LeCoultre and 90% in A. Lange and Sohne. Richemont Group bought LMH group in July 2000 with the guarantee that the LMH brands will operate as a closed unit under the current management thereby maintaining the brands heritage and signature collections.
IWC is a thriving watch brand occupying a vast position in the world of horology.