Jewelry & Watches

7 Legendary Watches and Innovations That Shaped IWC's History

The Swiss watchmaker pioneered several watchmaking technologies.

This year marks International Watch Company (IWC)’s 150th anniversary. The Switzerland-based manufacturer was founded by American engineer and watchmaker Florentine Ariosto Jones in 1868. Ever since, the brand has fluidly combined Swiss craftsmanship with American manufacturing technology. As a horological innovator, IWC has produced an impressive number of fine timepieces and designs that have shaped the watch industry and, in some cases, the world.

Here, we’ve listed down some of the highlights from IWC’s 150-year history.

IWC was the first to produce a watch with a digital hour and minutes display.

The Pallweber Pocket Watch

Based on Salzburg watchmaker Josef Pallweber’s mechanism, the first watches with a digital hour and minutes display was sent off from the Schauffhausen workshops in 1884. The Pallweber Pocket Watch made use of rotating discs to show hours and minutes through large numerals.

The brand had a hand in developing Switzerland's first quartz movement.

When the Da Vinci was first released in 1969, it was the first ever IWC wristwatch to feature the Swiss-made quartz movement, “Beta 21.” IWC was involved in the development of the “Beta 21,” a wristwatch caliber that uses quartz control (frequency 8192 hertz). The model was extremely popular and quickly sold out as soon as it hit stores.

The brand is notable for releasing the first chronograph in a titanium case.

Designed by German designer Ferdinand Alexander Porsche (of the Porsche 911), the Ref. 3700 was the world’s first chronograph that was completely made out of titanium. The idea was born out of an “exchange of ideas” with technology specialist Aérospatiale and other leading specialists.

The brand released the first watch with a pressure-resistance of 200 bar in 1982.

The ultra-rugged Ocean 2000 was coveted by collectors. Originally introduced as a wristwatch for German navy divers, it was designed by Ferdinand Alexander Porsche and made of titanium.


Three years later, IWC released the first perpetual calendar with a four-digit year display.

A revamp of the original 1985 Da Vinci

In 1985, the Da Vinci became the first chronograph to have a perpetual calendar with a four-digit year display. It was mechanically programmed for the next 500 years, and was easily set by turning the crown.

In 1986, IWC became the first watchmaking company to use ceramic zirconium oxide for a case.

IWC pioneered the use of ceramic, a crystalline, glass-like material that was lighter and harder than steel yet absolutely scratch-resistant. The then-new material was used for the Da Vinci Ref. 3755 which was a resounding success. It was later used for the Pilot's Watches and the Ingenieur. Today, thanks to IWC, ceramic is a material that’s commonly used in various timepieces.

IWC patented an entirely new material called Ceratanium in 2007.

In keeping with the brand’s tradition of innovation, IWC released the world’s first case in Ceratanium for the 50th anniversary of its Aquatimer. The Aquatimer Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month Edition “50 Years Aquatimer” Ref. IW379403 was limited to just 50 pieces, and was made in a material that’s as light and unbreakable as titanium while being hard and scratch-resistant like ceramic. IWC’s experts worked on the material for more than five years.

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Paolo Chua
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