The International Watch Company, or IWC, is a venerable Swiss firm, but what many people don’t know is that an American named Florentine Ariosto Jones founded IWC in 1868. Jones’s idea was to meld American industrial know-how with the traditions of Swiss craftsmanship to produce watches for the U.S. market. Unfortunately, when those watches arrived in the United States, customers balked at the ‘made in Switzerland’ label, and protectionist tariffs made the watches more expensive than they needed to be. Jones could not compete, and by 1875, the first incarnation of IWC had come to an end.
Swiss ownership proved more fruitful. Within a decade, IWC had manufactured the first digital watch, which was perhaps too far ahead of its time. These Pallwebers, as they are today known, had a clean design, with tiny apertures to display the hours and minutes. Alas, the world was still an analog place, but contemporary collectors crave these rare and unique examples of 19th-century watchmaking.
In terms of wristwatches, IWC’s Portuguese from 1939 was a hand-wound wonder, a full-size pocket watch that could be worn on the arm. Another IWC wristwatch worth mentioning is the Ingenieur from 1955. It was the first IWC watch with an automatic movement designed by company engineer Albert Pellaton. Among its many innovations were tough anti-magnetic properties to ensure accuracy. IWC’s water-resistant Aquatimer was released in 1967, and its handsome Da Vinci watch appeared in 1969.