IWC Schaffhausen has had quite a turbulent history. American watchmaker and engineer Florentine Ariosto Jones first came up with the idea for this brand. Jones was born in New Hampshire in 1841 and fought in the Civil War. After the war ended, Jones went to Boston and began working at one of the leading watch manufacturers, E. Howard & Company, where he quickly rose through the ranks.
Jones wanted to introduce modern engineering technology from the United States to the Swiss watch industry. After traveling to Switzerland, the young American met industrialist Johann Heinrich Moser, who owned a watch factory and hydropower plant in the town of Schaffhausen am Rhein.
In 1868, Jones rented a few rooms in Moser's factory and founded the International Watch Company. He ended up building his own factory soon thereafter. Despite Switzerland's relatively low labor costs, IWC generated little profits. Demand was too low and import duties in the United States were too high. The company eventually went bankrupt, and Jones' watch factory fell into the hands of the Schaffhausener Handelsbank (commercial bank). In 1874, the bank converted IWC into a stock company.
After filing for bankruptcy again in 1880, Johannes Rauschenbach purchased the company. This marked the beginning of a much calmer phase of IWC's history. The business remained in the same family for several generations. Famed Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung was a shareholder for a period of time. In 1929, his brother-in-law, Ernst Jakob Homberger, purchased his shares. Homberger's son, Hans Ernst Homberger, took the reins in 1955 and was the final member of the Rauschenbach family to run IWC.
The quartz crisis, high gold prices, and a weak dollar all led to Hans Ernst Homberger selling the business to a German company in 1978. Another tumultuous era was on the horizon for IWC. They were now under the control of VDO Adolf Schindling AG, which was best known for producing speedometers. VDO had already incorporated another traditional Swiss watch manufacturer earlier that same year, namely Jaeger-LeCoultre. In 1991, VDO merged with the Mannesmann corporation, taking both companies with them. The telecommunications firm Vodafone bought the Mannesmann group in 2000. Not looking to enter the watch industry, Vodafone sold IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, and Lange Uhren GmbH (A. Lange & Söhne) to the Swiss luxury watch conglomerate Richemont. IWC remains part of the Richemont group to this day, alongside brands like Panerai and Baume & Mercier.