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BASELNEWS 2010IWC Schaffhausen: A new book about the watchmaking company on the river Rhine

Swiss watchmaking company IWC Schaffhausen is releasing an impressive and definitive work of art – but this time, in the form of a book. “IWC Schaffhausen. Engineering Time since 1868” chronicles the company’s fascinating history while leaving Paulo Coelho to describe the origins of the individual product families and famous cartoonist Enki Bilal to illustrate these fictional short stories with striking images. An exceptional book that will not only appeal to watch connoisseurs but also delight the admirers of exclusive luxury brands.

With around 550 parts and weighing in at more than 4 kilograms, this latest work from IWC Schaffhausen is not, for a change, a masterpiece of precision engineering but a book that has been more than three years in the making. It tells of a world that has existed since 1868, the year when the International Watch Company in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, was founded. Between two book covers, this renowned watch brand with its modern-day global presence is captured in a way that goes beyond the usual scope of such works. Bearing the title “IWC Schaffhausen. Engineering Time since 1868”, this is an original, painstakingly researched cultural history of the measurement of time – as “Made in Schaffhausen”.

Tradition, perfection and a passion for the engineer’s art. These are the qualities that make IWC in Schaffhausen, situated away from the watchmaking centres of western Switzerland, so unique. This is a special journey, a tale of self-assertiveness and conviction, that has given rise to many a milestone in the history of watchmaking. It began more than 140 years ago with the appearance on the Rhine of the gifted and daring Boston watchmaker Florentine Ariosto Jones. It is a story about the manufacturer on the river whose foundation is one of the most fascinating throughout the whole of the Swiss watch industry. There had been a clockmakers’ guild in Schaffhausen dating all the way back to the 16th century. But in this picturesque little town, it was only with the arrival of Jones, with his gift for innovation and his talent for engineering, that a new era would dawn. Engineering Time – since 1868.

“We decided not to bring out a classic, standardized book about watches. Instead, by adopting an unusually artistic approach, it was our intention to attract a broader public so they could experience the charm, uniqueness and fascination of the IWC brand,” writes CEO Georges Kern in his foreword. Indeed, the story of the watchmaking company, from the highly prized secret of those in the know to a global brand for discerning watch enthusiasts, is not merely a written account but a graphic re-telling, based on a host of historical facts that have been brought together here for the first time. The clear structure of the book draws a line between the company’s history and IWC today, and pays tribute to the current individual watch families with their own separate, fascinating stories dating back to the mid-1930s. The work ends with a comprehensive list of calibres. Like pieces within a mosaic, an idea begins to emerge of the skills and accomplishments of this watchmaking company. The rich content is interspersed by complementary stories that provide additional information while contributing to the reader’s enjoyment. Moreover, the gripping “sidelines” that accompany the main text are an invitation to leaf through the pages. The fact that IWC was able to attract best-selling author Paulo Coelho to write the stylistically more demanding section and, with seven imaginative short stories, create a “book within a book”, takes this work of art to a new and surprising level. With due poetic licence, Paulo Coelho looks at the company’s foundation phase and its six different product families. His narratives are interpreted by an artist of equal stature. In modern, vibrant colours, works by the Paris-based illustrator, cartoonist and film director Enki Bilal mirror Coelho’s ability as a storyteller.

Why does IWC Schaffhausen make Pilot’s Watches? Why is the company so famous for its Ingenieur collection? How did the Portofino watch come about? And how did the Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar achieve such success? How has IWC as a manufacturer of perfect yet simple pocket watches and wristwatches managed, by integrating increasingly large complications, to secure a permanent place for itself in the world of Haute Horlogerie over the last 25 years? Who are the people – the executives, watchmaking and engineering talent – who stood and continue to stand behind such success? What makes this watch manufacturer and its products so different? What role is played by the town of Schaffhausen itself, with its watchmaking tradition extending all the way back to the Middle Ages? Answers to all these questions are provided in a comprehensive section of the book that has been compiled with careful attention to historical accuracy by German journalist and brand connoisseur Manfred Fritz – drawing on knowledge contributed by longstanding IWC employees and a number of other authors.

IWC Schaffhausen also placed enormous value on an exclusive, formal layout, designed to fit perfectly with the company’s image. High-quality photography and outstanding graphics have resulted in an exceptional book with around 550 pages with 500 illustrations, some previously unpublished, which portrays one of the most intriguing watch brands of our age and describes its unmistakeable products. This is an altogether remarkable book that will not only be of interest to collectors but also touch the emotions of passionate watch connoisseurs and the admirers of exclusive luxury brands. After all, it goes without saying that what the legendary IWC seal of quality has so aptly expressed since 1903 applies equally to this work: Probus Scafusia – Good, solid craftsmanship from Schaffhausen.

Manfred Fritz, Paulo Coelho, Enki Bilal: “IWC Schaffhausen. Engineering Time since 1868.” Benteli Verlags AG, Bern-Sulgen-Zurich. Around 550 pages and 500 illustrations, “book within a book” with short stories by Paulo Coelho, illustrated by Enki Bilal. Languages: English, German, French. Price CHF 250.00.