Everybody’s heard of Rolex, but watch collectors—and pawn shops in the DC area—know that IWC Schaffhausen has been making luxury Swiss watches for men since 1868, when 27-year-old Boston watchmaker Florentine Ariosto Jones journeyed to Switzerland with the idea to combine his entrepreneurial spirit with modern engineering technology pioneered by the Swiss. It was a bold move for the time, and, indeed, Jones was met with skepticism from the skilled workers who were accustomed to working at home or in tiny shops; they had no interest in the kind of modern factory that Jones envisioned.
As fortune would have it, Jones met Heinrich Moser, an industrialist from the Schaffhausen, a city with a clock-making tradition dating back to 1409. Schaffhausen’s reputation for building outstanding clocks—including the one at Strasbourg Cathedral—would bode well for introducing smaller timepieces and, in 1868, Jones founded the International Watch Company in Schaffhausen with an aim to produce high- quality pocket watches for the American market. By 1899, the first known wrist watch left the factory and the rest is history.
Today, the company has six collections, each with a different personality. These include the Portofino, a former fishing village turned high-end tourist destination; the latter is presented by the classically elegant watches in the Portofino Collection. The Pilots Watch collection, begun in 1936, sports instrument-inspired faces and became near-instant classics. When you shop for luxury watches at pawn shops in Northern Virginia, don’t discount those with names you don’t instantly recognize; the watch industry is vast and there are many high-end players.