Why Are IWC Watches So Expensive? [Detailed]


IWC watches are known for being luxurious, high quality, and robust. Their pilot watches are trendy as well. Their prices seem to be a bit out of reach, though. Why are IWC watches so expensive?

IWC watches are expensive as they are Swiss Made watches with in-house movements. Its watches are also made with premium materials such as diamonds, gold, and titanium. IWC also has a brand image of luxury, exclusivity, and prestige, reflected in its pricing.

Why Are IWC Watches So Expensive

This article will discuss in further detail why IWC watches are so expensive, from the brand image to the proprietary technology in its watches. We also answer some common questions many people ask about IWC watches. 

We have also covered why some watch brands such as Panerai and Longines are expensive. Feel free to click on the link and check out those articles as well.

Qualities That Made IWC Watches Expensive

IWC watches become expensive once you see the effort they have been putting into their watches from these areas:

  • Brand Image
  • Limitation
  • Materials
  • Swiss Made Label
  • In-House Movements & Technology

Now let’s look at each of these sections one by one.

Brand Image

IWC was founded in 1868 by an American engineer and watchmaker Florentine Aristo Jones. The company was one of the original five watchmakers that made the B-Uhren pilot watches for the Luftwaffe before and during World War Two.

The company also survived the double blow of rising gold prices and the quartz crisis in the 1970-80s. While many watch companies either were merged or closed down, IWC pivoted into pocket watches and improved designs by having Ferdinand Porsche as an external designer. 

IWC was acquired by the Richemont group in 1997. Richemont watch group also owns many luxury watch brands such as A.Lange & Söhne, Cartier, Panerai, Vacheron Constantin, and Jaeger-LeCoultre.

IWC markets itself as a brand of luxury, prestige, exclusiveness, and class. They associate themselves with people, events, and media outlets that project a similar image. 

You can see IWC ads on media outlets that the rich, high-class people consume, such as The Economist or Entrepreneur magazine.

IWC is also heavily involved in sports, aviation, and sailing. It is one of the primary sponsors of the Mercedes F1 team, US Naval Aviation, Solaris Yachts, and the Tottenham Hotspur Football Club in the English Premier League. 

IWC also places their watches in movies. You may see IWC watches in movies such as Top Gun (1986), Miami Vice (2006), Red (2010), The Meg (2018), and Mr & Mrs. Smith (2005). 

These marketing efforts and strategy needs an awful lot of funds to execute. Hence IWC watches are sold at a high price. This generates the profit margin required to fund their marketing campaigns. 

Limited Units

IWC watches are made with high standards and a certain degree of hand assembly. IWC technicians are also highly trained and most likely certified. 

This means IWC watches are much more complicated to mass-produce than fashion watches that do not have high manufacturing standards. 

As a result, the number of watches IWC can produce in a year is limited. Some might see this as a weakness, but IWC plays this beautifully. 

IWC has a habit of releasing limited edition watches, similar to Panerai. This drives up prices for it. Some IWC models are also in high demand that customers have to enter a waitlist to purchase them. 

This allows IWC to sell its watches at a high price.

Why Are IWC Watches So Expensive

Materials

IWC watches are built with higher-end materials when compared to regular watches. This makes IWC watches costly to buy.

IWC lists gold, platinum, titanium, diamonds, alligator leather, and other materials in its timepieces on its official website.

These materials are rarely seen in budget watch companies, which rely on conventional materials like stainless steel or mineral crystal to keep costs down.

Some of these high-end materials are not only costly but also difficult to work with. Titanium, for example, is light and sturdy, but it is more difficult to form into watch casings than steel.

All of this increased the timepieces’ production costs, resulting in a higher price tag.

Swiss Made Label

Every IWC watch is made in Switzerland. This would have made a big difference in how much the watch cost.

Even if a Swiss company makes the watch, that doesn’t mean it can be called “Swiss Made.”

This is because Swiss Law says that a watch can only be called “Swiss Made” if all of the following are true:

  • Switzerland is responsible for 60% of the total cost of making the watch (design, manufacturing, parts, etc.)
  • The watch is made with Swiss parts.
  • Before the watch is sent out, it is put in a case and checked for quality in Switzerland.

This means that all IWC watches are really made in Switzerland and have the high quality and good performance that people expect from Swiss watches.

Some brands, like Invicta and Festina, make a big deal about their Swiss roots. Still, their watches are actually made in Asia and usually don’t have Swiss movements. This is important to know.

Even though IWC watches are expensive, you can be sure that they were made with the highest precision and according to the strictest Swiss standards.

In-House Movements & Technology

Almost all true luxury watchmakers develop and use their own in-house movements. IWC also does the same. 

The difference with IWC is that their lower-end offerings tend to be movements modified from Sellita’s SW300, renamed Caliber 35111. Sellita is one of Switzerland’s most popular movement manufacturers. 

But for the higher-end models, the movements are designed in-house, with additional complications such as tourbillon, retrograde date display, or grande complication. 

Why Are IWC Watches So Expensive
Movement complications in IWC watches

IWC also has several proprietary technologies on their watches, such as:

Ceratanium. Short for ceramized titanium, this is IWC’s way of making watch cases as light as titanium yet as hard and scratch-resistant as ceramic. Ceratanium also produces a black watch case with a matte finish. 

18CT Armor Gold. IWC’s 18CT gold alloy watch case is made with a unique blend of 75% gold and other materials to produce a more rigid and more scratch-resistant gold watch case.

Is IWC More Prestigious Than Rolex?

IWC is not as prestigious as Rolex since it is not as popular. Both IWC and Rolex occupy the luxury watch space, although Rolex has so much more demand as it is more popular. Rolex is the most recognized watch brand globally, with IWC at 9th.

However, the word prestigious could mean different things to different people. Some see Rolex as a brand too popular, to the point it is no longer a watch enthusiast’s brand anymore. 

This is because anybody can just come in and buy a Rolex since that’s the only luxury watch brand they know. They then wear the watch around, showing off.

If you agree with this, then perhaps you would think IWC watches as more prestigious since it would be a brand that true watch enthusiasts wear. 

What Is Better, IWC or Omega?

IWC and Omega are both great watches with different strengths. IWC has a history of making great pilot watches, while Omega makes better dive watches. Both make great racing chronographs and perform similarly in the used market.

It might not be a good idea to even compare IWC and Omega in the first place since Omega offers a lot more watch designs than IWC. 

IWC has a stronger focus on producing great pilot watches, owing to its heritage. Omega seems to be equally good in many types of watches, especially their dive and racing chronographs. 

IWC does offer some dive watches, but when you compare what they offer and the Omega’s Planet Ocean collections, you know who is better. When comparing IWC’s aviation/Flieger watches vs. Omega’s, you can say the same in return. 

Therefore, both watch brands have their strengths, and comparing them might not much much sense.

What Is IWC Famous For?

IWC is famous for its pilot/aviation/Flieger watches. IWC is one of the five companies contracted to make Flieger watches for the Luftwaffe before and during World War Two. It carried this heritage by continuing to produce great aviation watches today.

Aside from their pilot watches, IWC is also known for great chronographs. The collection of Portofino, Da Vinci, and Portugieser watches has some of the most well-loved and appreciated chronographs watches. 

Some watches also contain complications that could rival those made by ultra-luxury brands such as A.Lange & Söhne or Jaeger-LeCoultre. 

For example, the Portugieser Mystèrè Rètrograde (Ref: IW504601) features a 44-jewel movement with 7 days of power reserve, flying minute tourbillon, retrograde date display, and power reserve display.

Nigel Ignatius

Nigel is the principal creator of WatchPursuits.com, a website dedicated to watches. Inspired by the dedication and effort of watchmakers now and old, Nigel has a passion for watches and looks forward to share his passion with the world.

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