If you love watches, a stop in Schaffhausen is a must on any trip through the German side of Switzerland. Less than 40 minutes from Zurich by train, this small town on the Rhine is probably best known today as the home of the International Watch Company. It’s also just upstream of the Rheinfall, Europe’s largest waterfall. Beautifully preserved Renaissance-era buildings line the narrow streets. The city has a small Christmas market of its own, so we warmed up with a hot Aperol while we admired the architecture.
We stopped for just a few hours to tour IWC’s museum, which is located in its historic manufacture. The train ride from Zurich was beautiful, with the city giving way to views of the Rhine and vineyards. IWC is just a five-minute walk from the Schaffhausen train station if you don’t stop, but it is through the city’s old town, which proved to be quite a distraction.
While IWC recently completed construction of a modern, state of the art manufacture outside of Schaffhausen, the original is still in use and (like everything in Switzerland) beautifully maintained. On Saturdays, a watchmaker is on-site at the museum to explain how mechanical timepieces work, demonstrate the intricate process by which watches are assembled, and answer literally any question you could possibly have about the inside of a watch.
The first room of the museum houses a collection of watches going back to IWC’s founding in 1868. To us, the most impressive item on display was Winston Churchill’s pocket watch. It’s displayed next to a thank you note Churchill wrote to IWC for sending him the watch. The second room of the museum shows the evolution of the modern collections over time.
If touring the IWC museum gets you in the mood to buy a watch, there is an adjoining boutique. We are told it’s the first IWC boutique to get new references as they are released. We got a chance to check out the first Portugieser Chronograph made with an in-house movement before heading back to Zurich in time for pre-dinner cocktails.