Maschinenfabrik Rauschenbach AG
Ernst & Ernst
"I do not have what I own, nor do I have what I do. I only have what I am" ... T. Hunt
The Homberger family is almost always exclusively associated  with the International Watch Company, but their role in the company started well after Ernst Jakob Homberger began his professional life pursuing careers in banking and manufacturing. Had he never married Johannes Rauschenbach's daughter, it's likely that the history of IWC in the 20th Century would have been written entirely differently, had it been written at all.
After returning to Schaffhausen in 1896 from a banking job in the West Indies, Homberger joined the Rheinfelden Power Transmission Works for seven years and then, in 1902, became Commercial Director of the Georg Fischer Company. The following year he would marry Rauschenbach's daughter and become the main shareholder of Maschinenfabrik Rauschenbach AG, an engineering and grey iron casting operation producing truck wheels and foundry and machining equipment. He would  become Managing Director of Georg Fischer in 1907 and would eventually sell Rauschenbach AG to them in 1921. 
Jung, who once said "Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you", was probably just "Uncle Carl" to the Homberger kids.  
According to the company archives at Georg Fischer, Ernst Sterenberger was born in 1885,  joined the company in 1915, and worked as an electrical master craftsman in their foundry until 1951. 
 Ernst Sterenberger
Upon his father-in-law's death in 1905, he would also assume management responsibility for IWC, sharing the family ownership with his now famous brother-in-law Carl Jung, until purchasing his share in 1929 and becoming IWC's sole owner. 
Dr. Leise was quite generous to provide what information she could find. She has now since retired after a long career at Fischer curating their Iron Library - the world's largest private collection, with over 30,000 books and 20,000 collection elements on Iron
Yes, iron, and you thought watches were esoteric.
Ernst Homberger
Although Fischer's records show that Sterenberger retired in 1951, I believe he would have first met E.J. Homberger as an employee of Maschinenfabrik Rauschenbach AG. It was the acquisition of Rauschenbach AG in 1921 that provided GF its first grey iron foundry, so I believe that  when they acquired this company, they also acquired Sterenberger. 
When I contacted them a few months ago on the thread of a chance they may still have some record of this man, I was astounded to hear back from  Dr. Britta Leise, head of Fischer's corporate archives. Corporate archives? The company I work for has had eight HR managers in the past nine years and I'm guessing that they don't  even know where my file is. Georg Fischer responded within days about an employee who retired 62-years ago. 
Mr. Homberger sir, we'll be needing a gift
I also believe someone with a master craftsman designation would have been an important hire and, since these were relatively small companies in those days, I believe Homberger would have been involved in Sterenberger's hiring if not having hired him directly himself. I therefore believe that these two Ernsts came to know one another quite well. 
From the Georg Fischer Archives
As is the long-standing custom of many companies to recognize the faithful service of their employees, so too was it the apparent custom at Georg Fischer. Today most companies give their employees a catalog filled with mostly ordinary things the value of which depends on the milestone attained. At the Five Year level one may choose between a socket wrench or a toaster. Make it to the Twenty Year level and the choice might include a 12-inch television or a or a cordless drill. Oh my god, a cordless drill!? Oh please let me survive another 10-years so I can earn a cordless drill!
In 1940, the point at which Ernst Sterenberger reached his 25-year service milestone, there were no award catalogs from which to choose a gift. There was however, in his case, a boss who happened to own a watch company right across town. As it turns out, this boss went to no small effort for Sterenberger, and also no small effort for the Georg Fischer Company.
This was no ordinary watch to be handed out as a routine service trinket, but instead a heavily cased sterling silver Cal 66 with a repoussé depicting the logo of the Georg Fischer Company in use at the time. 
According to David Seyffer, IWC Museum Curator, this particular case was purchased by IWC from Berthoud & Cie in Bienne, who obviously contracted it out for design and tooling by Huguenin Freres, a company specializing in medals, watch cases and niello work. If you own a niello-cased IWC, or won an Olympic medal back in the 20s, or own one of IWC's Schützenfest watches, chances are you might also own a piece of Huguenin's handiwork. If not, it's not too late as this company survives to this day under the name of Faude & Huguenin SA
The "Huguenin" designation - a mystery not easily solved (click image to enlarge) 

The "+GF+" watch presented to Sterenberger in 1941 
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Mr. Sterenberger, we are sorry for the delay
Nine months after Ernst Sterenberger celebrated his 25th-anniversary with the company, he finally received his watch. For me this is proof enough that Homberger had decided to do something special to recognize this particular man's service. Obviously there was no inventory of +GF+ watches just lying around waiting to be engraved for the next recipient. No, I believe this was a gift of true appreciation for a man who had remained loyal to Homberger and served him well for many years.
On June 23, 1941, IWC recorded this watch in their archives. The buyer of record was not the Georg Fischer Company as one might expect, but rather Ernst Homberger himself. 
Perhaps Homberger got the larger discount, but that hardly makes sense since he controlled both companies, or perhaps this was simply a watch in which he took a personal interest. Either way, it's nice to have something he purchased as part of my own collection. Nonetheless,  I believe this was more than just an ordinary service award, partly because I've never seen another, though I hardly believe this is a one-off, and partly because I know from my own experience how important, and how often rare, loyalty to anyone or anything can sometimes be.
The "Sterenberger", LNIB with papers
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Extract from the Archives
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Epilogue
For those of you who know me, it is no surprise that the historical element of vintage watches, no matter how real or contrived, is truly appealing to me. I see them as important markers of the times from which they have come, and I see in them, perhaps, the ghosts of those I imagine might have originally enjoyed owning them.  Fear not for me though, for I know well these romantic notions are only notions of my imagination. I am not burning candles and holding seances - I don't want to have to return the damn things should I actually conjure up an old owner or two - but  if you think it's possible to pick up a first series Jones, or that missing La Magique, or even a couple of original Portugueses this way, come on over and we'll strike a match!
It does continue to intrigue me that so many watches ultimately find themselves so far away from their original homes. Just as is the case with this watch, beyond a few dates, a few pieces of paper, and an almost convenient association with the company that made it , nothing more is known by me about this Ernst Sterenberger fellow, but it does fascinate me that I am now the caretaker of his watch.
Terry Russell
© Copyright  2013
I acquired this piece some months ago from a gentleman in Poland -roughly 700 miles from Schaffhausen - then awaited its 5,000 mile journey to me - a journey taking over 70-years and the willingness of others to send this watch on its way. As is almost always the case with these things,  the further they get from their origins the more faint their history grows, and perhaps for this reason alone I am glad this old watch made its way to me.
From 1941 on Sterenberger would work another decade, retiring only a few short years before Homberger. It is not known if he received a retirement watch from Georg Fischer, but with Homberger still at the helm until 1954, the odds would have been favorable.
The pristine Cal 66
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Classic porcelain dial with beautifully blued hands
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Credits
 
I would like to thank Dr. Britta Leise of Georg Fischer for listening to my story and finding the pieces of the puzzle that helped make this story possible.
 
I would also like to thank David Seyffer, Curator of the IWC Museum in Schaffhausen, for his invaluable assistance and encouragement. If I had David's job, I might never leave the building.
 
All watch photos were taken by me. All other photos are used under the rules of fair use.
The frosted repoussé in fine detail
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The last extract I was allowed to acquire
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Postscript
 
I would like to encourage IWC to reconsider the policy on extracts from the archives. For your collectors, these are an essential and invaluable source of information that greatly enhances the experience of owning your watches. In every watch you have ever made lies a story waiting to be told, and a hidden history eventually just silences the past.