I’d like to start this article with one word; finally. Yes, the IWC Ingenieur is finally back to its emblematic 1970s, Genta-designed integrated look. And in fact, looking at previous versions of this watch, it’s never been so close to the original. And while the story of the Ingenieur started before Gerald Genta and its vision of an IWC luxury sports watch with an integrated bracelet, this 1976 version is certainly the one most of us associate with the Ingenieur name. So, no more small talk and teasing, let’s have a closer look at the brand-new IWC Ingenieur Automatic 40 reference IW3289, the comeback of Genta’s design and the integrated look, which we’ve been able to film ahead of its launch, in a video that you’ll discover on top of this article.
Quick recap – The Ingenieur watches of the past
The story of the Ingenieur collection starts, as often back in the old but good days of mechanical watchmaking, with a watch to answer a specific need. And, in the present case, a watch created for scientists, engineers, doctors and, on a larger scale, people working in magnetic environments since the movement was protected by a soft iron cage. The IWC Ingenieur was introduced in 1954-55 under the references 666A and 666AD (the latter being the Date version). It featured the calibre 852 (for the 666A) or calibre 8521 (for the 666AD), both created under the direction of Albert Pellaton, who was IWC’s Technical Director since 1944. And, as you can see below, it had nothing to do (yet) with the watch we have in mind today when we speak about IWC Ingenieur… Classic, rather elegant and housed in a round case.
Sometimes called the civilian, automatic version of the Mark 11 Pilot’s watch, it was more of a tool watch with a mission, designed to be classic, yet with one special characteristic, magnetic protection. Its successor, the Reference 866, came with some improvements, mostly regarding the movement, the calibre 8541. The design was slightly updated too, but overall, the concept was the same. What comes next, however, is a real revolution for the collection. Surely, the Ingenieur side and the anti-magnetism will remain key in the concept, but the design is a complete departure from what the watch had been so far.
Meet the IWC Ingenieur SL Jumbo reference 1832, presented in 1976 at the Basel fair, on sale in late-1976, or early-1977. And this watch is the third stroke of genius of Gerald Genta, following the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and the Patek Philippe Nautilus. Surely, the overall concept is identical on paper. Shaped case, integrated bracelet, textured dial, screws on the bezel. However, there are some notable differences with the IWC Ingenieur SL. First of all, there’s a clear differentiation between Genta’s watches – octagonal for the RO, squarish for the Nautilus, and round for the Ingenieur. Now that you think about it, that was a clever move from Genta in order to add his touch, without copying what he presented to other brands.
The other notable difference is that the Ingenieur SL Jumbo reference 1832 is first and foremost an Ingenieur, and not a delicate steel sports watch like the two others – the brands and target audiences were already very different back in the days. Despite its newly-designed case, the IWC Ingenieur was still equipped with a soft-iron cage, was relatively robust and thicker than the rest of the crowd. At 40mm in diameter, it was rather large, and almost 14mm in height too. It used the IWC calibre 8541 ES and remained a fine tool watch rather than a luxury sporty-chic statement piece. Yet, it wasn’t very popular, with low production numbers. And will soon be replaced by quartz models, thinner and more compact. The production of this particular style will last until the late 1990s.
Yet, under the Richemont era, the integrated-style IWC Ingenieur will come back in 2005, with the reference 3227. Next to a mid-size model (ref. 4515) and, for the first time in the collection, a mechanical chronograph (ref. 3725), there was this time-and-date watch with a 42mm steel case and many elements to recall the look of the old Ingenieur, however fairly modernized and far more angular than before. Still using a soft iron cage, it was a big, heavy and bold watch in line with the trends of the mid-2000s. It was powered by the in-house calibre 80110 with Pellaton automatic winding mechanism.
In January 2013, the IWC Ingenieur will again be revamped, with the introduction of the reference 3239. Smaller and thinner, with a 40mm diameter and 10mm height, slightly more refined, this was again a modernized and rather angular take on the classic SL Jumbo look. Then again, there was a soft iron cage protecting an automatic Sellita SW200 movement. A cool watch, far more accessible than many of the other watches with an integrated bracelet (back then most options came from AP, PP or VC), which will be discontinued around 2017, without a real alternative – the current Ingenieur collection was based on a design that wanted to look like the original 666, without great success.
The Genta-Styled IWC Ingenieur is back
It’s back. It’s compact, it feels like an Ingenieur, it looks like an Ingenieur, it’s clearly advertised as inspired by Genta’s design, it features a highly recognizable dial pattern, it’s still equipped with a soft iron cage and, compared to the 2013 model that many liked and regretted, it has been improved on multiple sides; ergonimics, finishing, premium feel, mechanics and, more of a personal opinion, overall desirability. What made the 1972 IWC Ingenieur SL Jumbo 1832 emblematic has been brought back; a screw-on bezel with five recesses, a dial with a unique pattern, and an integrated H-link bracelet. But it’s not only about reviving the past but making this watch in line with present codes too.
The new IWC Ingenieur Automatic 40 is a contemporary interpretation. No doubt about that. It’s neither a one-to-one re-edition of the 1976 model nor an easy interpretation of what was presented in 2013. Let’s start with the case. Overall, the basics are here. The round bezel, with its 5 slots (which are now always positioned in the same place), the barrel-shaped case… But the proportions and the lines have been refined to offer something softer and more premium, less masculine and bold, maybe a bit more delicate and luxurious – at least, visually. The case measures 40mm in diameter, about 10mm in thickness and the lug-to-lug measurement is the best part, at 45.7mm. Another important update, while the Ingenieur SL from the 1970s had nose-shaped horns (far from comfortable), the new Ingenieur Automatic 40 features a newly-designed middle-link attachment, providing a better fit on the wrist and more curvature.
As said, the new Ingenieur has more curves than before. The sides, while still featuring guards around the crown, are more rounded. And the profile of the watch does too, with a curved line from one tip to the other, with most of the thickness found in the centre of the watch. Then again, it adds to the feeling of slenderness on the wrist. The watch features a sapphire crystal on top, a screw-down crown, is water-resistant to 100 metres and, of course, retains an antimagnetic cage around the movement. What changes most compared to previous iterations is the level of finishing of the case, which alternates between straight brushed and circular brushed surfaces, and finely polished accents. It stands out, and it feels and looks good.
Another area that the new Ingenieur improves is the dial, which feels much more lively than what the previous reference used to have. Then again, there’s Genta inspiration here, with a grid pattern that looks back at the dial of the 1976 SL Jumbo, with a grid pattern. This grid structure is more pronounced though, and in negative relief. Consisting of small lines offset by 90 degrees to each other, it is stamped into the soft iron blank before it is galvanized. On top of it are again references to the past, with similar but larger applied markers and hands (both luminous), as well as the classic Ingenieur logo.
The new IWC Ingenieur Automatic 40 is launched as a compact collection of 4 models, including one in titanium (we couldn’t photograph it for this article). As for the steel versions, IWC offers the choice of classic black (reference IW328901) or silver dial (reference IW328902), with a fully brushed bracelet. There is also a more casual, more lifestyle-oriented Aqua version, with a dark turquoise dial (reference IW328903). This Aqua edition differs with its polished central links on the bracelet.
Talking about that bracelet, it is an important part of the design of the IWC Ingenieur. The basics are still present. The lines follow the side of the case and the bracelet relies on classic H-shaped links. However, like the rest of the watch, it is less angular than before, with a more rounded, more prominent middle-link. The bracelet is soft and comfortable, and as nicely finished as the rest of the watch. It is closed by a concealed butterfly clasp. We have to note the absence of a micro-adjustment system and of a quick-release device – IWC wants this watch to remain worn on its bracelet, without the option of a leather or rubber strap. However, there are pins on the internal face of the links, making it easy to remove them in order to size the bracelet.
Inside the case is the brand’s manufacture calibre 32111. Sharing a common architecture with other brands of the group, this modern automatic movement with pawl winding system, hidden behind a solid screwed back, beats at 4Hz and stores up to 5 days of 120 hours of energy when fully wound.
Availability & Price (Steel versions)
A modern and versatile watch, with everything you’d expect from a 1970s luxury sports watch with Genta design, the new IWC Ingenieur Automatic 40 reference IW3289 does come with serious arguments and a very appealing design. It is, in my opinion, the best-looking model since the 1970s (and in fact, it feels better in many aspects…) It is released as part of the permanent collection, even though IWC announces a relatively low production at the beginning. It’s also exclusive to the brand’s boutiques.
All three stainless steel versions will be priced at CHF 12,000 (incl. taxes), which is not exactly what I’d call accessible… For more details, please visit www.iwc.com.
The IWC Ingenieur Automatic 40 Titanium IW328904
In addition to the three stainless steel models mentioned above, IWC is also releasing a full grade 5 titanium edition of its new integrated Ingenieur. Technically identical to the rest of the collection, with the same dimensions and movement, as well as an equal pattern on the dial, the difference lies in the material and the finishing, the titanium surfaces being sandblasted with contrasting polished accents. The dial is here presented in a light grey colour that matches that of the slightly darker case and bracelet, with blackened hands, date surrounding and markers. This edition will also be launched as part of the permanent collection, however, also reserved for the brand’s boutiques and we expect low production numbers. It will be priced at CHF 15,000 (incl. taxes).