Owner's Review: IWC Ingenieur Automatic 40 Ref. 3289

Owner's Review: IWC Ingenieur Automatic 40 Ref. 3289

IWC released a new generation of its Ingenieur collection in 2023, at what many would consider the tail end of the integrated-luxury-sport-watch craze that gripped the industry heading into 2020. At the time, it was tempting to say that IWC was a bit late to the punch here, especially considering the Schaffhausen-based brand's enviable position of having an original Gérald Genta design from the ‘70s to utilize. In hindsight, however, it seems that IWC was playing the long game, and wasn’t interested in rushing out a throwback type of release. Instead, IWC took a bit more time and released a modern rendition of the original Genta design, released in 1976, as a foundation for years to come. The result is the Reference 3289 Ingenieur, and it’s a watch that looks to do more than merely capitalize on a passing trend. 

There are two watches with which you likely associate the name Gérald Genta, and those are the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, and the Patek Philippe Nautilus. Genta penned both of these now iconic designs, in 1972 and 1976 respectively, and they have served as cornerstones in creating the premium sport-watch genre as a whole, as well as helped to spawn the subset of integrated-bracelet designs within it. But those are far from the only watches that can be attributed to Genta, and in fact, aren’t even the only integrated-bracelet sport-watch designs to come out of that era. In 1976, he also designed a new Ingenieur for IWC, known as the SL Ref. 1832 (that watch is pictured below). I say new, because the Ingenier was already two decades old at this point. Genta didn’t just redesign it; he reinvented it. 

IWC has vacillated between the two identities of the Ingenieur — pre- and post-Genta — in the intervening generations, and I’d suggest that this is one of the reasons why the Ingeneiur is rarely mentioned in the same conversation with the Royal Oak and the Nautilus. The Inge has never really been allowed to settle into a single identity. There are plenty of other reasons why the Ingenieur isn’t placed in the same realm as those other two watches, but had IWC stuck with that concept in 1976 and iterated over time, I think we’d be having a very different discussion about it today. Regardless, that original concept is getting a new lease on life thanks to this reference 3289, and it represents the clearest opportunity yet to stake claim to its heritage, and from it, build a new modern identity.

In order for that to happen, this 3289 Inge needs to get things right. So, what’s it been like in practice for the past year? Let’s take a closer look.

First, I’d like to acknowledge and appreciate that IWC did not merely recreate the original SL, as would have likely been the easiest route to take for this release, and which likely would have been ready for market much sooner. Instead, IWC created a modern interpretation of that original in a way that transcends any specific era. All the while, that core DNA has been retained, which is a very important balance to get right with a watch like this. That’s not to say this is perfect, because it isn’t, but it’s got the fundamentals pretty much bang on. 

The new Ingenieur uses a 40mm steel case that actually measures a hair less than that, and as you’d expect, there is no traditional lug, but a near seamless integration with the bracelet. The body of the case is a single shape that terminates in a tip against the first link of the bracelet, and the case itself serves as the "female portion," with an articulating connecting link in the middle. The shape and execution allows for a slightly more natural curvature around the wrist compared to a stiff center link of the case connecting to the bracelet, as was the case in the original SL. 

The bracelet is a highlight of this watch. Its fit and finish are as impressive today as they were upon release. There is stiffness and structure in some areas, but it drapes freely as a whole, so it feels very natural on the wrist in a similar manner to something like the 5711, which is a very good thing. The proportions of this watch are slightly thicker than those of a modern Royal Oak or Nautilus; however, with the case measuring just under 11mm in total thickness, it wears a bit more robust than either of those, but this watch also isn’t really positioning itself in the ultra-thin camp. It feels great on the wrist, and while I wouldn’t complain were it a millimeter thinner, everything feels proportionally on point. The bracelet is a big reason why. 

The design of the Ingenieur incorporates many of the hallmarks of the original. There is a round, brushed bezel with five holes containing the bolt heads affixing it in place. One departure is the incorporation of a crown guard, which brings a decidedly more modern feeling. The most interesting element, though, is the dial texture that’s been implemented. It’s a play on the more subtle basketweave found on the original. Here, it’s been exaggerated with depth and ridges that make it highly dynamic in different lighting conditions. Even still, a year later, I’m surprised when I look at this watch, as it seems to adopt to its surroundings in interesting ways. 

There are two small details worth noting, which I still think about when using the watch. The first is the date disk, which is color-matched to the dial, and uses a very unique typeface for the numerals. It’s a nice point of character, and it’s something I notice every time I check the date. Additionally, even the single-digit numbers get a ‘0’ in front of them, so there is a visual continuity throughout the month. The second detail is the design of the hands. While I like this thin, pencil shape, I do wish that the hour hand were slightly wider and/or shorter than the minute hand. They are ever so slightly too close to parity, and while it doesn’t necessarily inhibit legibility, it somehow flattens the experience of reading the time on them. A different hour hand would have added a welcome touch of personality. 

As much as I enjoy the aesthetic qualities of this watch, over time, it has been the wearability of it that I keep coming back to. This watch just wears beautifully, and never gets old. A big part of this comes down to the shape and size of the case, and how the bracelet has been integrated (as well as its taper from 25mm to 18mm at the clasp). One of the biggest criticisms of this watch upon release was the lack of a quick adjustment system for fine tuning the fit and for quick adjustments on the fly. Instead, IWC is using a butterfly clasp that brings two links together neatly at the center. It’s a clean look, which I get the feeling was preferable to a bulky adjustment system with a deployant. There are half-links that can be used, but this could be a tricky watch to really get fitted properly. If you can, it pays off in a big way. 


The other criticism often leveled at this watch is its price. At $11,700 for the steel example, and $14,600 for the titanium, the new Ingenieur is a healthy margin over what had been the expectation. The last time IWC did a Genta-esque Ingenieur was in 2013, with the reference 3239 (pictured above), which was a far more utilitarian tool in feel, and it was priced at $6,600. In keeping with that, many had hoped that this new generation would come in closer to $8,000 or thereabouts. After some time with the watch in use, I will say that it does feel slightly overpriced, but only slightly. This is a seriously good bracelet that IWC has engineered here, and the detail is difficult to convey in images or a spec sheet. It’s something you need to experience to fully appreciate. I’m less swayed by the in-group produced Caliber 32111, which has performed suitably well, but this watch isn’t really about that. An SW-300 would have been just fine in my book if it meant a more approachable price point, but it seems that ship has sailed with brands like this. 

Overall, IWC has done a remarkable job with the new Ingenieur. I think there is plenty of room for some tuning here and there, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see it accept new complications and case materials in the near future. Most importantly, the 3289 provides a strong foundation upon which IWC can properly build out a new generation of the Ingenieur, and establish its identity in a way it never has before. That would not have been possible had the brand simply re-issued the original SL. As a result, this Ingenieur should hold up for many years to come.


Join the Conversation

cesar p.

$8-9k tops… The CEO needs to realize the bracelet doesn’t seek a 5-6k premium. You can buy 2 Marks for the price of this piece.

Nick M.

great watch, totally mispriced

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