Hands On: IWC Ingenieur Goes Back to the Basics at Watches & Wonders 2023

Hands On: IWC Ingenieur Goes Back to the Basics at Watches & Wonders 2023

After several years of heavy focus on its mega-popular Pilots’ Watch collections, IWC Schaffhausen surprised many visitors to this year’s Watches & Wonders Geneva fair by offering up as its headliner a new version of its automotive-inspired sport-luxury watch, the IWC Ingenieur. Or perhaps to be more precise, we should call it a new-old version, as the latest generation of the Ingenieur, available in three distinctive dial executions, takes a lot of its cues from its iconic predecessor from the 1970s.

IWC Ingenieur Automatic 40 Black

The Background: The original IWC Ingenieur — Ref. 666, launched in 1955 as a watch aimed at professionals who worked in fields that exposed them to high levels of magnetic fields, such as doctors, pilots, scientists, and engineers (hence the model’s Francophone name). That watch, and its successor in 1967, Ref. 886, were noteworthy for their use of an antimagnetic, soft iron Faraday cage that shielded the movement inside from the harm caused by magnetism. They were, however, somewhat unremarkable from a design standpoint. So in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, IWC was already on a quest to produce a newer, bolder version of the Ingenieur that would be even more robust with a built-in shock protection system. After several underwhelming attempts, the brand reached out to legendary watch designer Gérald Genta, creator of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and Patek Philippe Nautilus. Genta’s design gave birth to the now-famous and very collectible Ingenieur SL Ref. 1832 in 1976, housing the automatic Caliber 8541, a watch that resisted magnetism to an astounding-for-the-time 80,000 A/m of magnetism. The Ingenieur was defined by its screw-on bezel with visible screws and its integrated H-link bracelet. It was also very expensive for a steel watch, and by the early 1980s the Quartz Crisis had sent the Ingenieur into relative dormancy as it had many other mechanical Swiss watches. In the 1990s and 2000s IWC resurrected and redesigned the Ingenieur in several versions, and the model became associated with the partnership between the Swiss maison and the Mercedes AMG Racing team. 

IWC Ingenieur Automatic 40 Aqua

What’s New: IWC has reworked the Ingenieur case down to the smallest detail in an effort to pay homage to Genta’s classic design, with new proportions, an emphasis on ergonomics, an array of aesthetic details and finishing on an haute horologerie level, and (of course) a thoroughly modern and high-tech movement. The round bezel sports the five visible — and functional — polygonal screws that defined the ‘70s original, while the soft-iron dial (in black, silver, or a very fetching aqua blue) now features an attractive, grid-like textured pattern, a structural design that balances the smooth curves of the case. The dial’s grid is made up of small lines offset by 90 degrees to each other, and is stamped into the soft iron blank before it is galvanized. The hour markers and hands are luminescent and add additional depth and legibility to the watch’s face. The case, bezel, and elegantly integrated bracelet all have a combination of polished and satin-finished surfaces, while the bracelet’s upper part is notable for its closed links without pins. 

IWC Ingenieur Automatic 40 Aqua

The IWC Ingenieur Automatic 40 is available in three steel versions with the above-mentioned dial options, and one in sandblasted titanium with a handsome gray dial. (IWC, as aficionados may know, is one of the pioneers of using titanium in the watch industry.) All measuring 40mm in diameter, with a 47.5mm lug width, the cases measure a relatively slender 10.8mm in thickness, making them just as wearable or even more so than the models from the 1970s, after years of IWC going bigger and bolder with the Ingenieur family. Inside each case, behind a period-appropriate solid steel caseback to ensure its protection from magnetic fields, is IWC’s in-house Caliber 3211, an automatic movement with a hacking seconds function and an improved barrel construction that enables a lengthy power reserve of 120 hours, or five days.

IWC Ingenieur Automatic 40

How Much? The IWC Ingenieur Automatic 40 carries an MSRP of $11,700 in steel and (as of this writing) an expected $14,000 in titanium. 

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