In January of this year, IWC introduced an entire new Ingenieur collection. Not just one or two new models; the entire collection was ‘reinvented’. While many of the new Ingenieur models feature all kind of technical innovations, the ref. 3239 Ingenieur Automatic, goes back to its roots. Back to the classic Ingenieur SL ref. 1832 that was designed by Gerald Genta. Will this also become such a classic?
It is of course impossible to answer that question, however Monochrome did take a closer look at the IWC Ingenieur Automatic ref. 3239-04 and gave it some serious wrist-time. We cannot predict if it will ever become a classic like its ancestor from the 1970’s, but we can check if all ingredients are present. The new Ingenieur Automatic is smaller and thinner than any other Ingenieur, well, smaller and thinner than any Ingenieur since the classic SL ref. 1832 designed by Genta. And it wears accordingly, super comfortable.
Before we have a closer look at the new Ingenieur ref. 3239, let’s have a quick look back at the Ingenieur’s history. The very first Ingenieur was introduced in 1955 and it was a true tool watch. Although the early Ingenieurs had the looks of what we would call today a typical ‘dress watch’, it had all substance to be used in the working environment of an engineer.
The IWC Mark XI pilot’s watch had its manual wind movement inside a soft iron case, making the watch’s movement resistant to magnetic fields. These anti-magnetic properties were also of interest to civil engineers who worked with electronic devices, and thus IWC created a watch with similar anti-magnetic properties, but with more classic looks. This ‘normal’ dress watch style Ingenieur, measured a robust (for that time) 36mm in diameter and came with a variety of dials and cases (stainless steel, 18kt gold and steel/gold).
Well known designer Gerald Genta, also responsible for the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and the Patek Philippe Nautilus, did the same trick as on both aforementioned watches; he designed a steel sports watch with integrated steel bracelet. This can actually be considered a typical Genta trademark. When IWC introduced the Ingenieur SL ref. 1832 in 1976 it wasn’t an instant hit to put it mildly. It was produced from 1976 to 1984 and in total 543 pieces in steel were produced (ref. 1832) and just 55 pieces in gold (ref. 9232). It’s safe to say that these watches are HIGHLY collectible today and prices will probably increase over time!
Perhaps the reason for it’s disappointing success (back in the 70’s) was the fact that the ref. 1832 was not the most comfortable watch. It has a thick case, measuring 14 mm in height, and a rather stiff bracelet. The links close to the case were thick and didn’t bend enough, to ‘wrap’ around the wrist. A reason for the ref. 1832′s thickness is probably the movement, caliber 8541. Later Ingenieur SL models featured a slimmer movement, based on the ETA 2892/A2, and became slimmer in total.
Now back to the watch at hand, the newly introduced ref. 3239 Ingenieur Automatic. When looking at the specifications, the rather modest dimensions immediately caught our attention. While the entire industry, including IWC, introduce watches of, ahum, ‘impressive’ dimensions (we could also call ’em humongous, but we here at Monochrome feel that for certain watches a large size really suits), a steel sports watch of 40mm in diameter and with a height of just 10mm really stands out from the crowd. It’s actually a brilliant move from IWC, filling in the gap below the Audemars Piguet Royal and and Patek Philippe Nautilus. While the AP Royal Oak ref. 15400 starts around $ 17,000 USD, this Ingenieur has a retail price of $ 6,600 USD. That’s what we call a brilliant move.
The new Ingenieur has all the “luxury sports watch” properties and Genta-DNA that we’d like to see in such a watch: a pleasant case size, a very comfortable bracelet, which is really superbly finished, and a legacy. The new Ingenieur Automatic comes in three different flavors: a black dial (ref. 323902), a silver/white dial with steel indexes and hands (ref. 323904) and a silver/white dial with gold indexes and hands (ref. 323906).
The most apt feature is of course the soft iron case, in which the movement is encased. Although we have to be critical, we can’t really see the point for a soft iron case to protect a movement from magnetic flux, when the date aperture is an opening in that soft iron case. However when looking at historical models, there were several Ingenieurs that also featured a date visible through an aperture.
Another eye-catching feature is the case and bracelet. Sleek, elegant, extremely well finish, and sporty, but subtle sporty! The bezel still features the recognizable five bores, which were first seen on the Ingenieur SL ref. 1832, designed by Genta. While these bores were used to hold the bezel in position, they now have become the hallmarks of the Ingenieur family, together with the lightning bolt on the dial.
The dial is sober in style, which suits the timeless elegance of the entire watch very well. At the 12 o’clock position is the brand name and home town (IWC – Schaffhausen), and at the lower end of the dial is the model name and logo – that is the word Ingenieur and a lightning bolt going through it. Around the dial are applied hour marker, which have been filled with luminescent material, albeit we need to address that the luminescence was not the strongest we ever saw on a watch. That is also the case for the luminescent material on the hands.
The IWC Ingenieur Replica we had for review is the white/silver dial with steel indexes and hands, ref. 323904. The white/silver dial has a very nice and elegant style. Nothing too fancy, quite understated. Higher prices competitors might have more refined dials, featuring a subtle pattern, however we must realize that such a dial would simply increase the price. IWC has found a nice balance between luxury looks and keep the price affordable.
What to say about such a case and bracelet? Both are simply very, very well made! As we already mentioned, we love the dimensions (40mm in diameter by 10mm in height) and all small but significant details. That’s what creates a luxury feeling and we believe that the new Ingenieur offers more than enough of that luxury sports watch feeling that we just love.
Brushed parts, polished parts, no simple straight lines, a large crown with great grip, aesthetic crown guards, polished bevels on both the case and the bracelet. The bracelet is one of the best bracelet we have ever seen on a watch, both in terms of design and in terms of finishing.
The middle part of the bracelet’s links is slightly raised and features beveled and polished edges. The bracelet is held together with pins, going entirely through the bracelet links, from one side to the other side. A little pusher in each link can be pushed, with a small push tool, to release the pin. Removing the pin will disconnect the link, and makes it easy to size the bracelet to your wrist. There’s one half-size link that can be used to fine-tune the bracelet’s size.
The folding clasp, with IWC engraved in it, works perfectly and is opened by pushing two buttons on the side of the clasp.
Inside ticks a Sellita movement, a caliber SW200, which is in fact exactly the same as an ETA 2824. When the Swatch group announced they wouldn’t deliver ETA movements to non Swatch Group brands, several watch brands started to develop their own movements. These newly developed movements were mainly chronograph movements, and there are no real substitutes for the basic, but extremely useful, ETA 2824 and ETA 2892 calibers.
That was a task that Sellita, Soprod and several other (new) movement suppliers took upon themselves. These movement suppliers made the necessary ETA clones and now we see brands like IWC (and others) who start using these ETA clones. The movements have more or less the same specifications, so parts can be exchanged with ETA parts. Not that there’s an urgent need for that, however since parts like the stem are also interchangeable, it these new parts can also be used for servicing watches with an ETA movement.
Some have argued that the relatively basic movement does not justify the price level of $ 6,600 USD. We see this in another perspective. Although we also prefer a lovely ultra-thin movement, like the caliber 2120 that AP uses in the Royal Oak ref. 15202, we also realize that using such a movement would increase the price rather fierce. The choice that IWC made, is value for money, and we applaud this.
I think you won’t be surprised when we say that we just love the new Ingenieur Automatic, ref. 3239. The size, the finish, the style, it somehow all works extremely well and it is the more affordable choice for a luxury sports watch, when the AP Royal Oak and Patek Nautilus are simply above budget.
While we love the IWC Ingenieur for filling that gap, below these two other luxury sports watches, we also realize that we would love to see a more refined ultra-thin movement and a dial that has some more, but discrete, details; two demands that would increase the price significantly. IWC manages to balance between that luxury feeling and keeping the price at a nice level. The case and bracelet are the main contributors to that luxury sports watch feeling, but they are also represent the largest costs in producing the Replica IWC Ingenieur Automatic ref. 3239.