At long last, the reissue of Gérald Genta’s iconic sports steel watch for IWC – 1976’s Ingenieur SL “Jumbo”, Reference 1832 – has landed.
This will surely be the Schaffhausen watchmaker’s most attention-grabbing Watches and Wonders novelty. Watch fans and industry observers won’t be wholly surprised (but will be super happy) it’s finally here, 40 years after it stopped production (although other Ingenieur models were available, most recently until 2017). The reissue of this cult design favorite was always a matter of when, not if. Unlike Genta’s other greatest hits (e.g. the AP Royal Oak and Patek Nautilus), the Ingenieur collection actually existed before the famed designer came on board.
The first IWC Ingenieur arrived in 1955 with the devilish reference 666. This understated, round watch was powered by calibre 8531, IWC’s first in-house developed automatic movement with the Pellaton winding system. The movement was notably antimagnetic and hence targeted at the likes of engineers, physicists, and doctors who were regularly exposed to strong magnetic fields.
The name IWC Ingenieur Automatic 40 – which translates into “engineer” in both French and German – was apt.
Fast forward to the 1970s and the watch industry is knees deep in the quartz crisis and the double whammy of skyrocketing gold prices. IWC calls in Genta to revamp its Ingenieur line with a strong visual identity (and steel finish). Genta adds an integrated H-link bracelet paired with a structured dial, topped with a screw-on bezel with five recesses. The man loved his screwy bezels! The SL name was added, and interestingly, even IWC’s current CEO Chris Grainger-Herr admits that what SL stood for remains a mystery. The Italians christened it Super Lusso, the French Super Luxe, while simply steel and luxury is another running theory. Sized at 40mm, the market nicknamed it Jumbo.
Enter 2023. The new IWC Ingenieur Automatic 40 , available in three different dial colours and a titanium model, is a faithful and more sophisticated looking reproduction of Genta’s design. Enhanced ergonomics were a major part of the brief. The original H-link bracelet was narrowed, and the nose-shaped horns swapped for a re-engineered, movable middle-link attachment, which falls better on different-sized wrists. A slight curve in the case ring further makes the piece sit well (the watch is a three-part construction: bezel, case ring and caseback).
The most obvious change is the bezel. The original SL had a five-recess bezel that was screwed in and secured with five pins. It screwed down like the top of a jar, which meant the orientation of the recesses always ended up somewhat inconsistent from one watch to the next. But precision and engineering are the name of the game at IWC – and actual, functional polygonal screws now secure the bezel to the case ring, delivering consistent and symmetrical positioning. The watch features satin finishes with polished edges. Sleek crown guards underscore the watch’s sporting roots and 100m water resistance.
The original structured dial is now more prominent and luminous in what IWC is calling a “grid” pattern of perpendicular lines. Where the original dial was stamped, new techniques to now stamp and grind the dial add a more precise finishing on the grid’s edges, serving up a shimmering, sunburst effect. Reissuing a watch will always be viewed through rose-tinted glasses and a dose of nostalgia – throw in the late Gérald Genta and even more so. That said, I kind of liked how the previous bezel was sort of wonky and off-kilter. But I have to admit that the new functional screws make it look ultra slick and symmetrical.
The dial is a real looker. An all-round reproportioning from the original has worked well, with the aqua and white models really capturing the light. They’re my faves, but I suspect the black will be equally popular. Meanwhile, the enhanced ergonomics make a big difference. If excellent design is seamless and imperceptible, then the new Ingenieur Automatic 40 pulls that off brilliantly: A shortened lug-to-lug distance of 45.7mm translates into a snug and light fit, with the reworked case further making the watch sit really well.
This IWC Ingenieur Automatic 40 watch is super wearable and will stand the test of time: It’s one I’d easily reach for in the morning and comfortably wear all day and night. I have slender wrists, by the way, and can attest to the design’s gender-neutral appeal. On a final note, it will be interesting to see where and how IWC develops Genta’s original design from here – and also to see who buys it.
For years, collectors and journalists have been begging IWC to “bring the Genta back.” Well, here it is. Until now, the Ingenieur has felt like an insider’s watch, but today we have a resurrected connoisseur’s piece with the potential to cross over to the mainstream – just like Vacheron did last year with the 222.