It is – once again – to Gérald Genta that we owe the brilliant design of the Ingenieur watch as we now know it. Its taut, virile and technical lines were to powerfully affirm the identity of a collection that has nonetheless had a turbulent history. For while the Ingenieur appears to have established itself as a fixture in the Iwc Ingenieur Blue Replica collections, that has not always been the case. A few milestone dates are enough to highlight its adventurous path, having been first created in 1955, propelled to fame in 1975 by Genta’s design, progressively eclipsed during the quartz wave and then spectacularly revived in 2005. With such a string of “5s” in its chronology, 2015 is the perfect time to celebrate a model that is still very much on the scene despite the twists and turns of history.

IWC Ingenieur: true grit and a fighting spirit

Built for bright sparks
Its audience – composed of scientists, researchers and engineers – has remained unchanged. The model was developed in the 1950s with such individuals in mind. Sturdy, antimagnetic, water-resistant and accurate, it was intended to serve as a firm ally of those who measure and explore the world.

Right from the start, the Ingenieur was a distillation of high-tech features. Its Faraday cage was capable of protecting the movement against magnetic fields of up to 80,000 A/m (amperes per metre). That was 10 times the minimum antimagnetic requirement of the time for Swiss watches! However, watch design in 1955 was not as bold as it would become in the following decades. The highly technical Ingenieur was presented in a very traditional design that somewhat blurred its positioning. And that was exactly where Genta would step in.

A barrel and screws
Before turning his hand to the Ingenieur, Genta had already designed the Royal Oak three years earlier, in 1972. Iwc Ingenieur Zifferblatt Replica was content to draw inspiration from the latter while asserting its own style codes. The Ingenieur was the perfect candidate for Genta, as a model that was literally begging to express the full force of its technical nature.

Genta gave it a more tonneau-like (barrel) shape, complete with five visible screws designed to open the watch, an engine-turned motif and a nickname that would stick because of its 40 mm size that was very substantial at the time: Jumbo. The two latter features directly evoke the Royal Oak Jumbo and its pattern that was later dubbed “tapisserie”.

IWC Ingenieur: true grit and a fighting spirit

Relative failures and relaunch attempts
It had what it took to guarantee its success, and yet nothing much happened: the Ingenieur designed by Genta was a commercial failure and only 1,000 were produced. With hindsight, this failure is attributed to the tidal wave of quartz watches. Perhaps the model was simply too far ahead of its time, because these extremely rare collector’s timepieces currently sell for more than CHF 10,000.

Between the late 1970s and early 1980s, Iwc Ingenieur Automatic 40mm Replica attempted to jolt the Ingenieur out of its rut. Two models were entrusted with this daunting mission: a first one with a quartz movement that was supposed to be more in tune with the trend of the times; and then, a few years later, a version equipped with an externally sourced ETA 2892 movement – representing an unusual industrial approach for IWC that boasts a large number of in-house calibres including those developed by its technical director since 1944, the brilliant James Pellaton.

IWC Ingenieur: true grit and a fighting spirit

Back to roots
This was possibly due to the heft of their first SL, which was thicker and heavier than his designs to the Royal Oak and Nautilus. This was of course because of the fact that the Ingenieur was designed mainly as an anti-magnetic tool watch and might not have been popular with buyers searching for thinner sport-luxury pieces. Of course, all three pieces were found in the middle of the quartz crisis, and also how they lived and remain attractive and collectable today is a testament to their lasting layout allure over all.The brand new 3239 is provided with three dial variations, such as two silver-plated versions (one with steel hands and markers, another with rose stone), and one using a classically inspired black dial. While all 3 versions are remarkable to behold, the black dial struck me as the sportiest of this collection, in addition to the most conventional, so I selected it for this review.Like its predecessors, the 2013 model includes roughly the same case dimensions and the iconic incorporated bracelet design. The only true death from the original in terms of case design is that the inclusion of triangular crown guards on the right side of the instance (the SL had no protectors). The glistening dial is executed masterfully with a style of three concentric rings, including texture and depth not found in prior versions. The outermost ring features chapter markers, the middle with glossy luminescent hour mark, along with the central with the classic “Ingenieur” script and brand logo. The polished, solid steel luminescent hands have been updated with a partly open design. The crystal is sapphire and contains an anti-reflective coating.
Largely ignored by the public at large, the Ingenieur then returned to its initial, purely technical territory. IWC began cooperating with armed forces in developing extreme models, notably capable of withstanding magnetic fields of 500 a/m. The result was a moderate success (3,000 were sold), but was in fact truly noteworthy for having pushed antimagnetic boundaries to an unprecedented level. In terms of precision, the other strong suit of the Ingenieur, IWC sourced from LMH (Jaeger-LeCoultre) a hybrid MecaQuartz model featuring a quartz movement, a mechanical chronograph and an alarm function.

It was not until 2005 that IWC reprised the Ingenieur that had been fading into the background. By that time, men were looking for four features in a watch – all of which were firmly embedded in the genes of the original Ingenieur: technical, accurate watchmaking with a good story to tell and a design featuring a deliberately vintage touch. The collection appeared in large versions, attired in titanium or ceramics and boldly fitted with a rubber strap. It even found its way into the racing paddocks of the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team. In the same pioneering spirit of precision, IWC equipped it with a Constant-Force Tourbillon escapement. And now, in a few weeks’ time, the brand will doubtless be unveiling the future of this collection that is now entering the second decade of its renaissance.

IWC Ingenieur: true grit and a fighting spirit