Collecting Five Great Ingenieurs

The name Ingenieur is a fitting one to be used by IWC.  Naming a watch line as Ingenieur was a stroke of genius, both in its simplicity and for what it represents. 

 

 “Ingenieur” evolves from Old French and Medieval Latin, under which the work “ingeniator” means “one who makes or uses an engine”.  Engineers are persons who design and construct structures, materials, and systems while considering the limitations involved.  

 

The Ingenieur name well represents a mechanical watch that meets high standards of technical design, craftsmanship and practicality.  The French word “Ingenieur” is perfect here.  While IWC is located in Schaffhausen, a German-speaking town in Switzerland, the language of watches generally is French. Moreover, the technical director of IWC during the 1950s and ‘60s, when the Ingenieur line debuted, was the famous Albert Pellaton, who himself was from the French-speaking part of Switzerland. 

Given the historical importance of the IWC watch line known as Ingenieur, it can be a real challenge to determine which Ingenieur models a watch collector should optimally acquire.  There are so many fine examples in IWC’s glorious history of the Ingenieur line, such that selecting only a few becomes a daunting task.  Despite the simplicity of the name, collecting the “best” ones is scarcely simple.

 

As a hypothetical exercise, imagine being given 100,000 (in Dollars or Swiss francs) with the entire purpose being to acquire five – and only five – Ingenieur examples.  Which models should they be?  How can a collector decide without future regrets? My suggestions appear below and undoubtedly not everyone will not concur. Still, trying to define the five seminal examples of IWC’s great Ingenieurs can be a worthwhile, if not often frustrating, endeavor.  

— Reference 666: "mother of all Ingenieurs"

The first example presumably needs to be the “mother of all Ingenieurs”, the estimable Reference 666, introduced ca. 1955.  It sometimes has been called the civilian, automatic version of the Mark 11 Pilot’s watch.  But it was not a military watch but rather a tool watch that could be used equally for dress or everyday use.  The Reference 666 was designed to be classic in its simplicity and had one special characteristic, magnetic shielding.  By creating a Faraday cage, the watch resisted magnetic fields and therefore could be used numerous technical environments. 

 

There is no doubt the Reference 666 is historically important, yet among collectors it sometimes is shadowed by its successor, Reference 866.  An argument can be made that 866 is a “better” watch.  It has a larger case and sometimes special dials.  It also uses the most improved of the calibre 85xx movements, calibre 8541.  It’s a close call, but above all else I respect history.  To me, I think the Reference 666 is the first watch of the five examples to acquire.

 

If the Reference 866 Ingenieur were not chosen, then the next watch that must be selected is the Reference 1832, the Gerald Genta redesign of the Ingenieur from 1976.  This so-called “jumbo” Ingenieur reflected a radical change in the Ingenieur model, although today a 40 mm case watch is no longer “jumbo”.  A particularly sturdy watch – sometimes nicknamed “Tressor” (meaning “vault”), it used the fine IWC caliber 8541 ES movement and again had amagnetic shielding.   This model represents an important step in the evolution of the Ingenieur.  It’s a classic example of a fine tool watch on a bracelet and is my choice for a second collecting example. 

The Jumbo Ingenieur was not particularly popular during its era, since it was introduced at a time when mechanical watches were in large part superseded by quartz ones.  In 1983, however, a new Ingenieur SL was introduced, reference 3505, that was more elegant and slimmer, with a 34mm diameter case size and a characteristic “graph paper” dial design. This model then was followed by a special 500,000 A/M amagnetic model, Reference 3508 from 1989 to 1992/3, and then a certified chronometer model, Reference 3521, with a platinum rotor representing the Ingenieur line.  

 

While there is no doubt that these Ingenieur models from the 1980s and 1990s are historically important and interesting to the collector, if one is limited to only five examples then these models, at least to me, must take a chair in the second row. They are important, but arguably less important or collectible that the Reference 666 or 1832 models. The problem is the limitation of only five representative models.

— Reference 1832: "jumbo" Ingenieur
— Reference 866

By the end of the 1990’s, IWC ceased production of the last of the older Ingenieurs, Reference 3521.  Given the important of the line, this decision created a proverbial hole in IWC’s product offerings. It therefore was with great relief to collectors that in 2005 IWC introduced a new Ingenieur, the 42 mm Reference 3227. 

 

The Reference 3227 was based on the Jumbo Ingenieur design yet was more modern in size, movement, and characteristics, and again was amagnetic.  As such, given the historical importance of the rebirth of the Ingenieur line with this model, it is the third example that I would choose for a collection of five.  In fact, I would choose Reference IW322705, which is a limited edition Collectors’ Forum Ingenieur with a special anthracite dial and engraved back. 

 

The newly reborn Ingenieur line then quickly developed into a large number of other models.  One candidate for the “five to die for” might be the Big Ingenieur, reference 5005, some other recent Ingenieurs were chronographs, and some were special editions or limited ones, such as the two models honoring the Plastiki expedition.  Also, in 2008, a new “Vintage Collection Ingenieur”, Reference 3233, was introduced, which was much like the original Ingenieur Reference 666, but in a larger size and without amagnetic properties.  This model subsequently was produced with an alluring variety of dials and metals, including a sentimental favorite of mine, a 100 piece limited edition for Italy.  There also were two Ingenieur models honoring the Laureus Foundation, both which are especially attractive with their blue metallic dials, their specially engraved backs and for the good cause they support.

Most recently, in March 2017 IWC has revamped its Ingenieur line and introduced several enticing new models. The design and size of all these new models generally is more traditional, connoting the simplicity and versatility of the original reference 666 Ingenieur. One model, Reference 3570 with a 40 mm diameter case and a Calibre 35111 movement, has been especially well received. So has the limited edition Chronograph Sport, which has a 44mm titanium case. The newest models delete the historical “lightning bolt” insignia on their dials.

 

Given this plethora of modern Ingenieurs, it becomes difficult to choose two key examples of contemporary ones that, perhaps 20 to 30 years from now, will become especially coveted among collectors.  I like several of the new models, but will defer at this early time from selecting any to be among the five special Ingenieurs.  They are worthy of owning, but whether they will be time-tested classics remains to be seen.

 

Choosing from so many contemporary Ingenieur models is inherently personal and involves subjective considerations.  My preferences, which are not necessarily typical, involve two models that reflect engineering in a pure sense.  To my thinking, the essential value of the Ingenieur is the fact that it is an engineer’s watch, first and foremost.  Complications, even if not historically present in the vintage models, become especially important.  

— Reference IW322705: reborn Ingenieur
— Reference IW386501: Ingenieur Double Chronograph

To that end, the first of the modern Ingenieurs that I would add to a collection would be the titanium rattrapante (or double-chronograph) model, reference IW386501.  Although double-chronographs may be somewhat less valued in the world of high horology today, they nevertheless have been historically important as one of the masterpieces of fine watchmaking.  IWC introduced the double chronograph in 1993 and did so with a revolutionary design, which greatly simplified the mechanism and its attendant costs.  Moreover, IWC pioneered the use of titanium in watches.  These characteristics –double-chronos and titanium-- are IWC firsts.

 

Therefore, my first of the modern Ingenieurs would be reference IW386501, which is the titanium Ingenieur with a double-chronograph.  To me, this is an “essential” IWC watch reflecting a sophisticated complication in a way that demonstrates engineering prowess and still is very much a tool watch.  

The second and final contemporary Ingenieur that I would choose would be the Perpetual Calendar Day-Date Ingenieur Reference 3792.  Few people know that that the famous perpetual calendar movement developed by Kurt Klaus was actually introduced a few months earlier as a 34mm in diameter Ingenieur (Reference 3540) before it was introduced in the famous Da Vinci.  The perpetual calendar is another essential hallmark of IWC and again reflects stellar engineering acumen. 

 

Moreover, the Ingenieur Perpetual Calendar Day-Date is a special watch, with windows showing the day and date. With its open-worked dial, you can see enough to realize this is a prime example of great engineering. It breaths –and indeed shouts—engineering. It may differ from the classic Ingenieurs, but it is a true Ingenieur watch. As such, it is a watch that, decades from now, may likely be a signature model and extraordinarily collectible.  

— Reference IW379201: Ingenieur Perpetual Calendar Digital Day Month

All this results in five watches being selected: 

 

  • original Ingenieur, reference 666
  • Genta-redesigned Ingenieur, reference 1832
  • reborn Ingenieur, reference IW322705
  • Ingenieur Double Chronograph, reference IW386501 and
  • Ingenieur Perpetual Calendar Digital Day Month, reference IW379201

 

Undoubtedly, if a hundred IWC collectors were gathered in a room, there might be a hundred different choices. Five and only five choices present a difficult limitation.  I am willing, however, to stick my neck out here, or actually my wrist.  

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