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IWC Schaffhausen

The Journal

A Rightful Place for the Ingenieur SL Ref. 1832

A Rightful Place for the Ingenieur SL Ref. 1832
Read Time: 3 min
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Terry Russell

Terry Russell

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WATCH COLLECTOR TERRY RUSSELL SHARES HIS THOUGHTS ON THE LEGENDARY IWC INGENIEUR “JUMBO” SL AUTOMATIC REF. 1832 FROM 1976

As an IWC collector, it has long frustrated me that the 1832 Ingenieur lived its short life as a mostly obscure model unknown to all but the most serious collectors of the brand. Designed by Gerald Genta, whose 1970s designs ushered in the dawn of the luxury stainless steel sports watch, the IWC 1832 Ingenieur SL is usually mentioned only in passing when his major accomplishments are discussed. Designed in 1974 and released by IWC in 1976, its relatively short production life insured its rarity among his numerous creations.

IWC Icon: the Ingenieur SL Automatic Ref. 1832 designed by Gerald Genta

— IWC Icon: the Ingenieur SL Automatic Ref. 1832 designed by Gerald Genta

 

    

THE BIRTH OF AN ICON

Few watch companies can boast multiple industry icons at such low production numbers as IWC. Be it the B-Uhr from 1940 at 1,000 pieces, the 690 original Portugiesers sold over a 42-year period, or even the Mark 11, whose relatively small production was also scattered over several decades; these models went on to define not only IWC but a genre of watches that have since been copied many times.

 

For those models that came later, we must add the Ingenieur to the list. Released in 1955 to address the needs of modern life, this first-series Ingenieur, designated as the reference 666, included Albert Pellaton’s extraordinary automatic caliber 852 as well as protection from the growing risk of strong electromagnetic fields in the daily work of scientists and engineers. This flagship model would remain a staple of IWC for more than a decade.

    

THE ROAD TO CHANGE

If the 1950s represented a post-war economic boom, the 1960s were characterized by the growing influence of a youthful population ready to define its own music, fashion, and politics. By the end of the decade, this social change was so prolific that it spawned its own unique design code, elevating watches as objects of style.

 

It was during this time that IWC decided to refresh the Ingenieur, and in 1967 the reference 866 was launched. It contained a new 852 derivative, the caliber 8541, and a new case to accommodate this slightly thinner movement. Other changes included sunburst dials, white gold markers, a paddle seconds hand and applied “IWC” logos. 

 

It would not sell as well as the reference 666, in part due to the concurrent release of the Yacht Club, which was perhaps considered a more modern design. By 1975, the 866 had faded from IWC’s offerings.

 

According to David Seyffer, IWC’s Museum Director, the need to completely modernize the Ingenieur was recognized as early as 1969, as evidenced by his discovery in the archives of a “Neue Ingenieur” project with the directive for five prototypes with blue and white dials. However, this internal design project never progressed, and IWC would start looking outside for a new design. 

  

  

Genta’s Ingenieur SL with silver-plated dial from the 1976 catalogue

— Genta’s Ingenieur SL with silver-plated dial from the 1976 catalogue

 

[…] the 1832 “Jumbo” would become a sought-after model, greatly increasing in value, and defining yet another iconic watch within the IWC family.
Visionary watch designer and artist, Gerald Genta

— Visionary watch designer and artist, Gerald Genta

THE IWC-GERALD-GENTA COLLABORATION

The 1832 Ingenieur would be the first of several new steel watches in a new “SL” line intended to modernize the company’s offerings. The responsibility for this project fell to Hannes Pantli, who had just joined the company in 1972 as IWC’s newest salesman in charge of Northern Europe, and he quickly recognized the need to lower product costs and increase factory utilization. The price of gold would more than triple due to the end of the Bretton Woods system, crippling IWC’s exports and creating an existential threat to the company.

 

While Pantli saw the need to have several new steel watches to compliment the 1811 Yacht Club, the initial focus was on the Ingenieur, due to its history in the market. With the company in something of a state of flux, the design responsibility for the new Ingenieur was awarded to Genta, the only known independent watch designer at the time. Genta had made a name for himself through his main accomplishments for the Royal Oak and the Nautilus at the same period. Two other notable watches in the SL line were the Golf Club and Polo Club, neither of which were designed by Genta.

 

Pantli met with Genta in 1973 and communicated IWC’s stipulations: the watch had to be round with an integrated bracelet, and it had to maintain the double case and accommodate the 8541ES movement. There had been a project to release a new family of thinner movements for IWC’s 100th Anniversary in 1968, but the project was abandoned when the movements failed to meet IWC’s reliability standards.

 

The 8541ES, with “ES” designating the inclusion of several new anti-magnetic components, a stop seconds function and rubber cushions, was at the pinnacle of accuracy and reliability but at 5.9mm high, it cased out at 12.5mm. When added to the overall case dimension of 40mm, “Jumbo” would become a fitting nickname among collectors.

 

  

[…] 40 years later, we collectors still dream of its eventual return and the assumption of its rightful place among the historic work of its talented designer.

  

THE “JUMBO” INGENIEUR AUTOMATIC 1832

During the life of the “Jumbo”, IWC did its best to accommodate customer requests and eventually produced models in six different references in varying combinations of metals, offering both automatic and quartz movements. After just about seven years of production, the Jumbo was discontinued in 1983.

 

A decade later, the 1832 “Jumbo” would become a sought-after model, greatly increasing in value, and defining yet another iconic watch within the IWC family. Since 1983, this Ingenieur has emerged from relative obscurity and taken on numerous forms, but 40 years later, we collectors still dream of its eventual return and the assumption of its rightful place among the historic work of its talented designer.

 

As for the original Genta drawing of the “Jumbo”, the search continues…

The Ingenieur “Jumbo” is considered one of Gerald Genta’s masterpieces

— The Ingenieur “Jumbo” is considered one of Gerald Genta’s masterpieces

IWC Schaffhausen