The Ingenieur SL from Gérald Genta: A Design for Eternity
The Ingenieur was first launched in 1955 with IWC’s first automatic movement to be developed in-house, Pellaton winding and a soft-iron inner case for magnetic field protection. Despite being a technical milestone, its name is almost always mentioned in the same breath as that of Gérald Genta, considered by many the most influential watch designer of all times. In the 1970s, Genta created the Ingenieur SL, whose bold aesthetic codes and unique visual identity have marked the history of the IWC Ingenieur ever since.
THE BIRTH OF THE INGENIEUR
The 1950s were a time of change and departure. New devices simplified household chores, and the belief in technical progress was almost limitless. It was during this eventful period that IWC launched the Ingenieur – the first antimagnetic wristwatch from Schaffhausen for civilian use. This “tool was” was specifically aimed at professionals who were exposed to strong magnetic fields in their line of work, such as engineers, technicians, physicists, chemists or doctors. A sort-iron inner case protected the movement from the effects of magnetic fields. IWC had initially developed this technology some years earlier for the Pilot’s Watch Mark 11 for the British Royal Air Force. In keeping with the understated taste of the target group, the first Ingenieur (Ref. 666) was launched in 1955 with a round and rather unobtrusive round case design.
A NEW INGENIEUR IN THE MAKING
By the end of the 1960s, the idea of creating a new “new heavy Ingenieur steel model” was already circulating among IWC’s management. The new Ingenieur was not only to become more robust thanks to an integrated shock protection system. Another key requirement was also a new case design to emphasize the technical character of this watch even better. In search of an external designer, IWC turned to Gérald Genta. The French-speaking Swiss, a great admirer of the brand, was working as a freelance watch designer at the time. IWC had already collaborated with him for the design of a steel chronograph in 1967. However, this project was never realized. IWC commissioned Genta to redesign the Ingenieur, and the designer delivered the result of his work in 1974.
A GÉRALD GENTA MASTERPIECE
Gérald Genta’s Ingenieur SL, Ref 1832, was launched in 1976 as the leader model of IWC’s SL collection, which comprised several luxury sports watches with cases and bracelets made of stainless steel. It featured bold aesthetic codes such as a screw-on, round bezel with five recesses, a special pattern on the dial and an integrated steel bracelet with H-links. With its unique visual identity, this new Ingenieur perfectly reflected Genta’s artistic vision of a luxury steel sports watch with integrated bracelet. The Ingenieur SL was nicknamed “Jumbo” for its impressive case size. However, despite its innovative and disruptive design, the watch did not enjoy commercial success. Only a little more than 1000 pieces were produced during the following years. Today, the Ingenieur SL is a collector’s favorite and one of the most sought-after timepieces from the history of IWC.
A DESIGN THAT HAD COME TO STAY
Over the following almost 50 years, IWC took Genta’s Ingenieur as the main inspiration for the Ingenieur. The design codes of the Ingenieur SL are so strong that they allowed IWC to slightly vary and alter the design without ever losing the legendary watch designers unique artistic signature. In 1983, for example, several new models were added to the collection, all of which represented a clear continuation of Genta’s design idiom. However, in keeping with clients tastes of the 1980s, the case size of the new Ingenieur SL was reduced to a much smaller diameter of 34 mm. Due to its thinness, this new Ingenieur SL was nicknamed “The skinny Ingenieur” by collectors.
Especially noteworthy is also the Ingenieur 500.000 A/m, which IWC developed in the mid-1980s with Swiss metallurgy specialists Prof. Steinemann and Dr. Straumann. This completely antimagnetic watch featured a hairspring made of a special niobium-zirconium alloy which was extremely challenging to manufacture. The model was tested in an MRI scanner and withstood an incredible 3.7 million A/m. IWC modestly called it the Ingenieur 500.000 A/m and released it in 1989 in a case size of 34 mm.
SHOCK PROTECTION AND NEW MOVEMENT
In 2005, 50 years after the launch of the first IWC Ingenieur, the watch family was in for a brilliant comeback. The new Ingenieur Automatic, Ref. 3227, featured all the essential design codes of Genta’s Ingenieur SL from the 1970s. However, it also featured a newly developed automatic movement from Schaffhausen. The IWC-manufactured 80110 calibre featured Pellaton winding and an integrated shock absorber system. In keeping with the tradition of the Ingenieur, a soft-iron inner case protected the movement against magnetic fields.
NEW CASE MATERIALS AND COMPLICATIONS
In 2013, IWC became the “Official Engineering Partner” of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula OneTM team. At the same time, the company presented an entirely revamped Ingenieur collection. The talking piece of the collection was the Ingenieur Constant-Force Tourbillon, Ref. 590001, a technical masterpiece featuring a case made of platinum and ceramic. The star on the dial was the tourbillon with an integrated constant-force mechanism, ensuring an extremely high accuracy of the watch. IWC also continued to innovate in the field of advanced materials. With the Ingenieur Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month, Ref. 379201, was the first timepiece from Schaffhausen to feature a case made of titanium aluminide (TiAl), a material used in motor racing for the pistons and valves of high-performance engines. The Ingenieur Automatic, Ref. 3239, was also redesigned. While still boasting the essential design codes from Genta’s Ingenieur SL, it was also the first Ingenieur to feature a crown guard.
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