SIHH 2005Thoughts about IWC’s new Ingenieur Automatic, Ref. IW3227
IWC’s new Ingenieur in many ways is not a new watch. By descent, it rightfully claims a heritage that spans a full half-century. Its foundations are unmistakable, and it is more evolutionary than revolutionary. Above all else, the Ingenieur is an IWC watch. Not merely in name or by virtue of the place of its birth, but because it stands for principles that embody the foundations of IWC. Even the name gives everything away: the Ingenieur. The Engineer. Simple, strong, precise –well-engineered.
Every watch is a product of its time, and the Ingenieur is no exception. It was born in the mid-1950s, and reflected an era of scientific advance. It was reborn in the mid-1970s, and reflected an era of experimentation. And the new Ingenieur is a product of today: it is unmistakably a watch of the 21st century. Yet the fundamental irony is that the Ingenieur is a timeless watch: it is a watch for all times.
The Ingenieur is more than a symbol of its era; it also is a symbol of International Watch Company. IWC has principles, standards, a philosophy. And there is no watch that reflects those tenets more than the Ingenieur. As one collector from the Netherlands , Brava, stated “…the Ingenieur even by its name embodies all the IWC's core values. Engineering driven 'form follows function' without losing sight of design elegance and practicality.” Historically, IWC made high quality, time-only basic watches. Good, solid, practical watches. Until the 1980s –for more than one hundred years—virtually no complicated watches came out of Schaffhausen. Founded upon a strong pocket watch tradition, the first megastar wristwatch in the IWC line-up was born in the 1940s. It was a steel, time-only, tool watch: the Mark XI. Introduced in 1948, the Mark XI was a no-nonsense watch designed for use in the British Royal Air Force. It also was the first step in the genesis of the Ingenieur.
The second step in the Ingenieur’s development was the work of Albert Pellaton. In the mid-1940s, he became employed by IWC as its technical director. Mr. Pellaton came from a famous family of watchmakers, especially known for their work on tourbillons. However, his role at IWC didn’t involve such elaborate complications, since IWC produced simpler time-only movements. Instead, one of his claims to fame was the development of a unique automatic winding system that now bears his name. The noted author of numerous books on watchmaking, Donald de Carle, has called Pellaton’s winding mechanism "a simple and ingenious system, well constructed and beautifully finished". With this invention, IWC watches with the automatic Pellaton winding system debuted in 1950.
The Ingenieur itself was born of the idea to take the military Mark XI and “convert” it to a civilian watch using the Pellaton winding system. The watch had to have impeccable timekeeping, be particularly sturdy, and –like the Mark XI— it had to be antimagnetic. Not a fancy watch, but one with impeccable engineering. A watch that would proudly state “Probus Scafusia”: good, solid craftsmanship from Schaffhausen.
The Ingenieur debuted in 1954/1955. Then, as now, the Ingenieur was an antimagnetic, automatic watch and the flagship model of International Watch Company. Clean, basic, tough. Simple and unpretentious. But really engineered.
Together with the Ingenieur’s durability came longevity. The Ingenieur evolved as new movements and subsequent models were announced over the following decades. In 1958, the Ingenieur’s movement evolved from the Calibres 852 and 8521 to Calibres 853 and 8531. In 1967/1968, the Ingenieur evolved again, this time by using Calibres 854 and 8541, as well as having some design details changed.
In 1976 Gerald Genta completely redesigned the watch, and the Ingenieur SL –the so-called “Jumbo” model- was introduced. David Ter Molen, a collector, understood well how the union of the new, modern Jumbo Ingenieur followed IWC's traditional principles. He said that “The Ingenieur remained elegantly cool and masculine, but was now wrapped up in a truly "forward thinking" design to perfectly underscore what the Ingenieur represented all along - traditional craftsmanship engineered for living in the modern world.”
This tradition continued when, in 1980, a titanium-case Ingenieur debuted. In 1982 an Ingenieur pocket watch, perhaps the world’s first water-resistant pocket watch, appeared. In 1983, a thinner and smaller SL model, the so-called ”skinny” Ingenieur, was introduced. In the mid-1980s a perceptual calendar Ingenieur, which used the same revolutionary calendar module that Kurt Klaus developed and used in the Da Vinci, appeared. A ladies’ model with a chronograph debuted in 1989, as did a super antimagnetic version, capable of withstanding 500,000 A/m. A mecaquartz alarm chronograph model was introduced in the early 1990s, followed by a chronometer Ingenieur in 1993.
The fact is that the Ingenieur line over the decades has presented itself through constant innovation and evolution. Movements have evolved, as well as a variety of styles and functions. It can be claimed that every one of these developments is itself a product of its time.
Still, there has been an underlying consistency and each model was true to fundamental principles. These were engineered watches. Strong, unpretentious and quality watches. Every single Ingenieur produced by IWC during a half-century has had more than a passing family resemblance to its relatives. Even when the superficial looks changed, as with the Genta-redesign of the 1970s, the underlying principles did not. Each Ingenieur indisputably was an “Ingenieur”.
This also meant that 2005’s new Ingenieur Automatic, reference 3227, faced a daunting challenge. Living up to the family tradition can be difficult for any offspring and especially difficult for an heir to the throne. It’s not easy becoming King.
The watch had to be tough, almost bullet-proof. It had to have a great movement in a great case. A housing as strong as a vault –which in fact the Jumbo Ingenieur was called, the tressor. The new Ingenieur Automatic accomplishes this, and does so exponentially. You have to see the watch and try it on. The word here is solid. The bracelet is possibly the strongest one ever produced by a Swiss watch company.
And the titanium AMG models, with subtlety and grace, clearly declare ”engineering”. This is a perfect match. Titanium, which IWC pioneered for use in watches, was combined again with the Ingenieur, which was combined with AMG. The product of this marriage is one tough watch.
The design of the new Ingenieur Automatic also had to reflect its IWC’s lineage. Simple, clear, functional. Its looks had to say engineered and then say engineered again. As a matter of pure style, the new model has accomplished all this and more.
The design of the Ingenieur Automatic is unmistakably “IWC”, yet the watch has its own identity. It clearly borrows from its predecessor’s design principles but it looks fresh. The bezel, the textured dial, the slight-tonneau case shape all reflect similarities to the Ref. 1832 Ingenieur from the 1970s –but there still is a uniqueness. This is a watch from a new century, even if it is classic and true to its forbearers. This watch looks bold, yet understated. It is not easy to be both new and classic, nor both simple and unique. The design here does exactly that.
Guy Bove, a member of IWC's Creative Center which is the group responsible for the new Ingenieur's design, gives us some insight about the new watch's style. He says: A primary goal in designing the new Ingenieur was to keep the "engineered" look of the 1970 model intact while building on the original design elements. To do that, we incorporated a new, Ingenieur-specific I-shaped structure in the dial and used a similar case outline to the original watch but with a more masculine, valuable and modern appearance. We utilized more detailing, dynamic and solid-looking metal indexes, and an easy-to-read dial design with more use of numbers, which also were designed in-house for the Ingenieur. In short, we redesigned everything that we liked about the original watch to make it today's Ingenieur, but also tomorrow's.
Yet even more than style and more than case and bracelet construction, the heart and soul of any watch is its movement. The internal mechanisms that make a watch what it is are hidden from view. Certainly they must be hidden here, because an Ingenieur Automatic requires antimagnetic shielding.
That secret of the movement is not that it is a new, in-house one, with IWC’s special Pellaton winding system. Those facts are important, but it is no secret that this watch is powered by the new Calibre 80110. What is special is that the movement was designed to be among the sturdiest and most accurate movements ever produced by IWC. The technical design features perfectly embody the concept of being an Ingenieur.
There are no gimmicks about the Calibre 80110. It is an ordinary size of 30.4 mm and has a not-particularly thin height of 7.2 mm. It is well-jeweled at 28 but that is not uncommon today. It has a good, but again not uncommon, 44 hour power reserve. It operates at a typical high-beat of 28,800 vph. There is no single, revolutionary design feature. But there is something very special about this movement: it may be as close to invulnerable as any automatic, conventional Swiss lever escapement movement can be.
Remember that the original Ingenieur essentially was a scientific watchmaking product. It was a technical watch born in a technical era. It was an engineer’s watch, made by engineers as much as watchmakers and craftsmen. In the same sense, the Calibre 80110 is a scientific product and a product of its time –a time of computer analysis. Kilian Eisenegger, IWC’s technical director, supervised the design and engaged in extensive scientific testing, especially for optimal reliability and shock resistance. If a movement is less vulnerable to shock because of design, it will suffer less beat error and can reflect greater consistency or accuracy.
There is no IWC movement that is as much a product of testing, redesign, and analysis. The unique shockproof design of the original Pellaton winding system was scientifically enhanced by redesign, so that the rotor would balance and deflect shocks. The rotor, or what actually is called an oscillating weight, has a specially designed attachment and also there are synthetic buffers to absorb shocks. The new movement has been tested like no other movement before it. Over 100 were completely worn out in impact tests and temperature extremes. This movement is a complete product of science and has been engineered for ultimate durability.
Like the watch itself, the Calibre 80110 movement is clear and direct. It is intended to work well. Again, clean, tough and engineered. It is what the Ingenieur is all about, in the real world. The combination of case, design and movement here is done in perfect harmony. The watch is simple and forceful. Here is a watch that is a product of its time. A watch that is the rightful heir to its predecessors in time. A watch that is timeless, to say nothing of well-engineered.
The new Ingenieur Automatic is a watch that meets the expectations of its ancestors. It will become an instant classic, to be revered by today’s watch owners.