IWC Schaffhausen’s Ingenieur Automatic 40 stays true to the iconic version designed by the legendary Gerald Genta
The journey had been long and winding, but IWC Schaffhausen’s much metamorphosised Ingenieur collection has always maintained its mojo. And by that, we mean the style and spirit characterised by the watch’s rebirth in the 1970s, when renowned Geneva watch designer Gérald Genta kicked the Ingenieur into high gear.
A watch that was ahead of its time, the Ingenieur (French and German for ‘engineer’) was launched in the 1950s and featured a soft-iron inner case for magnetic field protection. It was robust, resistant and highly reliable. But there was a problem: it also looked kind of boring.
Enlisted to give the Ingenieur a makeover, Genta managed to articulate the watch’s technical attributes with forthright sportiness. Dropping the nondescript office look, Genta designed a case that resembled a diver’s porthole helmet, gave the watch a weighty presence and custom-made H-shaped links. At a time when the notion of luxury sports watches were still in its infancy, the Ingenieur SL, along with the likes of Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak and Patek Philippe’s Nautilus—incidentally all designed by Genta—shaped the category to what it is today.
“Thanks to Genta, the Ingenieur SL had a distinctive character. He achieved something we might refer to today as strategic development of the product’s DNA,” explains Christian Knoop, IWC’s chief design officer.
Indeed, Genta’s creation has aged well. A growing appetite for sportier and hunkier watches throughout the 1990s and early 2000s proved serendipitous—it was perfect for the Ingenieur’s distinctive machismo. Some of the most commanding creations in recent memory include the highly technical Ingenieur Constant Force Tourbillon from 2013, and the Ingenieur Chronograph Sport Edition ‘50th anniversary of Mercedes-AMG’ made in collaboration with the car maker in 2017.
This year’s Ingenieur Automatic 40 models, however, eschew their predecessors’ high-octane expressions. Explaining that he team took the Ingenieur SL as a “starting point”, Knoop says that the new models feature improved ergonomics, finishing and performance, while reflecting on Genta’s vision.
“We must remember that manufacturing techniques have made huge strides forward since the 1970s. The new Ingenieur has an astonishingly high level of detail and outstanding quality in processing and finishing,” he says.
Squint your eyes and you can almost see the ghost of the Ingenieur SL in the new model. The collection’s trademark bezel with five exposed screws continue to frame the Ingenieur Automatic 40, albeit with a special technical feature that ensures that the grooves are all always aligned in the same position. Elsewhere, the dial is decorated with a stylish new grid pattern, accompanied by a case and bracelet bearing top-notch contrast finishing with polished and satin surfaces.
Whether with black, aqua or silver dial on the steel versions, or a monochromatic grey titanium-cased model, the Ingenieur Automatic 40 is the modern throwback tribute that IWC collectors have been waiting for. Backed by an in-house automatic with 120-hour power reserve, the new model also lives up to its tool watch DNA.
“It’s not every day that a designer gets the chance to work on reinterpreting an icon. But when Evelyne Genta told us her husband would certainly have approved of the new Ingenieur Automatic 40, it felt like a well-deserved reward for all the hard work that had gone into the project,” says Knoop.