Vintage Eye for the Modern Guy: IWC Ingenieur Automatic


There are plenty of watch series that have gone through dramatic changes: the Omega Constellation, IWC Portugieser, TAG Heuer Carrera — I am sure there are even those who will adamantly argue that Rolex Datejusts and Submariners have strayed too far from their original concepts. In some cases, in fact, it is these dramatic changes that have gave the respective brands their notoriety. When you think of Audemars Piguet, you don’t simply think back to dress watches and the Royal Oak; you think about the Offshore, too. When you think of the Omega Seamaster, you don’t only remember the smaller, delicate pieces the brand produced prior to 1957—you think about the epic divers that James Bond is still wearing today.

IWC Ingenieur - vintage

The modern (post-1976) IWC Ingenieur, above, is another one of these watches. Redesigned with the influence of horology legend Gérald Genta, in an effort to make the ‘50s-developed engineer’s watch more modern, the piece was characterized by an integrated bracelet, a rounded bezel with five screws, and a guilloché dial. It was a watch meant to rival the aforementioned Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and Patek Philippe Nautilus in style (two watches also designed by Genta and, coincidentally, both nicknamed “Jumbo”), but also to adhere to the main purpose set out for it back in 1954: legibility, anti-magnetism, and precision.

IWC Ingenieur - white dial - reclining

The modern Ingenieur collection includes plenty of masculine chronographs and date/time models, but at the forefront resides a flagship timepiece still recognizable to aficionados of the ‘70s-era Ingenieurs. The Reference 3239 (above), powered by an IWC-finished automatic ETA 2892, is housed in a 40-mm stainless steel case with an integrated bracelet and a rounded bezel with the familiar five screws; it now also has sleek, elongated crown guards. On the dial, there is the option for either black or silver-plating, and then a further choice of either rhodiumed or rose gold-plated accents. The piece has a date indicator at the 3 o’clock position, and tick marks for each of the hours with a double mark at the 12 o’clock above the modern IWC logo. If you are on the hunt, you’ll be able to find it for around $5,000, depending on the dealer.

IWC Ingenieur watches

Whenever I cover IWC watches, I keep in mind that it is the company’s tradition to overhaul entire collections every few years, normally at SIHH (as seen with the new Pilot’s watch collection this year). With this noted, it is no surprise that the modern Ingenieur is recognizable compared to the series’ historical pieces, but also not anything close to a direct re-creation. In terms of historical inspiration, all the key notes are still here: five screws securing the case, an integrated steel bracelet, a relatively thin case (10 mm), and anti-magnetic properties as a result of the soft inner cage protecting the automatic movement. However, IWC has since added crown guards, larger hands and hour markers, a raised bezel instead of the historically flat one, and, finally, a consistent (somewhat reflective) black or silver dial as compared to the graph-paper-like guilloché dial of the ‘70s.

IWC Ingenieur - dial CU

Do I think this piece is as interesting as the few thousand vintage models produced forty years ago? Personally, I do, but that ultimately comes down to my preference for the unique and old rather than a belief that the historical models are always better. But, as the brand has shown a larger interest in catering to the vintage-oriented consumer in recent times, it is easy to imagine a truly vintage-inspired Ingenieur is only a few trade shows away.

IWC Ingenieur - black dial

For last week’s article, in which I compare modern and vintage Zodiac Sea Wolf watches, click here.

Caleb Anderson is the Director of Outreach at the online vintage watch boutique theoandharris.com. Since starting at Theo & Harris, he has garnered extensive knowledge on vintage watches, and spends much of his time sharing his opinions within the field. Currently located near New York City, he is a persistent student in all things historical, a writer on watches, and a casual runner.

4 Responses to “Vintage Eye for the Modern Guy: IWC Ingenieur Automatic”

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  1. Don’t think my comment went through. Great website….yuch. Anyway, to paraphrase, why would anyone in their right mind pay 5 grand for a 40 mm sport watch with an ETA movement? DUH!

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  2. Truthfully, I don’t see the big deal about a 40 mm IWC Ingeneur with an ETA movement. You can certainly get an ETA movement in hundreds of watches without paying 5 grand for it. Yeah, IWC works on the movement, but it still is nothing special. I actually have an Ingenieur and like it a lot. However, my watch is 44 mm, has a ceramic bezel and an “in house” movement and I still spent a lot less than $5,000 for it. A lot of collectors have come up to me and said “nice Audemars”. I just laugh. If you are willing to spend 5 grand for a watch, get some real value for the money. There is nothing wrong with buying your watch pre-owned. If it isn’t a Rolex or Patek, you can often get most pre-owned watches at half price from a trusted dealer. Don’t spend your hard earned money for a hyped up watch with a run of the mill movement that has no value

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    • I also have the 44 mm Ingenieur with ceramic bezel and in house movement. Paid less than 3 grand for it preowned. I agree with everything you said. Why pay big bucks fort a hyped up watch with an ETA movement when you can buy a real watch preowned?

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  3. In looking at the bottom photo, I was struck by the similarities of the IWC Ingenious Automatic and my Vacheron Constantine Overseas 42040, also with a black case facing. If the two were laid side by side on a table, the owner of one would be likely to pick up the other by accident.

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