The new, third line of watches from Wempe embodies current trends with its integrated steel construction and blue dial. The Iron Walker Automatic is not only a certified chronometer, but also a robust and elegant everyday companion.
Inspired by the image of steel construction workers nonchalantly taking their lunch break while perched atop a girder high above the streets of Manhattan, Wempe Glashütte I/SA’s latest line of watches bears the well-chosen name “Iron Walker.” Just as surefooted steelworkers skillfully balanced that material at dizzying heights in the first decades of the 20th century, Wempe’s designers and craftspeople put all their expertise into a new, third watch line. The idea of creating a timepiece with a precisely engineered stainless-steel case and integrated lugs was born more than a decade ago and is becoming a reality at a time when ’70s styling is enjoying a revival. So it’s not surprising if you think you recognize a few details from those bygone years, for example, the tonneau-like shape of the case with finely polished edges and a steeply rising bezel.
The Iron Walker Automatic, our test watch, is an elegant ensemble that looks less like a watch to be strapped around the forearm of a steelworker and much more like a timepiece designed to embrace the wrist of a modern businessperson, who can wear it equally well in the office, during leisure hours or while playing sports. On the other hand, the crown’s protectors make an angular impression and don’t shy away from physical labor since the crown is firmly screwed down between them. Thanks to the crown’s ample size and the lateral fluting, it only takes reasonable effort to unscrew and operate it. And the crown can be guided easily and securely into its several positions.
The Clasp Requires Effort but the Movement Has Power to Spare
The angular impression continues toward the lugs, where the case slopes downward to join the bracelet. Double screws affix each of the parts of the stainless-steel bracelet that join the case. These connections are secure, yet flexible enough so the watch can also fit snugly around a slim wrist. In addition, screwed parts toward the clasp provide adjustments in the triple-row bracelet’s overall length.
The bracelet is handsome and supple, with partly polished and partly satin-finished surfaces and faceted edges, but the clasp, which hinges on one side, is not quite as charming. It’s well crafted from a solid block of steel, but can be difficult to open and close. And the closed safety catch sits atop the bracelet and can only be reopened by using a fingernail. The clasp also has a few sharp edges, which can snag and possibly even damage a shirt cuff.
A modified version of ETA’s Caliber 2892-A2 ticks unseen behind the two-part threaded caseback. The always precisely aligned plaque engraved with an image of the Glashütte Observatory indicates what’s going on behind the back of the case, which resists water pressure to 100 meters. The automatic caliber earns certification as a German chronometer in accordance with ISO 3159, for which Wempe equipped the movement with an in-house balance cock and modified the fine adjustment and shock protection. The Iron Walker Automatic we tested delivers in practice what its chronometer certificate promises in theory: the rate measured on the wrist, which is the most important rate value, hardly deviated from perfect timekeeping even after weeks of wear. On the timing machine, the rate’s accuracy declined slightly toward the end of the power reserve, but nonetheless remained safely within the chronometer range, with a daily deviation of 4.6 seconds.
The precise timekeeping is displayed on a blue dial, which is trendy and has a sunburst finish that shimmers elegantly in the light. Noteworthy details here are a steep flange with calibrations for minutes and seconds, luminous indexes and hands, a silver frame around the date window, and a blue background on the rotating date disk to match the blue color of the dial. The date’s digits are silvery, or steel-colored, thus proving that Wempe has put the power of steel into even the tiniest details of its Iron Walker watch.
Reference number: WI100006
Functions: Hours, minutes, central seconds, date, screw-down crown
Movement: Modified ETA 2829-A2, automatic, certified German chronometer according to ISO 3159, 28,800 vph, 21 jewels, Glucydur balance, Nivarox 1 hairspring, Triovis fine adjustment, Kif shock absorption, 50-hour power reserve, diameter = 25.6 mm, height = 3.60 mm
Case: 316L stainless-steel case, sapphire crystal anti-reflectively treated on both surfaces above dial, water resistant to 100 meters
Bracelet and clasp: Stainless-steel bracelet, integrated folding clasp, hinged on one side, with safety catch
Rate results (average rate in seconds per day):
On the wrist +0.6
Fully wound +1.9
After 24 hours +4.6
Dimensions: Diameter = 40.07 mm, lug width = 24.0 mm, height = 9.75 mm, weight = 168.0 grams
Variations: With white or black dial ($2,750)
A version of this article first appeared in the May-June 2021 issue of WatchTime.