Return of the Genta: IWC Gives the Ingenieur an Integrated Bracelet for Watches & Wonders 2023
If a watch has an “integrated bracelet,” it means the bracelet seamlessly blends into the watch case, eliminating the need for traditional lugs.
Interestingly, this design concept originated in 1969 with the Zenith Defy, although many believe (incorrectly) that the first integrated sports watch was the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, introduced in 1972. And the reason for this misconception is that Audemars Piguet had an advantage over Zenith: The Royal Oak’s creator was legendary Swiss designer Gérald Genta.
Within the holy trinity of Gérald Genta’s creations – the Royal Oak, Nautilus, and Ingenieur 1832 SL - the third, sadly, has remained a dark horse, or more precisely, a black hole, compared to the other two. Yet, despite that, on podcasts and Instagram feeds, watch collectors have recently been asking: When will IWC play their ultimate card?
Well, today, on the first day of Watches & Wonders 2023, IWC announced the release of a new ultra-compact collection of four 40mm Ingenieur Automatic watches – three in stainless steel and one in titanium. Representing everything the IWC brand stands for – engineering and forward-looking design – these new models retain the timeless elegance of the original while incorporating modern updates that make the Ingenieur Automatic 40 a true marvel of engineering.
Lessons of the Ingenieur from 1950s-1970s
At the time of the original Ingenieur’s release in the mid-1950s, technology was advancing rapidly. Moreover, the design philosophy for consumer electronics was radically changing to suit the technology it contained, with product designs becoming simpler and more to the point. And since the first Ingenieur came out in 1955, these watches have been synonymous with precision engineering and technical innovation.
Indeed, IWC perfectly captured the zeitgeist when it introduced the brand’s first tool watch for engineers who worked with magnetic fields. Most notably, the original Ingenieur featured the first automatic in-house movement and a soft-iron inner case for magnetic field protection (Rolex’s Milgauss was introduced one year later and featured similar properties).
Then, in the 1970s, IWC asked Gérald Genta to redesign the much-in-demand anti-magnetic Ingenieur. Genta’s 1976 redesign was called the Ingenieur 1832 SL “Jumbo.” And as a result, the brand succeeded in adding a talking point to its collection: a steel sport chic watch featuring bold design codes (i.e., a screw-on bezel with five recesses, a dial with a unique pattern, and an integrated H-link bracelet).
Now, decades later, in the time of hype watches on integrated bracelets, we are finally witnessing the icon’s re-emergence. And I think this collection may become the talking piece of the fair. Let’s talk about why.
The Devil is in the (Reworked) Details
IWC’s intention was not to replicate the SL but to work in the spirit of the original aesthetics. Thus, the designers stayed faithful to the case shape and took the Ingenieur’s design to a whole new level by reflecting the forward-looking attitude of the 1970s without looking kitschy.
The SL’s ergonomics, on the other hand, got a complete overhaul for the new Ingenieur Automatic 40, with a lot of emphasis on wearability. So, now, lug-to-lug, the watch measures 45.7mm for near-perfect comfort. Meanwhile, the SL’s nose-shaped horns have been replaced by a newly engineered middle-link attachment for a better fit on the wrist.
The bezel design for the Ingenieur Automatic 40 was also reworked, replacing the SL’s recesses (which ended up in a different position on each watch) with the five non-cosmetic, polygonal screws to secure the bezel to the case. Lastly, crown guards were added to the new Ingenieur to give it the feel of a more modern sports watch.
The black, silver-plated, and aqua dial options for the new Ingenieur Automatic 40 feature a distinctive “grid” structure, creating a three-dimensional texture. Consisting of small lines offset by 90 degrees to each other, the grid gets stamped into the soft iron blank before becoming galvanized.
The new Ingenieur is powered by the IWC-manufactured 32111 calibre with an automatic pawl winding system and a power reserve of 72 hours. In keeping with the tradition of the Ingenieur, a soft iron inner case efficiently protects the movement from the effects of magnetic fields on its accuracy. Moreover, the watch is water-resistant to 10 bar.
IWC took a risk by issuing a special piece within the new Ingenieur Automatic 40 collection: a version featuring a Grade 5 titanium case and bracelet and a highly detailed finish with sandblasted, satin-finished, and polished surfaces. The titanium model’s grey dial, as well as its black hands and appliques, further accentuate the characteristic matte grey look of the titanium.
Being charged with editing a Genta classic is a heavy responsibility and must have been a struggle to execute. However, I think IWC’s Chief Design Officer, Christian Knoop, and his team pulled it off magnificently. Even Gérald Genta’s widow, Evelyne Genta, gave her feedback on the collection and said that her husband would certainly have approved the new Ingenieur Automatic 40.
Genta’s iconic timepiece has been updated for the modern era without losing any of the timeless elegance and sophistication that made it a classic in the first place: the perfect blending of form and function.
Pricing & Availability
Available at select IWC boutiques, the three stainless steel Ingenieur Automatic 40 references (IW328901, W328902, and W328903) cost CHF 12,000, while the titanium Ingenieur Automatic 40 reference (W328904) retails for CHF 15,000.