Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Watch in Focus – IWC Ingenieur Double Chronograph

Over half a century ago, IWC introduced an antimagnetic watch to fulfil the needs of engineers during advances in the understanding of electricity. Balance springs, being the delicate things they are, tend to bind together when magnetised, speeding up a watch and eventually stopping it. By utilising a soft-iron inner case, IWC protected the movement from magnetic fields to very high levels, and that was that. Except it wasn’t, because now there’s the Ingenieur Double Chronograph Titanium.

IWC Ingenieur

The reason for this brief history lesson will become clear, but first, take a moment to read a line quoted from IWC’s press release regarding the new watch: ‘In order to reduce weight and height . . . the watch does away with a soft-iron inner case.’ Over fifty years on from the original Ingenieur, it’s time to take stock of what this iconic model has become.

IWC’s on-again-off-again relationship with Mercedes-Benz is currently in an on period with a lucrative deal to sponsor the car manufacturer’s F1 team. It’s a good fit—speed, engineering, heritage—but it comes at a cost. To cater for the Mercedes partnership, a more sporting complication has been added to the watch, which necessitated the removal of the feature that originally made the Ingenieur the Ingenieur.

IWC Ingenieur Watch
The titanium case may be large at 45mm, but at 130g it’s lighter than expected, 115g lighter than in steel

All that aside, the watch is everything it aims to be. Clearly positioned for fans of large, sporty watches, its not inconsiderable size is absorbed weight-wise with the use of titanium. The muted finish lends a sense of purpose, even if we all know the folks on the pit wall are staring at digital times on computers rather than analogue times on their wrists.

As with all things IWC, it’s a very well made watch. Vulcanised rubber is used to coat the pushers, giving them an appropriately grippy finish and contrasting the black and blue dial nicely. The dial itself is bold and clear, feeling technical and functional while also displaying enough design detail to not come across as lazy or unfinished. The three-dimensional layering seems well thought out, packaging the time, day-date and chronograph functions without clutter or distraction.

IWC Ingenieur Chronograph
The chronograph gets twin second hands to ‘split’ recorded times on the fly using an extra pusher

The focus of this piece is it’s ability to measure split time, thanks to its double chronograph calibre 79420. Based loosely on the ETA 7750, it arrives at IWC in kit form, has most of the original ETA parts binned and is transformed into something worthy of the IWC name. The modifications include the addition of the double chronograph mechanism (hence the removal of the soft-iron inner case to accommodate it), a design originally developed by former IWC watchmaker Richard Habring.

It may seem that IWC has ignored its roots with the Ingenieur Double Chronograph Titanium, and in a way it has, but not to its detriment. For those who think it’s too big, or needs a soft-iron core, there exists the IW3239, a more honest nod to the Ingenieur’s heritage. The original Ingenieur was made for engineers and catered for the market of the time; today, it’s made for a different set of people, and they want something a bit bigger, a bit sportier and packed with clever tech. For them, IWC has really hit the mark.

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