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Review: IWC Ingenieur – a historical comparison

IWC Ingenieur 3570 866 3233 666

When most watch collectors talk about the IWC Ingenieur series they think about the handsome Gerald Genta designed Collection SL from 1976 onwards and moving into their modern and sometimes obnoxiously large and technical chronographs. To me IWC’s most important Ingenieur’s were produced 20 years earlier.

I guess many of you know the feeling of falling in love. There is nothing like the tingling feeling and the mixture of anxiety and happiness when you see someone you love, and when I first laid eyes on a vintage IWC Ingenieur ref. 666 – that was how I felt. I know it sounds stupid, but that was it. Watches had been a hobby for a long time, but this watch spoke to me on a level I had not yet experienced. I cannot explain why exactly this model was so interesting to me at that time, or why it made me feel like I did.
Back in 2003 or 2004 I had just started to explore the vintage watch world and I came across this ref. 666. It was too expensive for me at that time but I started to research these older IWC Ingenieur watches.

IWC Ingenieur models

Ref. 666

IWC Ingenieur 3570 866 3233 666

In 1954 the first IWC Ingenieur saw the light of day with the new Cal. 85x movements. It was a pretty modest looking wristwatch, but with the real value on the inside of the case.

These post-war years at the brink of the space age was the era of science. White coats and laboratory’s was the perfect picture of the new age. IWC had for many years been in the forefront of the technical advance of watchmaking with Albert Pellaton running their technical department. So it was only natural to name a family of watches after the rock stars of science, the engineers.

Right after the second world war IWC had made a Pilots watch, the Mark XI, with a manual movement Cal. 89. This movement is known for being super reliable and sturdy. Also this was the first model to have an inner case made of soft iron, to shield the movement from magnetic fields. As you may know, magnetism may interfere with the reliability of the timekeeping properties of a watch.
Taking inspiration from this technical and reliable centre seconds movement, IWC developed the Cal. 852 (no-date) and 8521 (date) in 1953.
Of course all of this was an ingenious marketing strategy. Hailing the technological age with a watch incorporating new technical innovations made for scientists . IWC was branding the watch as “the super time-piece of modern times”.

To me it was probably the sharp dauphine hands and a simple but timeless dial that triggered my affection for the watch at first. Researching the ref. 666 made the connection stronger as I can really appreciate a sober looking watch with technical innovations. It is also a watch that connect a very interesting period of our history to watchmaking and design.

I never got my ref. 666 back then. What I did get for my collection was the then new ref. 3233.

Ref. 3233

IWC Ingenieur 3570 866 3233 666

In 2008 IWC celebrated its 150th anniversary by releasing a Vintage Collection. This collection was really a contemporary reinterpretation of several classic watch models and of course the Ingenieur was one of them. The 3233 kept the dauphine hands and the sober face of the first generation ref.666. Also the case design was taken from the ref. 666.
On the inside IWC put their new in-house Cal. 80111. Here they further developed the values of the early Ingenieur watches with a new shock-absorbing mechanism. Also pressure resistant to 12 bar.
On the 80111 IWC sadly omitted the anti-magnetic soft iron inner case. This feature was kept for other Ingenieur models with the Cal. 80110. What those watches did not have that the ref. 3233 do, is a sapphire glas back where the beauty of the movement can be seen. This would not have been possible with the soft iron inner case. So I guess it was OK.
The only real downside of the ref. 3233 is the size. It is 42 mm and it is thick. Then again, back in 2008 what watch wasn’t?

Ref 866

IWC Ingenieur 3570 866 3233 666

Above you can see the ref 866. I am not going to say much about this one other than it was produced in a couple of series from 1967 to 1976 with a new movement, the cal. 854x. The one on the picture I borrowed from a fellow collector. It probably have newer hands, but according to catalogues they are correct.

Ref. 3570

IWC Ingenieur 3570 866 3233 666
At SIHH 2017 IWC decided to release the ref.3570. Again a new interpretation of the classic IWC Ingenieur. Although IWC claims this model resembles the Ingenieurs of the 1950s, it looks more like the 1970s ref.866 was the inspiration for the design.
The movement on the inside is a Selitta SW 300 built to IWC standards and then modified by the manufacture. This is a robust and reliable movement. The case back is certainly closed, but there is no mentioning of the anti-magnetic properties anywhere. Lacking this feature is no deal braker to me. I mean – who stays in strong magnetic fields these days. What I do find disappointing is that they chose to replace the classic INGENIEUR on the dial with AUTOMATIC.
The good thing about this watch is that the Ingenieur models have gone back to a classic look in a sleek case. Where the ref 3233 was a bit thick and heavy the ref 3570 is thinner and lighter. All in all this watch is a good move by IWC. I love the classic Ingenieur models, and I love the fact that they have gone back to their roots in the whole line of Ingenieur models.

If you want to investigate your own IWC Ingenieur or if you are looking to get one, there is only two online sources of information that I trust – one being MOEB – and the other one being Frizzelweb.

Read more of our articles about IWC Ingenieurs here

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