Launched in 1955, the ominous-sounding IWC Ingenieur Reference 666 incorporated an automatic movement. This inaugural version of the model featured the Pellaton winding system, invented by IWC’s Technical Director at the time, Albert Pellaton. The bidirectional self-winding system efficiently transmitted energy from the motion of the wearer’s wrist to the mainspring.
The watch was intended for use by professionals exposed to magnetic fields when undertaking their work, hence the choice of nomen ‘Ingenieur’, meaning ‘Engineer’.
In 1976, renowned designer Gérald Genta updated the design of the Ingenieur and the iconic Ingenieur SL (Reference 1832) was released. This timepiece was very different from the traditional aesthetic of former models, adopting a notable degree of sportiness with its styling. In particular, Genta equipped the bezel with five bore holes, each containing a retaining screw. Similar to his Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and Royal Oak Offshore design, Genta made the bezel mounted screws a design feature, albeit in the case of the IWC they were functional and not merely decorative.
IWC continued to research the idea of greater resistance to magnetic fields. In 1989, the Schaffhausen based watch company released the Ingenieur Automatic “500 A/m” (Reference 3508). This watch drew upon the expertise of metallurgy experts and included a balance spring made of a special alloy unaffected by magnetic fields.
In 2013, the IWC Ingenieur was subject to a major overhaul, coinciding with the brand’s new partnership with the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team. This new range of models was extensive, sometimes drawing on the past. The Ingenieur Automatic (Reference 3239) repeated its historical point of differentiation, proving tolerant to magnetic fields. However, IWC also embraced modernity using lightweight materials typical of motorsports such as carbon fibre, ceramic and titanium.
Another facet of the current Ingenieur collection is the broad choice of available complications. While the IWC Ingenieur Automatic has a restricted list of functions, namely hours, minutes, central seconds and the date, IWC has also released some supremely complex timepieces.
For instance, the Ingenieur Perpetual Digital Date-Month (Reference 3792) combines a flyback chronograph with a perpetual calendar, interestingly pairing coaxial hands with digital numerals to impart information.
The ultimate expression of Ingenieur ownership, however, is provided by the Constant-Force Tourbillon (Reference 5900), joining Abraham Louis Breguet’s invention with a balance capable of delivering virtually constant amplitude and, by default, offering superb precision.