Review IWC Ingenieur Racer [live pics, price]
The new Ingenieur Racer chronograph from IWC is like a Mercedes F1 car that was the inspiration for it – technical and raw yet refined and very definite.
Sporty chronograph with their large dimensions, technical design and strictly manly character can be found this days in the portfolio of almost every serious watch brand. There is such piece at Audemar Piguet – Royal Oak Offshore, at Jaeger-LeCoultre – Master Compressor, at Omega – Planet Ocean, at Corum – Admiral’s Cup 45, at Richard Mille – RM011, at Hublot – Big Bang Unico, at Zenith – Stratos etc. You could make this list longer and longer, but eventually one other watch in the category has to appear – made in Schaffhausen – The Ingenieur. “Engineer” is timepiece both technically named and shaped, inspired and styled, although his roots were quite different.
The person responsible for the look of Ingenieur watch we know today was Gerald Genta, probably the most prominent watch designer of all times. The design of a sporty, roughly-shaped piece for International Watch Company – Ingeniur SL Ref.1832 – came to life in the year 1976 (first Ingenieur watch in somewhat classic, round form, appeared back in 1955). Kept in the style of all Genta’s designs, with a steel case, lightning bolt on the dial and 5 drilled holes in the bezel, the timepiece became so iconic, that when IWC reactivated the collection this year at SIHH, design codes they went with were obvious. No to mention, that they were perfectly in line with partnership of the Swiss manufacture with F1 racing team – Mercedes AMG Petronas.
Ingenieur and Mercedes
The mentioned partnership was established officially in May of last year. Based on it IWC became the only watch partner of the Mercedes team, but contrary to the usual marketing cooperation, both brands went a step further. Official title of this watch-car relationship is “Official Engineering Partners”. Instead of just plaster all the cars and drivers suits with IWC logo, both manufactures decided to join their technical capabilities and together (of course proportionally) work on the rebirth of the Ingenieur. The fruit of the cooperation was premiered this January in Geneva, and the background was the IWC booth stylized to look like an F1 paddock.
New “Inge” line presents all types of mechanical watches, from the base Automatic (closest to the Gentas work), through the carbon fiber and ceramic, chronographs, GMT and finally perpetual calendar and the “Constant-Force” tourbillion. And while the whole collection looks fine (Perpetual Calendar with its digital displays, semi-transparent dial and titanium aluminide case is just great!) I was particularly fond of by the simple, steel chronograph – Racer – with a gorgeous Mercedes race car engraved on the back. This is the piece I had a pleasure to wear and test.
Technical style + high quality
Two things come to mind when you first time try the Ingenieur Race: it is a huge and very roughly shaped, but at the same time very well made and surprisingly well finished watch. 45mm in diameter, 15mm high and 250g of plain steel – this numbers speak volumes themselves, even when you don’t have the piece in your hands. What is hard to imagine is how this big chunk of steel feels very comfortable on the wrist. Thanks to the integrated lugs and fantastically well made bracelet (one of the best one I encountered, next to ones made by Rolex and AP) with ingenious, simple micro-regulation the watch fits great, feels great and is by no means not uncomfortable. It is large but not overwhelming.
I also mentioned the quality – and here it is on the absolutely highest level. The entire case and bracelet were satin-finished with mirror-polished edges. The contrast is just brilliant and impressive at the same time, when you consider the complexity of the construction and details like the crown protector, rectangular chronograph pushers or the engraved bezel with tachymetre scale.
There are two dial options with Ingenieur Racer: silver-white with blue and gray with black and polished-silver details. Second one is far more sporty and interesting. Anthracite coloured base was very subtly decorated with sunray pattern and applied, polished indices with some green luminova. Two sunken sub-dials (small seconds and chrono totalizer) are black with polished silver ring and white numerals. Date window was very neatly placed inside the small seconds counter, with its black disk and white numerals. The design is completed by pair of sharp, bold hands (with some luminova) and white, printed text with brand’s logo and model’s name. Monochromatic look is just slightly broken by three red accents: 60 mark on the minutes ring, little mark on the chronograph’s counter and the tip of the central seconds hand.
You won’t find stylistic fireworks here – it’s a very clear, very oriented design that works very well with the type of the watch, and is at the same time perfectly readable. Grey base looks a bit like a disc brake son sport cars, and light-reflections are just gorgeous. With time I also got used to the integrated chronograph counter at 12 o’clock – minutes and hours displayed on one, common dial.
I already had a pleasure to test IWC manufactured calibre with the combined counters for minutes and hours, just like a watch in a watch. It was with the Portuguese Yacht Club, that is powered by the 89360, almost exactly the same calibre, that works inside the Ingenieur Racer case. This was is 89361, and the only noticeable difference is the date window that moved from 3 to 6 o’clock position.
Main feature of the fully in-house conceived movement is of course the chronograph. It is not only flyback (meaning you can reset and restart it without the stop) but also introduces a concept of combined stop-watch indications. Minutes and hours counters, that are usually separated on two different dials, were here joined together on one single dial. According to IWC it makes time reading easier and more intuitive, it also clears the dial itself since there is no necessity for another small counter. 89361 also futures an improved Pellaton winding system. Named after its founding father – Albert Pellaton – this automatic winding module has a bi-directional winding rotor with a shock-absorption system (special bridge) and improved construction, that according to the brand increased winding efficiency by good 30%.
Now looking at the usable side – I still find this combined chronograph indications to be a questionable solution. On one hand – theoretically – it makes reading time easier and the overall look more compact. On the other the classic way has it unquestionable benefits and when designed properly I find it more readable. Which of this to options works better – I live that up to your taste. The only minor flow I’ve discovered with the 89361 is the stiffness of the chronograph pushers. Because the movement lacks column wheel, it works a bit on the hard-side, and also produces this unpleasant metallic click.
2 weeks on the wrist
Let’s finish with some more thoughts on the time I spent with the Racer. To speak broadly – the watches I liked from the pictures in the press release, grow on my even more after this full 14 days test. I felt honestly sorry sending it back to Schaffhausen – it was one of this pieces I seriously wanted to keep. Although I find big chunky watches less and less appearing, Ingenieur Racer is far from being only a brick of raw steel. It’s very well designed and flawlessly executed, readable and easy to use (minus the stiff chrono). It has this technical, engineering character and racing spirit – things that most men look for in this type of watch – after all passion for timepieces and cars often goes hand in hand.
Steel-on-steel Ingenieur Racer costs 13.100EURO. I don’t want to judge if this is adequate (as it is extremely hard to call) but for the mechanical in-house chronograph of this quality it seems to be fair. Especially when you consider, that the AP Royal Oak Offshore costs twice as much. I rate the entire Ingenieur collection very high – it looks like the cooperation with engineering team from Brackley (were Mercedes F1 works) worked more than splendidly.
P.S. The car you see on the pictures if a flagship vehicle of the civil department of Mercedes-Benz from Stuttgart – the SLS AMG Roadster. It has a V8 6.3l AMG petrol engine, 560bhp delivered to the rear axle, top speed of 317 km/h, 0-100km/h in 3.8s along with 4.5m long by 1.2m high aluminium bodywork in metallic-brown, “softtop” roof and compact, 2-seated interior finished with leather, carbon and polished metal. But above all this incredible roar coming out from the double sporty exhaust. Automotive perfection. Price tag – around 235.000Euro.
Video: Ingenieur Racer
– technical yet very well made and finished
– manly, sport-race oriented character
– grey-black dial looks great
– in-house made chronograph calibre
– great bracelet…
– …with ingenious micro-regulation
– F1 car on the back
IWC Ingeniur Racer
Movement: 89361, automatic, 68h power reserve, 28.800 A/h, small second, date, chronograph
Dial: grey with black counters, indices with luminova
Case: 45×15mm, steel, sapphire glass with anti-reflective coating, steel caseback
Strap: steel bracelet, push-buttons safety clasp, micro-regulation
Car by Mercedes-Benz Polska
Text: Łukasz Doskocz
Pictures: Michał Grygalewicz – MADRUGADA foto art