First presented earlier this year at Baselworld 2016, the new IWC Ingenieur Chronograph “W 125” (ref. IW380701) limited edition automatic wristwatch comes in a nice -if somewhat bulky due to its 42 mm wide to 15 mm high proportions- titanium case that features an appealing combination of mirror-polished front surfaces that are lovely accented by deliberately roughly brushed sides. Set to go on sale in just three or four months (the Swiss watchmakers mentions “autumn” in its press release), the watch will be offered at a competitive price of just over $7000 USD.
A watch like this is just bound to be a bestseller. While clearly not offering anything groundbreaking in terms of industrial design, it basically compiles everything we love about the Ingenieur family -including elegantly-ruggedized look, high-contrast dial layout and a good mechanism that keeps everything going- into one competitively priced, versatile package that looks nice with any sort -from formal to casual- of attire.
Although, at least within this price range, I would probably prefer something higher-end than the mechanism that was actually chosen for this model, I should say that even this in-house job makes a very nice impression with its technical specs. And it allows the brand to keep the price down, too, without hurting their margins too much.
I would probably like it even more if the piece was just two or three millimeters thinner, but it really makes a strong impression even as it is.
Case & Strap
As I’ve already said multiple times in my previous reviews, I am quite glad that the “supersizing race” in the niche of luxury timekeepers has finally stopped and we start to see a stream of relatively compact wristwatches coming to boutiques and multibrand stores near us.
This particular Ingenieur Chronograph “W 125” seems to almost nail it when it comes to the piece’s diameter to thickness ratio measuring approximately 42 millimeters in diameter that makes it suitable for most wrists out there, yet is just 15 millimeters thick: good news to persons planning to wear these beauties with formal attire.
Of course, the long and massive horns may make this watch a tad too “solid” for a person who is more used to dressier time measuring devices, however when we talk about the Ingenieur line, the overall massiveness kinda’ sorta’ comes with the territory, doesn’t it?
As usual, the design allowed the Swiss engineers to also make the watch more ergonomic with its huge, easy to grip winding/setting crown and huge chronograph push-pieces that make operating the function easy and quite comfortable, too.
Featuring alternately brushed and polished surfaces, the stainless steel case is also equipped with a screw-in case back that features a sapphire crystal giving superb view to the in-house IWC caliber 69370 that powers this device. Traditionally for the brand, the case back cover seems to be machined from a piece of solid steel and features a rather complex shape. The effect is somewhat spoiled by all the technical inscriptions engraved on the outer rim of the back, but that, too, is something to be expected.
The front crystal is, too, cut from a piece of synthetic sapphire glass and features convex profile that -together with coatings of antireflective treatment on its inner and outer surfaces- makes reading the dial even easier. It will probably collect more scratches on the aforementioned coatings due to its profile, but you should simply have to be more careful with a watch that costs like an entry-level motorcycle, that’s all.
The strap is, of course, as premium as is theoretically possible when you are buying a $7k watch: the black calfskin leather strap features expensive-looking (probably done by hand) black stitching and comes with titanium pin buckle that, while not as convenient as a deployment clasp, makes a really nice impression with its old-school look and feel.
The silver-plated dial with its usual three-dimensional look offers a rather unusual chronograph layout with the 12-hour sub-dial placed at 9 hours and the 30-minute display located at 12 o’clock.
Although I have heard numerous complaints from “purists” regarding the way the counters were positioned (mostly about how “untrue” and “non-historic” it is), I can see a certain logic behind the decision: nowadays, when a mechanical chronograph is more of a toy than a tool (as is the inevitable tachymeter scale on the inner bezel flange,) people mostly use the instrument in order to measure relatively short time intervals that rarely exceed more than five or ten minutes and quite rarely at that (something tells me that using the watch as an egg timer could be considered a waste of money even by die-hard fans of the Pomodoro productivity technique) and with this sort of use you would want the minutes display to take the most visible place on the dial with the hours indicator being moved to a more, well, secondary position.
The legibility, as you can see on the photos, is really good for a classic chronograph. The blacked-out hands and hour markers with portions of white Superluminova on them look very high-contrast over the silver background, ditto the black chronograph hands, as well as the small seconds indicator at six o’clock. As you can see, the Swiss brand even decided to further visually differentiate the chronograph indicators from the rest of the pack using red tips on the pointers themselves, as well as red sectors on the tiny chapter rings. The date aperture is predictably tiny, but is still large enough even for double-digit numerals to be easily readable even by persons with not that stellar eyesight.
Oh, and the overall “three-dimensional” look and feel of the dial plate with its applied indices and the secondary luminous dots over them make the watch look even classier. Well, that’s something that must be expected in this price range, I suppose.
Perhaps, the only thing that disappoints me here (well, just a tiny bit) is the lack of a “day of week” function that could have made the watch even more useful for a person constantly preoccupied by their own thoughts, but, again, you can’t have everything, right?
Swiss engineers decided to employ the IWC Caliber 69370 automatic movement to power this model. As the name implies, this is a version of their relatively new Cal. 69000 base movement that was introduced back in 2015. Designed to animate their entry-level wristwatches, this simple movement has been gradually replacing the legendary ETA 775x family of blank calibers as the brand’s overall push to stop relying on third-party mechanisms and go completely in-house.
Built on 33 jewels and comprising more than 200 components, the 30 mm x 7.9 mm movement features an average (but clearly underwhelming by today’s standards when it comes to premium-priced timekeepers) power reserve of 46 hours.
Priced at more than $7000 USD, the watch doesn’t look affordable to yours truly, but IWC apparently has a dissenting opinion on this matter: the mechanism’s exterior finish looks like it was deliberately cheapened with its bridges featuring nothing but circular Geneva Stripes done by some computer-guided machine and some perlage, while the skeletonized oscillating weight not only became more generic in terms of finish, but has also lost the signature 18-carat gold alloy “Probus Scafusia” medallion in the process. Well, their 7750-based mechanisms never looked especially fancy either, so the way the cal. 69370 is finished doesn’t come as that big of a surprise although I am still convinced that IWC acts cheap in this regard. Shame on them.
It’s probably still too early to give any projections regarding the mechanism’s long-term reliability, but, again, the Caliber 69370 is a fairly simple time-measuring machine and I just don’t see how such a huge brand as IWC could’ve screwed it up quality- and design-wise.
Pricing & Availability
As usual, the watch that was presented earlier this year at Baselworld 2016, will go on sale sometime this upcoming autumn with international availability probably scheduled for late Q3 or even early Q4. With a total number of units limited to just 750 pieces, in the United States the watch will cost around $7250 USD (local taxes, as far as I understand, are not included.)
Frankly, I am a little bit surprised that IWC decided to issue the watch as a limited edition only: the piece looks great, features a rather mainstream exterior design, and I believe that there would be a strong demand for something like that not only from the brand’s die-hard fans, but from more casual audience as well. Probably, it has something to do with the current state of economy and the brand’s desire to put as much premium on the timekeeper’s price as possible. Well, Breitling successfully does that for years now and I don’t see why IWC wouldn’t have luck with this approach as well.
WWR preliminary verdict
Build quality: 5/5
Value for money: 4.5/5
IWC Ingenieur Chronograph “W 125” Limited Edition in Titanium (Ref. IW380701) watch specification
Price: $7250 USD (MSRP)
Movement: IWC in-house caliber 69370 (base IWC caliber 69000), automatic pawl winding, 30 mm x 7.90 mm, Swiss Made
Number of jewels: 33
Movement frequency: 28,800 vph
Power reserve: 46 hours
Movement decoration: Geneva stripes and circular graining, polished screw-heads, open-worked oscillating weight
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph, date
Case material: Titanium, brushed and polished
Bezel material: Matches case
Crown material: Matches case
Case shape: Round
Bezel shape: Round
Case size: 42.00 mm
Case height: 15.00 mm
Lug width: No data
Hour markers: Black, luminous, applied
Hands: Black, luminous
Water resistance: 60 meters
Strap: Black calfskin leather strap with black stitching; titanium pin buckle
Crystal: Sapphire, convex, antireflective coating on both sides
Case back: Sapphire