3508 IWC Ingenieur 500K A/m

The new Ingenieur is great. Or maybe great-ish. Fine, it’s just okay. Here’s my gripe and it’s not the RRP: IWC have gone a bit out of their way to not advertise its magnetic resistance, it’s not listed on their site. It’s not even on Hodinkee. Somehow, everyone missed the a-mag rating of IWC’s a-mag watch. This, I suspect, because it’s not competitive today with Omega. However, wind back the clock, and IWC were breaking the record by near orders of magnitude. The 3508 was, and might still be, the technical Ingenieur for the ages; never to be bested. If the modern metal leaves you a bit cold, the warmth of a tritium dial is waiting to embrace you.

The 3508 is an undeservedly overlooked small-run 34mm Ingenieur that could withstand a ridiculous 500K A/m. To put that in perspective, the average junkyard electromagnet, the thing that sucks up metal i-beams and cars like paperweights, is 1T or 795K A/m. This case will very likely be pulled off of your wrist by magnetic attraction long before its field effects the timekeeping inside. This, thanks to both a soft iron Faraday cage and, more impressively, hairspring made from pure niobium-zirconium. That alloy proved so expensive to make that IWC lost money on every 3508 sold. Rolex only figured out the niobium balance a decade later and called it Parachrom. The best bit, though, is that they engraved the accomplishment on the case flank for all to see. Proudly. Not hidden.

Interestingly, the extreme resistance was developed not for the market, but for the German Military’s Bundeswehr. German divers needed totally a-magnetic watches for mine disposal, to not interfere with electric fields whatsoever. This Ingenieur is actually more related to the 3H Ocean 2000 than any Genta peer. The 500K ref. 3508 was the consumer-marketed version of that tech, just 50 a-mag calibre Bunds exist from that initial development. This checks every single box for collectability: Genta, interest, story, world-first, attractive design. But the market has yet to appreciate it as such. The size is divisive, to put it bluntly. Perhaps then, it’s best that it comes in an equally iconoclast two-tone case. I love two tone where it’s just the bezel and not the bracelet; this thing really has no chill. Total production of the 3508 is estimated to be under 1500 pieces, some say under 1000, of which fewer than 200 are in this gold & steel affair.

This example has a full case and very clean dial will all the tritium present. The 500K engraving was originally filled in black enamel, but many of them have worn off pretty much entirely as is the case with this example, which should be noted. It comes from a well-regarded Swiss retailer, with its box though no papers.