3521 IWC Ingenieur
There are many, many things in the watch world that simply do not make sense. Is Tim Mosso a Swiss automaton? How did watch polishing become a debate about meta-existentialism? Is Lange service Germany’s attempt to get into the cartel game? More than any of these mysteries, I seek to know why the midsized Ingenieur is still a sleeper. Despite all the admiration, scholarship, and even Jack Forster’s article in the last year, the 3521 remains an alternative and yet-to-be-fully-appreciated modern classic. Whatever the precise definition of modern classic is, I know not. But I know this is one.
The standard answer you’ll receive is ‘it’s 34mm, bro’. But almost universally, I get this from people who haven’t worn one. The case has a broad lug to lug, is almost all dial, and still thin at ~8.5mm. The experience feels like a perfect 36. Okay, maybe its the fact that this generation, the 5th and ultimate midsized, was less antimagnetic than its predecessor. The 3508 accomplished its 500K A/m through a nobium balance. And then somehow its replacement was ‘merely’ 40K A/m. But the truth is more impressive than headlines. To make the 3521 a ‘professional’ offering, IWC pursued a COSC certification. In order to meet the standards, gone was the ETA base. To replace it IWC, like most, rang JLC. So no, you’re not getting 500K a-mag. But you are getting a JLC 889 ébauche, which is an all-around quite more robust bit of kit. And to aid in the quest to shield magnetism, the rotor is solid 950 platinum. The whole thing. This generation was, in fact, the opposite of a corner cutting exercise, but the headlines don’t tell that story.
It’s not even like they’re overproduced. Value is, sadly or not, intrinsically linked to scarcity. Most regard the OG Royal Oak, the 5402, a somewhat rare watch. It was made in 6050 examples. Over all automatic Ingenieur SL references, as in ever, the best estimate put together so far by our friends at @siemswatches put total production around 5000-6000 examples in total. A great comparably midsized 14970ST, which uses the exact same JLC 889 ébauche, is just under 30K or thereabouts today. IWC’s 3521 won’t trouble you for 1/3 of that. Who says there are no deals left in watches? This feels like the early 2010s, when 993 Porsches still sort-of grew on trees. You blinked, and they’d charge you oil money to just look at one. I don’t particularly want the 3521 or 3508 to follow the same path, but, well, can you make a case against it?
On this particular example, the choice IWC made to not extend bimetal to the bracelet gives it a considerably less flashy aesthetic. And somehow the gold bezel looks purposeful, almost like a technical bit of antimagnetic guard even though it’s anything but. As examples go, this one checks out. The case is full, its bezel has light surface nicks but no hard bashes, and the bracelet is wearing tight. It comes with its full set, from a well-regarded London retailer.