3521 IWC ‘JLC’ Ingenieur

If the new Ingenieur just doesn’t land quite right for you, vintage might have the answer. And it doesn’t just have to be the quite-expensive, OG ref. 1832. The Ingenieurs which arrived after, that only very few of us obsessive enthusiasts seem to talk about, are just as if not more interesting. The ‘skinny’ midsized Ingy is where the party is today; not just because relatively few people are paying attention to them, not just because they’re handsome as hell, and not just because there are almost 25 references to learn, but because, I believe, they may just be the ultimate ‘modern-classic’ IWCs. This is a tritium dial with sapphire glass and a JLC base, thin and 34mm. Yes, this is an IWC underpinned by the watchmaker’s watchmaker, which surprisingly few people know ever happened today.

Of all the 25 references, this is the fifth and final Ingenieur SL, which was the only to use a JLC ébauche. The 3508 accomplished its wild 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 a 500K a-mag rating. But you are getting a JLC 889 ébauche, which is an all-around more robust bit of kit and even finished like you’d hope. Moreover, to aid in the quest to shield magnetism, the rotor weight is solid 950 platinum. This generation was, in fact, the opposite of a corner-cutting exercise, but the headlines don’t tell that story.

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. Most estimate that there are probably fewer than 1500 of these chronometer-ref. 3521s. Many regard the original Royal Oak, ref. 5402, a somewhat rare watch, and that was made in 6050 examples. 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. As timeline analogy, this feels like the early 2010s, when 993 Porsches still sort-of grew on trees. You blinked, and now it costs your firstborn to just look at one. Everyone loves the skinny Ingy, but they’re not silly values at all today. I don’t particularly want the 3521 or 3508 to follow the same path the 993 has, but, well, can you make a case against it?

This example looks mega. The case is worn, it has a few light love-taps, but nothing major and more importantly hasn’t been polished over to my eye. Its dial is unblemished, with all tritium present and even cream. It comes with watch only from a well-regarded German retailer.