Gerald Genta is the most important watch designer you've probably never heard of—and this is his unsung masterpiece.
Watch designers rarely get much public credit for their work, since it's the brand's name that sits on the dial instead of their own. But Genta is regarded by many collectors to be the most important watch designer of the 20th century, his most important creation the high-end steel sport watch. First he designed the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, which debuted in 1972, and then came the Patek Philippe Nautilus in '76. Both of these watches get tons of attention, but the same year the Nautilus appeared, so did a more understated Genta creation from IWC: the Ingenieur SL.
The Ingenieur first debuted in 1955, but it looked more like a dress watch than what you see here. It was designed to be a watch for engineers, who came in contact with magnetic fields at work, and was resistant to the negative effects of magnetism on the watch's inner workings.
The watch was made for well over a decade, but it wasn't until the introduction of the Ingenieur SL in 1976 that the design got an overhaul. The sporty 39mm case has a round bezel held down with five evenly-spaced screws and broad shoulders that mesh with the custom bracelet.
It's a bold watch and one that wasn't terribly commercially successful—IWC says it only sold about 550 SLs, making them highly collectable.
Even more than with most watches, the details make this watch what it is.
Look at the dial straight on and it appears to be deep black. But tilt it just a bit and the combination texture and checker-board pattern reveal themselves. The hands and baton hour markers are steel, and all but the central seconds hand have luminous fill, so you can read them in the dark. The date window at 3 o'clock is black with creamy print, making it blend in much better than a white disc (a cheaper, but not nearly as refined, solution).
If you have any doubts about the Genta provenance here, just look at the SL's bracelet. It's nearly identical to what you'll find anchoring the Patek Philippe Nautilus, but with fatter H-shaped links and rounder central links. Genta's bracelets are some of the most comfortable ever made, so the fact that you can't put a leather strap on this watch isn't going to be a problem at all.
IWC has continued to make watches under the Ingenieur name, but straying from the original tool-watch-for-nerds archetype hasn't gone well. The 2013 collection of oversized carbon fiber and titanium chronographs were some of the least appealing watches IWC has ever produced. Luckily, the current collection does include a simple automatic Ingenieur that is clearly modeled on the SL you see here. It's awesome and a great alternative if you like the look of the vintage original but want something built like a tank.
This IWC Ingenieur SL is available from HQ Milton for $10,800.