Looking Back on the 2013 SIHH

Forgive any mistakes, this blog entry is being written by a very jet-lagged watch journalist in the wee hours of the morning. Yes, we’re back in the U.S. after a busy week in Geneva at the Salon International Haute Horlogerie. Time to download some end-of-show impressions while they’re still fresh in mind.

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It really was no secret that IWC Schaffhausen would make 2013 the Year of the Ingenieur. Anyone who follows the brand even casually knows that each year it cycles through a different watch family for a refresh and this year it’s the Ingenieur that takes center stage. Some of the novelties were shown last month as a sneak preview but we had no idea how extensive an update the family of watches would get. Without exception, a lot of thought was given to the new pieces, with the guiding aesthetic being that of motorsports. Of course, IWC is known for many things but not for the brand’s subtlety. And to drive home (pun intended) the automotive theme this year, they built an epic man cave of a booth and threw another over-the-top gala on Tuesday night.

First, the watches, some of which we’ve already covered this week in our blogs. We’ve not disguised our enthusiasm for the new Ingenieur Automatic. At 40-millimeters, it is the entry point to the Ingenieur family, both in terms of its size and due to the fact that it’s the most affordable of the new references. Watch buyers has been throwing hints that there is a growing desire for more modestly-sized timepieces and it seems IWC was listening. The Automatic is not only wearable due to the 40mm diameter but the relative thinness of the case makes it a great everyday wear watch. Of course, we’re big fans of the 1970s designs of Gerald Genta, the man who penned the iconic Ingenieur SL. So the obvious nod of the new Automatic to this forebear was a smart move. And while many of the other novelties have sapphire casebacks, we were pleased to see the solid caseback and high resistance to magnetism this one has, which really carries forward the legacy of the original Ingenieur.

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At the opposite end of the spectrum, IWC shows that it really has no equal when it comes to putting high watchmaking into sporty pieces. Case in point, the Ingenieur Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month. This is a bona fide perpetual calendar chronograph, a true haute horlogerie calibre, inside of a decidedly rugged and athletic case. Of course, it wouldn’t be IWC if the case itself wasn’t as well-conceived as the movement. This one is constructed of titanium aluminide, an alloy used extensively in, wait for it… motorsports! Mere coincidence? We think not. Then they top it off with a rubber and textile strap. The digital date and month windows have a very high-tech appearance, reminding us that mechanical watches are, first and foremost, machines.

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The IWC booths are always a highlight of any SIHH and this year, we kept finding excuses to drop in just to gaze on that 1955 Mercedes SLR that was driven by Juan Manuel Fangio in the Mille Miglia race. A well-stocked bar serving liquid refreshment was disguised as a technical center and there was a Selectrix racetrack set up for some play time. If you happened to stop by on Tuesday, there was a chance you’d bump into a professional racing driver or supermodel. Let’s see—classic cars, beer, a racetrack and supermodels. Clearly, IWC takes this whole “Engineered for Men” thing beyond its watches.

As for the Race Night event, well it felt like the booth on steroids. Those cars that were parked in the booth during the day did laps around Halle 1 of the Palexpo, and we were all thankful for the provided earplugs. Watching celebrities in black tie heaving race tires around was priceless and after Kevin Spacey’s emcee shenanigans, the music started and the evening settled into a mellow groove. We still regret not being able to sit and chat with Ewan McGregor but he seemed fairly occupied with his tablemate so we decided not to interrupt.

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So here we are, back home nursing a gigantic SIHH hangover (take that how you will), downloading press kits and digesting what we learned and saw. We’ll surely be taking closer looks at the Ingenieur family of new watches throughout the year. But for now, we’ll bask in the glow of another spectacular week and start wondering what IWC has in store for us at SIHH in 2014. We’d better get some sleep.

HODINKEE for IWC Schaffhausen