Swiss made replica watches used to be something that attracted a particular kind of obsessive, narrow-interest, hyper-critical constituency. They still do, but apparently, there are more obsessive, narrow-interest, hyper-critical individuals out there than I thought – or maybe something even more strange has happened, which is that best fake watches have become appealing to (say it ain’t so) people who don’t have crippling neuroses.
In any case, if you write about perfect replica watches, nowadays you don’t assume that everyone’s seen everything. That means that sometimes you think about things you haven’t thought about in a while and find that they’re not only still interesting but also more interesting than you remember.
So it is with the IWC reference 3521. The 3521 is a member of the Ingenieur family, which, if you want to phrase it unfairly, is IWC’s version of the Milgauss, which is to say both of them are high quality copy watches that were originally designed to protect the movement against high-intensity magnetic fields. Milgauss means one thousand gauss (a unit of measurement for magnetic fields) but IWC chose to go with a name that said who the watch was made for. “Ingenieur” – a watch for engineers, whether you were working at the nascent CERN or in a hydroelectric or hey, given the era, nuclear power plant. Such individuals would find themselves working in close proximity to magnetic fields of unprecedented power.
CERN is the Organisation européenne pour la recherche nucléaire – the European Organization For Nuclear Research and it is currently the home of the Large Hadron Collider. I am often surprised at how many people have somehow not heard of the LHC, which is the largest and one of the most powerful machines mankind has ever built. (Big Science runs up against criticisms occasionally for representing an expenditure of tremendous resources for the sake of pursuing knowledge with no immediate practical return, but I kind of think that’s the beauty of the whole enterprise … James Webb Space Telescope, I’m looking at you.)
Anyway, the first wholesale replica IWC Ingenieur watches came out in 1955 and to me one of the most interesting versions is also, in a way, the most absurd. It’s the long-and-undeservedly-forgotten Ingenieur Automatic 500,000 A/m (A/m stands for amperes per meter, another way of measuring the strength of magnetic fields). It’s a small watch (32mm in diameter) and the last time I saw one was at the 23rd Street Flea Market in New York, probably twenty-five years ago, at least. I had heard about it for many years – it was the last word in antimagnetic watch technology thanks in part to its niobium-zirconium alloy balance spring, but the balance spring was so hard to make that IWC lost money on every one of them. (Eventually, Rolex figured out how to make a niobium alloy balance spring, which is the Parachrom Bleu.)
I would like to think that I’m enough of a purist that something like size wouldn’t put me off but I am ashamed to say that the small size of the 500,000 A/m held me back from buying one when I had the chance. This is two-and-a-half decades ago but I think the asking price was six hundred dollars. Then again, I remember the asking price of everything from two-and-a-half decades ago as being six hundred dollars. And this is where the ref. 3521 comes in – it retains a practical level of increased resistance to magnetic fields (courtesy a soft iron dial and inner case) but at 34mm, it’s much more wearable top super clone watches, at least to modern tastes.
The steel Ingenieur models with integrated bracelets were designed by Gérald Genta and the family resemblance to the Royal Oak and the Nautilus will be obvious. The difference is that the Ingenieur is not a luxury sports watch. The over-the-top finishing of the Royal Oak and the Nautilus is not there, and IWC was never a luxury brand at the level of Audemars Piguet or Patek, anyway. Introduced in 1976, the Ingenieur SL models at first had 40mm cases and they ran into the same problem as the 39mm Jumbo Royal Oaks – 40mm was a pretty big watch by the standards of the day. Like Audemars Piguet, with the 36mm “mid-size” Royal Oaks, cheap IWC replica watches found greater commercial success with a smaller version of the Ingenieur SL. In 1983, IWC introduced the 34mm 3505, and in 1993, the 3521, which was the only version of the Ingenieur to be certified as a chronometer by the COSC.
The ref. 3521 was antimagnetic to 40,000 A/m, which is more than enough for any reasonable person (for reference, that’s about 500 gauss). The reference was made until 2001, and although IWC still has luxury fake IWC Ingenieur watches in its collection, they don’t have the soft iron inner case used by the older antimagnetic Ingenieur models.
There are some interesting parallels between the Royal Oak and the Ingenieur SL watches – both were designed by Gérald Genta; both were steel integrated bracelet luxury sports replica watches online site; both were introduced in what for the time were oversized cases; both achieved greater commercial success with the introduction of smaller cases; both used automatic movements from Jaeger-LeCoultre (in both instances the base caliber was the JLC cal. 889). One of the biggest differences between the two is the price at auction – Sotheby’s sold a 3521 in 2020 for the slightly staggeringly low sum, at least by modern watch collecting standards, of $4,410.
So why are the auction prices four to five times less for the 3521 than for a mid-size Royal Oak? I think part of it might have to do with the size – at 34mm, the ref. 3521 feels a little small, to me anyway, in a way that a 36mm watch doesn’t. But I think the price difference also reflects the fact that the two companies, both historically and even in the present day, just have different identities. IWC has always been thought of primarily as a technical watchmaker and of course, Audemars Piguet is one of the Big Three of Swiss fine watchmaking and is today what it’s always been – a maker of high-end luxury fake watches for sale, exclusively, with an enviable pre-owned and vintage market. But what that does mean is that if you are interested in a vintage, Genta-designed, integrated bracelet, steel sports watch, your expectations have been set by the Royal Oak or Nautilus, so if you find a ref. 3521 for sale or at auction, you and your wallet might be in for a very pleasant surprise.