Exploring The Wempe Glashütte Iron Walker Collection
Wempe Glashütte, the watch-manufacturing spin-off of one of Germany’s major retailers, has, with its new Iron Walker collection, presented its contribution to the oft-debated watch category: The steel sports watch with an integrated steel bracelet.
Just like any other retailer, Wempe is currently unable to meet consumer demand for steel sports watches from Rolex and Patek Philippe. Instead of asking customers to leave their stores disappointed, Wempe has decided to offer its very own alternative.
The Iron Walker collection
Since 2006, Wempe has produced its own range of watches at the observatory in Glashütte in Saxony, the epicenter of German watchmaking. Wempe Glashütte divided its offering into two collections named Wempe Chronometerwerke and Wempe Zeitmeister. The Wempe Chronometerwerke collection forms the brand’s exclusive range of watches, which all contain proprietary or in-house movements. Meanwhile the Wempe Zeitmeister collection unites affordable watches in various styles.
Now Wempe has added an entirely new collection named Iron Walker. This collection comprises 16 different models of steel watches with steel bracelets, including chronographs, dive watches, and time and date models. The last category includes men’s and women’s models driven by automatic or quartz movements. By the name “Iron Walker,” Wempe refers to the USA’s steel construction workers who work without safety equipment as they assemble the skeleton of a skyscraper.
…certified chronometers according to the ISO 3159 standard.
All Wempe Glashütte watches are certified chronometers according to the ISO 3159 standard. Even though the accredited testing laboratory is located within the Glashütte observatory, next to Wempe’s production facilities, it is run by two independent organizations. The chronometer test is executed on the complete watch (i.e., not only the movement, as it is with COSC). The test lasts 15 days and measures the rate in five positions. The average daily rate must be between -4 and +6 seconds, while the average daily rate variation must not exceed 2 seconds (precisely like with COSC).
For the Iron Walker collection, Wempe uses ETA movements — the 2892-A2 inside the Diver and the Automatic, and the 7753 inside the Chronograph. Wempe modifies and assembles all movements to meet Chronometer requirements. These modifications also lead to increased power reserves of 50 hours and more.
Iron Walker Automatic Divers’
The Diver is the Iron Walker model I was most curious about. As I am indeed wearing dive watches while diving, that category of sports watches makes the most sense to me.
Probably for more consistency with the other models in the Iron Walker collection, the Iron Walker Diver comes with an internal rotating bezel. Operating this inner bezel requires a separate crown. This leads to the typical super compressor case layout with two screw-down crowns at 2 o’clock and 4 o’clock.
But there is a difference in the look of this watch to those super compressors. Here we have a crown guard between the two crowns. To me, this is the most distinctive design element of this watch. I have never seen anything like that before. When comparing the Diver with the other models of the Iron Walker Collection, you realize that it is the same crown guard. Here it just isn’t separated in the middle, but instead, there are cut-outs at the ends. The result is a much more harmonious visual effect than the familiar look of two protruding crowns on one side of a watch. If this crown guard really serves the purpose of protecting the crowns remains to be experienced.
The Diver’s dial
A broad polished bezel surrounds the dial. It has a narrow flat ring at the top with a circular grain. In combination with the steel bracelet, this bezel is the signature design element of the Iron Walker collection. It adds real elegance to the overall appearance of the watch. But I do fear that it might attract dents and scratches. The actual case is vertically brushed, and the edges are polished. Towards the bracelet connections, the case bends downward to follow the shape of the wearer’s wrist. The screwed case back carries a crisp laser-engraved image of the Glashütte Observatory. With a diameter of 42 mm and a thickness of almost 12 mm, the Iron Walker Diver demonstrates adequate presence on the wrist without appearing bulky. Three hundred meters of Water resistance underlines that this is a real dive watch.
The dial bears a sunray finish, which creates some shine and some depth. Applied indexes and the hands are covered by a generous helping of luminous material that you would expect (or at least hope) to find on a dive watch. An arrow-shaped tip adds a design element to the seconds hand and provides the necessary surface for some luminous material even here. The minute scale is clear and straight. A framed date window at 3 o’clock is well integrated into the overall design. Five lines of text give all the relevant information without cluttering the dial.
The tilted turning bezel forms the rehaut that adopts the color of the dial and exposes a circular brush. A contrasting color highlights the first 15 minutes on the scale. As you can see in the images, two dial colors are available — blue with white highlighting on the turning bezel and black with blue highlighting. The blue dialed version appears slightly more harmonious to me.
Bracelet and clasp
The bracelet comes in an H-link style that matches the case well. The surface of all links is vertically brushed, while the outer edges of the bracelet are chamfered and polished. The central links, which are connecting the H-links, are brushed on top as well. To their top and bottom edge, these links expose broad polished chamfers. This design is an interesting solution to the challenge of adding some sparkle to the bracelet. This way, Wempe avoids completely polished central links, which not everybody likes. The links are screwed, which warrants easy maintenance.
The folding clasp does not provide pushers to unlock it. To open the clasp, you have to pull the bracelet. When closed, a security flip-lock protects the clasp from opening accidentally.
An interesting detail with a significant influence on practicality is the use of tiny spring-mounted ball bearings used to lock every lockable part of the clasp. This design will show signs of material fatigue distinctly later than constructions that solely rely on the tension of metal parts. This tiny detail is a good indicator of the engineering and manufacturing effort that went into this bracelet resulting in a comprehensively high-grade product.
Screws attach the bracelet to the case so that you can attach no standard straps. Wempe has not announced alternative straps for the Iron Walker collection yet.
Iron Walker Automatic Chronograph
The Iron Walker Chronograph exposes most of the characteristics that we already explored on the Diver. Here we’ve got only one crown and two rectangular chronograph pushers that are well integrated into the crown guards. The bezel here is even higher than on the Diver, resulting in an overall height of almost 14 mm at a diameter of 42 mm. If not worn with great care, this polished bezel will soon come down with visible scratches and dents.
There are two dial variants: one in blue and one in black with silver totalizers. The second style, which is frequently referred to as “reverse panda” dial, was the most anticipated Iron Walker collection model. Pandas are quite popular currently. Wempe chose a tricompax layout, which makes for a well-balanced look. The only detail that disturbs this visual harmony is a framed date window between 4 and 5 o’clock, which appears a bit cramped between the adjacent totalizers. As an ETA 7753 movement drives this watch, you cannot set the date via the crown. There is a counter-sunk pusher on the case at 10 o’clock. Therefore, to set the date, you need a tool. Apart from the practicality of having a date indication on a watch, design-wise, I think it would have been preferable to omit the date altogether.
…there is one issue that I can only call a design mistake…
As you might see in the images, there is one issue that I can only call a design mistake: The hands in the totalizers for the small second and elapsed minutes and hours have the same color as the background. The time-telling experience ranges from tough to almost impossible because of this color clash. The version of the chronograph with the blue dial does not have this issue. There the background of the totalizers is blue.
The bracelet without dive extension
The bracelet of the chronograph doesn’t have (nor need) the dive extension, and Wempe could design it much less striking. All you can see of it when wearing the watch is the branded security flip-lock.
It is remarkable how thin the folding clasp is. Apart from the security flip-lock and the bent clip, the bracelet at the clasp is no thicker than the rest of the bracelet. In addition to the overall quality of the bracelet, this design makes wearing this watch remarkably comfortable.
Iron Walker Automatic
The Automatic family of watches, to me, is the greatest surprise within the Iron Walker collection. These are no adventurous divers nor fancy chronographs. These are just plain, elegant watches with a sporty touch. But, next to being well-made like the other models, these simply look amazing. My favorite is the one with a white dial. But for fans of darker dials there are blue and black options also.
With a 40mm diameter and a height of just below 10mm, these models should fit most wrists. The Iron Walker Automatic Women’s has the same look and comes in the same dial colors. At a diameter of 36 mm it retains the height of the Men’s models. All models of the Iron Walker Automatic family are also available with chronometer-certified ETA quartz movements.
According to Wempe, the Iron Walker Collection has been in its pipeline for ten years. Elegant sports watches have been popular since the 1970s, but their demand has rarely been as high as today. It is the perfect moment to present this collection.
Even if the steel models from Rolex or Patek were available, the Iron Walker models would be a good alternative.
Even if the steel models from Rolex or Patek were available, the Iron Walker models would be a good alternative. They look quite good and are impressively high quality — from the cases to the bracelets and the enhanced movements. The prices, start at €1,675 ($1,950, £1,480) for the Women’s Quartz, €2,375 ($2,750, £2,100) for the Men’s Automatic, and €2,975 ($3,450, £2,620) for the Diver, up to €3,675 ($4,250, £3,240) for the Chronograph. I believe these watches represent a fair value for money. To learn more about Wempe, their history, and their watches head for their website.