Wempe Iron Walker line
The Wempe Iron Walker line consists of four types of watch, each housed in a stainless steel case and all equipped with integrated stainless-steel bracelets. Mark McArthur-Christie provides his take on this horological quartet, made in the German watchmaking enclave of Glashütte.
It sometimes feels as though there can be a little too much gimmick and spin out there in Watchworld. “Wear our dress watch – just like Millie Miggins, star of stage and screen, does!” It can seem sometimes that design, craft and quality for its own sake have been somewhat eclipsed by marketing hype. Therefore, it’s good to see Wempe bringing these latter attributes to the fore with its Iron Walker watches.
Although the name sounds like something with pointy teeth that RR Martin might have conjured up from north of the Wall, they’re a set of four classically-designed watches; two three-handers, a tricompax chronograph and a diver. You can have the three handers in a choice of three dial colours (white, black or blue) and the diver in black or blue and the chrono in reverse-panda black or blue. There’s no fuss and there are no gimmicks and no fripperies, just very well-made watches you’d be happy wearing every – and any – day.
The three-handers are a fine demonstration of how to make an apparently simple design striking; it’s all about proportion, balance and finish. No one feature stands out, everything just works together.
For a start, the dial (black, blue or a silvery matt white) has sandwich baton markers (silver and white Super-LumiNova) at each five-minute interval. There’s a double baton at 12 and an open minute track running around the steeply sloped rehaut, also marked out with five-minute intervals. Apart from that, the only writing on the face is the watch’s chronometer designation (no fuss or overclaim here, just the single word ‘chronometer’), its Glashütte and German provenance and the Iron Walker name. Think de-chromed 635CSi rather than a 3.0 CSL Batmobile.
The case is also unfussy, featuring a combination of mostly brushed surfaces with a polished bezel and edges. There might be shades of the Rolex 5130 – never a bad thing – in the way the bottom and top case angles slice straight across the dial at 12 and 6, then slope sharply down to the integrated bracelet (more of that later). The bezel stands proud of the case and is mirror-finished – with the whole plot just short of 10mm high.
With the three-hander, you have a choice of two sizes for the same case design – 40mm or 36mm. Both feature screw-down crowns with the Wempe logo and solid casebacks with engravings of the Glashütte Observatory (where their movements are tested).
Inside both you’ll find an ETA 2892-A2 running at its usual 28,800 vph (4Hz), but reassembled and regulated by Wempe – something they’re well-placed to do as Glashütte watchmakers have a strong heritage making marine chronometers. There’s a 42-hour power reserve, should you decide to leave your Iron Walker in the box for a day or so. And – as mentioned earlier – the movement is rated to German chronometer standards (ISO 3159). If accuracy really bugs you and you want something that’ll always run straight out of the watchbox, there’s a quartz too, powered by an 8-jewel ETA E64.111.
The self-winding ETA engine also finds itself behind the dial of the Diver model. The twin-crown case ups the 10 bar water resistance of the three-hander to a decent 30 bar (or 1,000ft). Wempe has taken a different route from most with its properly submersible Iron Walker and used an internal rotating bezel. To operate it, you unscrew the top crown and give it a turn or two. But this is – should you choose to use it as such – a proper divers’ watch. That internal bezel only turns counter-clockwise, so there’s no danger of over-staying your time underwater with unpleasant consequences.
It’s worth pointing out that the hands on all the watches in the Iron Walker series are the same, with the exception of this watch’s second hand. It has a luminescent arrow tip, making it much easier to see. The Diver comes with its own choice of dial colours – blue or black.
The diver’s case is a fraction larger at 42mm diameter and a gnat’s whisker under 12mm thick. That’s substantial, but certainly no dinnerplate, so it’s a diver you could quite happily wear with a suit to the office or to dinner when we’re all eventually allowed to play out again.
The twin crowns are separated by a central, wedge-shaped crown guard – the same one you’ll find on the three-hander and the chronograph. The three hander and chrono both place the crown centrally in a cutaway in the guard. The diver, on the other hand, cuts away the tapered tips of the wedges to place the ‘super-compressor’ style crowns outside the guard. It’s an interesting approach.
If you’d rather time things that race or fly, Wempe thoughtfully offers a chronograph in the range. Once again, it has chosen another ETA, but this time the cal. 7753 chronometer spec movement. It’s a three-register watch with a subsidiary seconds at 9 o’clock, a 30-minute counter at 3 and an hour counter at 6. A tachymeter scale is positioned around a steep rehaut. There are shades of the El Primero about the dial, with the date at 4.30 and the three sub-dials, but the chunky, block pushers are almost reminiscent of the TV dial ‘Big Blue’ Primero from the 1970s. That’s not to say the design is in any way derivative – it’s not. It’s a take on a classic design that really works together.
The blue dialled chrono is easy to read at a glance, should your eyesight still be sharp enough, but the black with silvered sub-dials (the ‘reverse panda’) is a bit of a challenge. The subdials and the chrono hands are nearly the same colour, so you’ll need a good peer to work out what you’re timing. It’s not a big deal and angle your watch the right way to the light and you’ll be fine.
The chrono shares a case with the Diver at 42mm (and 14mm high), but adds a tiny, recessed pusher at 10 o’clock to change the date. Anything pointed will do the job – a toothpick is ideal as it won’t scratch the case should you be ham-fisted enough to slip.
Each of the Wempe Iron Walkers comes supplied on a tapered bracelet. And what a bracelet! This really is a case of saving the best for last. The bracelet is integral (no option for a strap using the same system yet), and it’s not held on with a couple of flimsy pins. Oh no, this one is held with a pair of screws, one at each side of the caseback. It’s not going anywhere in a hurry. Then there’s the clasp. Usually, it’s a bit of a case of ‘clasp, schmasp’ but this one’s special. Rather than using the natural spring tension of the bracelet’s steel to hold the clasp shut, Wempe have used sprung ball-bearings and recesses – a detail choice that will gladden the heart of any engineer.
The bracelets all use an H pattern for the links, the clasp is properly cast and finished and the links are held and adjusted with screws, not pins.
In some ways, the bracelet is a fine analogy for the whole range of Wempe Iron Walkers. There’s no one, single thing that stands out but, taken together, each design and manufacturing feature adds up to a series of watches that are just right – and right in a way that makes you want to look at them again even if you don’t want to know the time. Delightfully free of gimmicks and fuss, they make you smile. And that’s no bad thing at the moment.
Wempe Iron Walker Quartz Men’s Watch – prices
- Iron Walker Quartz Men’s Watch (white) WI00 0004 from 1,570 GBP / 1,775 EUR / from 2,050 USD (RRP as at 11.11.2020)
- Iron Walker Quartz Men’s Watch (black) WI00 0005 from 1,570 GBP / 1,775 EUR / from 2,050 USD (RRP as at 11.11.2020)
- Iron Walker Quartz Men’s Watch (blue) WI00 0006 from 1,570 GBP / 1,775 EUR / from 2,050 USD (RRP as at 11.11.2020)
Wempe Iron Walker Automatic Men’s Watch – prices
- Iron Walker Automatic Men’s Watch (white) WI10 0004 from 2,100 GBP / 2,375 EUR / from 2,750 USD (RRP as at 11.11.2020)
- Iron Walker Automatic Men’s Watch (black) WI10 0005 from 2,100 GBP / 2,375 EUR / from 2,750 USD (RRP as at 11.11.2020)
- Iron Walker Automatic Men’s Watch (blue) WI10 0006 from 2,100 GBP / 2,375 EUR / from 2,750 USD (RRP as at 11.11.2020)
Wempe Iron Walker Automatic Diver’s Watch – prices
- Iron Walker Automatic Diver’s Watch (black) WI20 0001 from 2,620 GBP / 2,975 EUR / from 3,450 USD (RRP as at 11.11.2020)
- Iron Walker Automatic Diver’s Watch (blue) WI20 0002 from 2,620 GBP / 2,975 EUR / from 3,450 USD (RRP as at 11.11.2020)
Wempe Iron Walker Automatic Chronograph – prices
- Iron Walker Automatic Chronograph (black) WI30 0001 from 3,240 GBP / 3,675 EUR / from 4,250 USD (RRP as at 11.11.2020)
- Iron Walker Automatic Chronograph (blue) WI30 0001 from 3,240 GBP / 3,675 EUR / from 4,250 USD (RRP as at 11.11.2020)