The Urwerk story began 25 years ago in 1997 when Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei introduced the Urwerk UR-101 and UR-102 models. Both have an unusual display of time based on the concept of the Wandering Hour System. The UR-101 and UR-102 feature a minimalistic pebble-like design with an arched window that reveals a passing, jumping hour/minute indication. A few years later, the UR103.01 introduces us to the style that Urwerk has been portraying for over a decade. And throughout its 25 years (could we see some celebrations on the horizon?) Urwerk has expanded its highly original concept into unknown, architectural and science-fiction-like directions. Clocks with oil change indicators, hour and minute rollers, time satellites, wind turbine systems, amplitude monitoring systems and all sorts of other crazy stuff. In honor of the anniversary, we take a closer look at one of the latest contraptions, the Urwerk UR-112 Aggregate Odyssey.
If you take a closer look at Urwerk’s portfolio from the beginning to the present, you can see that the style has evolved from very clean yet attractive to expressive and highly technical. Although Felix and Martin started with the UR-101 and UR-102, the original dream creation would be the aforementioned UR-103.01. This does not mean that the first watches were few and far between, but it does indicate that it took the two men a few years to nail down their dream watch and present it to the public. The shaped case is dominated by the massive crown placed at the top of the case. A curved window reveals a satellite-like hour pointer that crosses from right to left on a minute track. As each hour passes, the forecast for the next hour appears and begins a new 60-minute journey. While this display would become a signature style for the brand, much of the Urwerk currently shows signs of its early days.
Although the Urwerk UR-103.01 shows an unusual display of time, it is presented with an elegant stainless steel case, which in retrospect almost has a sort of Art Deco vibe to it. Those days are long gone, however with each collection that Urwerk presented, the designs became more structured and futuristic. At 42mm wide, 51mm tall and 16mm thick, the Urwerk UR-112 Aggregate Odyssey represents that progression as the watch looks like it’s straight out of a SciFi graphic novel. Crafted from stainless steel and titanium elements, the provenance of some of the design elements is quite surprising. Sure, it might look otherworldly, but part of the UR-112’s construction was inspired by the streamlined bodies of the Bugatti Aerolith and Atlantik cars.
Originally presented in a dark black and gray case, the Odyssey sees a mostly polished exterior, with sandblasted elements as well. It makes the look a little lighter, perhaps a little more welcoming. The ribbed top section is unlocked by flipping up and pressing the two pushers mounted on either side of the case. A central spine divides the watch into two halves, reminiscent of the spine that runs over the entire body of the aforementioned Bugatti cars. It also has the full name of the watch in the middle. On the right side of the case, there is a flip-up style crown used for setting and winding the watch. On the back, things are kept simple with a cap that is a partial continuation of the grooves above and the watch’s limit. That being said, the two cylindrical sapphire crystal containers on the front are the most unique features of this case.
These sapphire crystal cylinders contain the time indications for the UR-112 Aggregate Odyssey. Suspended inside are four aluminum satellites on the left for the jumping hour indication and four satellites for the rotating minute display on the right. For hours, single digits are engraved on rotating prisms that snap into place as a full hour passes. Prisms only show 5 minute digits (05, 10, 15 etc.) with an extra scale for the same minutes so the minutes work a little differently. Unlike hours, minute prisms do not jump but rotate gradually as time passes. The prism mechanism is linked to movement through a complex differential system with a central axle that transfers horizontal drive to vertical movement. The UR-112 comes with a small running seconds indication and power reserve display, hidden under a flip-up hood. Sapphire crystal windows reveal an analog PR indication, while a red plaque forms a digital seconds readout. All instructions are coated in Super-LumiNova that glows blue.
The Urwerk UR-112 automatic caliber is based on the UR 13.01. We have already identified what this movement represents, but it also requires some explanation of how it does it. The beauty of the system for hours and minutes is that as time progresses, the movement of the minute prism system accumulates energy for the jump of the hour mechanism. So when the full hour arrives, the built-in torque is released and instantly jumps the hour prisms forward one position. This makes for a visual spectacle reminiscent of the old Solari displays that can be seen in train stations and airports and are often used for arrival and departure times. The movement uses 66 jewels, runs at a frequency of 4Hz or 18,800vph and offers a total running time of 48 hours when fully wound. While not much mechanical wizardry can be seen inside, apart from the satellite system and additional displays, there are Côtes de Genève, perlage, polished screw heads, a variety of graining and more.
As most Urwerk watches go, the strap itself isn’t exactly standard. Not content with a simple leather strap, which doesn’t quite match the futuristic vibe of the UR-112, Urwerk opted for a more tactical textile leather strap with padding inside to give it a more angular design. It attaches to the case via a very unique lug structure, if you can call it lugs. The strap starts roughly wide and tapers to a more appropriate width and ends with a titanium pin buckle. The entire section is reinforced with a leather strap. Now, UR-112 Aggregate does not sell well for the brand due to its complexity. Watches like these take some time to assemble, putting pressure on the brand’s production capacity. Hence the reason the original UR-112 Aggregate is limited to 25 pieces and we will produce an even smaller number of the UR-112 Aggregate Odyssey. The price tag for all this mechanical wizardry is eye-watering CHF 250,000.
For more information, please visit Urwerk.com.