The Audacity Watch Prize is awarded to Urwerk, for the AMC.
United we are stronger in the fight against disease. In support of the Only Watch biennial charity auction of unique timekeepers, two great independent watchmaking “Maisons” De Bethune and Urwerk joined their creative energies in bringing forth a timepiece that arouses curiosity, focuses attention and touches the senses. From the outside, a case that challenges established norms, fusing the design and function genetics of De Bethune and Urwerk with its floating lugs and the singular vibrancy of mirror polished titanium. Under the hood and curved sapphire crystal, a mechanical universe which amazes us with the one-off URDB01 caliber jointly developed for this very special auction the crown at 12 o’clock, spherical moon phase, and Urwerk’s signature time indication with the now-famous satellite window in an arc that evokes the sun’s curvature.
DE BETHUNE x URWERK is the story of four personalities, Denis Flageollet and Pierre Jacques at De Bethune, and Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei at Urwerk. A story of mutual respect and implicit trust. The meeting of two ultra-creative and independent watchmaking minds, linked by a longstanding friendship, to donate for auction a truly original and highly desirable timepiece in support of the fight against Duchenne muscular dystrophy. 1 + 1 = 3.
Tracking the Earth as it spins and flies through space and time
The UR-100 takes us on a journey through both time and space, two concepts at the very core of URWERK. Using its orbiting satellite hours and minute hands, the UR-100 displays both time (hours and minutes) and space (distance travelled), merging these two concepts in the creation of the all-new UR-100 SpaceTime.
The UR-100 SpaceTime features URWERK’s iconic orbital hour satellites, differing however in one significant way. Rather than the red-arrow-tipped minute pointers on the hour satellites disappearing after 60 minutes when replaced by the next, the UR-100 minute arrow passes beneath and between subsidiary dials, reappearing to display intriguing new astronomical indications: distance travelled on Earth and distance travelled by Earth.
Distance travelled on Earth
The first indicator at 10 o’clock evaluates the distance in kilometers that we have travelled on the Earth without even leaving our desks! It is based on the average speed of the rotation of the Earth on its axis at the equator, covering a distance of 555 km every 20 minutes.
Distance travelled by the Earth around the sun
Directly opposite at 2 o’clock, the same hand (well it looks like the same hand, but is actually one of three) continues its journey to another celestial indication featuring the distance the Earth has travelled in its orbit around the sun – a journey spanning some 35,740 km every 20 minutes.
The UR-100 simultaneously presents three different space-time realities, providing a thought-provoking reminder of our voyage through time and space.
“For me, watches have a philosophical dimension. They are a physical and abstract reproduction of our situation on Earth, with the dial representing the equator, simultaneously in constant motion while seemingly stationary for us,” says Martin Frei, chief designer and co-founder of URWERK.
Felix Baumgartner, master watchmaker and the other co-founder of URWERK agrees: “We live in a universe governed by three dimensions — time, rotation, and orbit — that we attempt to measure and master, but what escapes us is this notion of spacetime.”
Powering the UR-100 SpaceTime is the automatic Caliber 12.01, with baseplates in ARCAP and a power reserve of 48 hours. The automatic winding rotor is regulated by a flat turbine, the Windfäng (Swiss German for “air trap”) that minimizes shocks to the rotor bearing and reduces over-winding and wear and tear. The rotor, which is partially supported on its periphery by the flat turbine, also has a larger diameter, resulting in a lower mass and therefore less wear.
In-house testing of the flat turbine rotor regulation system found that it provided significant and exponential protection against excessive rotor speeds (the Windfänger rotates six times for every rotation of the winding rotor).
The design and construction of the URWERK Caliber 12.01 required incredibly high precision because of the extremely tight tolerances between the minute hand and three different dials and domed sapphire crystal it passes between.
The shape of the case may remind URWERK aficionados of the aesthetics of the brand’s early watches. As Martin Frei explains, “Towards the end of the 90’s, we unveiled the UR-101 and UR-102, the UR-100 is a little like our ‘Back to the Future.’ We broke down our approach and used some of the original design elements of our early constructions. The case of the UR-100 is a deconstruction of an early URWERK case. The steel dome of our historic models is reproduced in sapphire crystal. The form is emphasized by the titanium and steel case. I constantly question the diktat of symmetry and played with proportions to catch the eye.”
The Co-founder of Urwerk, Martin Frei, granted us an exclusive interview during the SIHH 2018 in Geneva, Switzerland.
“After studying visual design and arts I came in contact with a wide variety of influences and cultures. When the world of horology opened its doors to me, I entered with my entire artistic luggage in tow. I did not find having an art background limiting; instead, my art opened new horizons in watch design. Technique, concept and aestheticism are, above all, acts of creation.”
Interviewed by Alberic Virchaux