It is not every day that URWERK presents a brand new piece – not an adaptation of an existing piece, but something truly different and unique. So when URWERK announces something new, we’re always excited to see the result of many years of development… And its latest baby does not disappoint. Bold and ultra-modern, as a URWERK should be, the new creation gets rid of the signature wandering hours indication to restore another iconic display: linear retrograde minutes. Meet the URWERK UR-111C, the direct descendant of the UR-CC1 King Cobra and a watch that brings many, many cool details and mechanical innovations.
Wandering hours out – retrograde linear minutes IN
For over 20 years, URWERK built its reputation on the use of one unique display: wandering hours. Surprisingly, this ultra-modern display was inspired by an archaic way of presenting time. Attributed to the Campani brothers, wandering hour clocks dispense with the traditional arrangement of concentric hands and combine the hours and minutes in a single indicator. A highly intuitive way to read the time, a wandering hours clock made for Pope Alexander XII by the Campani brothers was what got Felix Baumgartner going. This was the inspiration for the very first URWERK, the UR-101.
Most of the watches later conceived and manufactured by Frei and Baumgartner featured this display – the UR-103, the UR-202, the UR-1001, the UR-110, the UR-210, the UR-105 or the UR-T8. A few exceptions to the rule: the EMC, of course, but particularly the UR-CC1 King Cobra, a watch that departed from the wandering display to bring linear and retrograde indications. On this watch, the hours are shown by a jumping and rotating cylinder, the minutes with a retrograde cylinder and the seconds with both a digital and linear mechanism… This watch now has a descendant, the URWERK UR-111C.
The URWERK UR-111C
As for the design of this new URWERK UR-111C, even though the new display implies some changes in the shape, we detect the Sci-Fi themes that are so dear to Frei and Baumgartner. The new watch is undeniably URWERK, bold, modern, unconventional, large, masculine and far from discreet – but after all, you don’t strap a watch like this on the wrist to hide it under a cuff. The UR-111C is a true machine for the wrist.
The most interesting part of this watch is certainly to be seen on the mechanical side – which at URWERK means an unusual display. The indication of the hours, minutes or seconds in a non-traditional way (understand classic hands rotating at 360°) has always been a signature feature on URWERK watches and the new UR-111C clearly doesn’t change that. In fact, it displays more than one unusual indication. The main point of interest with the new opus is that the wandering hours are gone. But that does not mean that the watch is any less technical or impressive.
The front side of the watch, with its three curved sapphire crystals, includes one indication of the hours and two indications of the minutes. Let’s start on the left side where jumping digital hours are displayed on a rotating truncated cone. Not only is the indication delivered on a rotating cone but it jumps precisely every hour, so the current time is always perfectly indicated. The right side is a progressive minute display, also through a rotating cone – consider this display a “backup” and a visual counterweight for the hour display.
The main indication and the one that will create the true “wow effect” is the central one. Inspired by the “King Cobra” watch, the URWERK UR-111C reintroduces the linear display of the minutes, however, with a new challenge. According to the brand “the linear track of the display slants diagonally across its aperture, instead of horizontally in line with the rotating cylinder that carries the helix marker along the track of minutes. Because of the slanting track, the cylinder rotates 300 degrees about its axis to bring the helix to the 60th minute, at the same time arming a long, coiled spring. To bring the helix back to the start, the spring releases to snap the cylinder forward another 60 degrees and make the hours jump to the next hour.” Definitely, something we have to see in action – and it will come soon as we have already asked for a review watch.
And there’s more… The seconds are also indicated by the URWERK UR-111C and unsurprisingly, the display is far from conventional. It is a digital seconds counter, mounted alternately on two tiny wheels: 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 on one wheel, and 5, 15, 25, 35, 45 and 55 on the other. Each openwork seconds wheel weighs 0.018 grams (0.025g with numerals) — miniature lacework in metal thanks to the LIGA process. The display appears unusually close to the wearer because the discs are placed underneath a so-called “image conduit”, positioned a tenth of a millimetre above the numerals. This circular window is made in precisely aligned optical fibres.
Are we done with the URWERK UR-111C? Not yet! Now comes the man-machine interaction, and the way the wearer interacts with his watch. The winding system is operated by a long fluted cylinder or “roller” integrated on the top of the case. Even though the base movement is automatic, winding the watch with this roller will be part of the pleasure. The same applies to the original way of setting the time. Instead of pulling out a crown you swing out a lever from the right side of the case and turn the roller in either direction. Considering all of these devices and unusual indication, the case can’t be assembled in a classic way – as seen above, the movement has to be slotted from the side of the case, once the panels have been removed and the time-setting lever dismantled.
As for the watch itself, the URWERK UR-111C is also a new take on the brand’s hallmark design. Certainly, the signature DNA is still present but the shape is different from what we’ve seen in the past – more angular, less organic. The UR-111C appears to be a rather hefty watch, yet the dimensions should be more “decent” and user-friendly than some of URWERK’s previous creations. The case measures 42mm x 46mm and is 15mm in height (no more than most of the Valjoux-powered watches). The URWERK UR-111C will be available in two versions. The first has a classic polished and brushed steel case, while the second has a matte gunmetal finish.
The URWERK UR-111C will be a limited edition of 25 pieces in each finish, with a price of CHF 130,000 before taxes. More details on www.urwerk.com.