When it comes to representing novel ways to indicate the time, few brands can beat the creativity, ingenuity, and technical wizardry of URWERK. Since 1997, master watchmaker Felix Baumgartner and artistic director Martin Frei have come up with contemporary adaptations of displays like wandering hours and retrograde minutes to represent the passing hours. Today, Urwerk’s Special Project collection welcomes the new UR-112 Aggregat, a compendium of complexity, technicality and radical design. In a departure from the brand’s signature wandering hours, the UR-112 is equipped with double flying carrousels with jumping triangular prisms to bring you the digital hours and minutes in a novel yet quintessential 3D Urwerk format. Housed in a streamlined black and grey titanium case, the secret seconds are hidden under a hunter-style case.
The complex design of the UR-112 Aggregat
Officially known as the UR-112, the Aggregat appellation refers to the way the watch aggregates disparate elements to make a whole. “The sources of inspiration for this UR-112 Aggregat” explains Frei, “are many and diffuse. The grille of the Bugatti Atlantique is the most obvious. An exceptional automobile whose contrasting spine emphasizes absolute symmetry“. It’s interesting he should mention the rare Bugatti Atlantic car, a beautiful automobile built by Ettore Bugatti and inspired by his earlier 1935 Bugatti Aerolithe Concept. Combined with its streamlined body, the Bugatti Atlantic of 1936 was built of aluminium, a lightweight material designed to enhance speed. Curvaceous and aerodynamic, the Bugatti Atlantic had a seam running down the central body to exalt its symmetry and a vertical grille with speed lines so often featured on objects made during the Streamline Moderne period of the mid-1930s.
Like the Atlantic, the UR-112 Aggregat reveals a streamlined body with elegant sweeping and rounded curves. And like the Atlantic, it is made of a lightweight material – titanium – and even features a central seam traversing the case from one end to another. The dimensions of the case (42mm width x 51mm length x 16mm thickness) do not reveal the complex architecture of the case that is made of black and gunmetal PVD-coated titanium. Viewed on the wrist, the rounded rectangular body of the case displays the hours and minutes horizontally (a bit like a driver’s watch) and the tapers and reduces its height towards the end. Even the reverse side of the case features the central seam that transforms into the floating lugs when it reaches the extremity of the case.
The digital hour and minute indications are housed in two cylindrical sapphire crystal containers separated by the central seam. On the left is the digital hour display; on the right are the minutes. Each indication relies on triangular-shaped prisms that move in sharp, precise jumps almost like old airport split-flap (Solari) displays (without truncating the numerals). All the 12-hour numerals and the minutes, which advance in 5-minute intervals, are engraved on the prisms and filled with Super-LumiNova that glows blue in the dark. The operation of the jumping hours display is driven by the advancing minutes. At the 60th minute, the force accumulated during the previous 3,600 seconds is deployed to change the hour.
However, to consult the seconds, the hunter case has to be lifted using the two lateral pushers on the side of the case. Decorated with horizontal speed lines to echo the grille of the Bugatti Atlantic, the hinged titanium bonnet reveals the digital seconds display, also calibrated at 5-second intervals. Etched on miniature wafer-thin silicon discs, the tiny numerals on the right advance under a magnifying lens and are framed by a bright red plaque with a white arrow. Perfectly symmetrical, the left side of the watch’s anatomy features a power reserve indicator, the only analogue display onboard the UR-112 Aggregat.
Although the watch only weighs 25.2 grams, it is a heavyweight mechanical prodigy with eight titanium planetary gears. To transmit the power required by the jumping hours, minutes and seconds, the UR-112 Aggregat relies on a long, thin rod known as a cardan shaft spanning horizontally across the central area between the seconds and power reserve gauge. Although it is hidden by the seam, the transmission shaft has double gearing – one at each end – and transmits all the energy required through a complex set of cogs and gears.
As Felix Baumgartner explains: “From a single source of energy, we power all displays and mechanisms of this UR-112. This force is distributed sparingly, some even ‘recycled’ so that from the digital second at the top of the dial to the dragging minutes and the jumping hours at the opposite extreme, each display receives precisely its required dose of energy.”
Despite its radical architecture, the finishings of the watch are highly traditional with circular and straight graining, Côtes de Genève and polished screw heads.
Availability and Price
The Urwerk UR-112 Aggregat is limited to 25 pieces and will retail for CHF 250,000. For more information, please visit Urwerk’s website.