Today I’m talking with long-time friend François-Xavier Overstake, aka @equationdutemps. This is not just his Instagram handle, but also the name of his blog about watches, which is probably one of the most important French publications on watches. Besides running his own blog, Francois-Xavier is a moderator on Watchprosite, a large watch forum. At 51 he has a day time job in the compliance department of a big insurance company and his leasure time is devoted to the beauty of mechanical timepieces. We’re talking about his stunning URWERK UR103.08 TiAlN.
Frank Geelen, MONOCHROME – Do you remember when you first laid eyes on Urwerk as a brand?
François-Xavier Overstake – Urwerk is a recent brand compared to long-established companies; it was founded in 1997. But at the same time, it has also been a long time player in the independent watchmaking segment. Actually, thanks to its style and its focus on a specific time display (wandering hours), Urwerk managed to build its own personality and identity very quickly. It has been a known and respected brand in the watch industry so even if its production is small, I have known Urwerk from the early 2000s.
But the real starting point was when I met the team for the first time in Paris (I think it was in 2007) during the late Salon Belles Montres. For me, it was a very good souvenir and I was very happy to be able to talk to Felix, Martin, Yacine, Dominique. It is the true asset of independent watchmaking: you can put names and faces on the products, which creates special relationships with the watch you have on the wrist.
What is it you admire in this brand in general?
I would like to say two main things: first of all, I love its style. It is original and timeless at the same time. For example, the UR-103.08 TiAlN is more than 10 years old (it was unveiled in 2007) but it remains a very contemporary watch. Secondly, Felix Baumgartner is a very gifted watchmaker and always seems to find easy solutions to complex issues, which makes the time display reliable.
Why did this particular watch stand out to you?
Actually, I love its purple/brown colour (I was about to write eggplant colour…), this colour works very well in the context of the Urwerk UR103. The Urwerk UR103 can be considered as a classic in the independent watchmaking history and I had had the wish to own it from its release… at that time I couldn’t afford it. I also loved the glass shape and I found its size very balanced. I was fully convinced in the end, when I saw Yacine wearing it. It was also perfect on a lady’s wrist so, despite its bold originality, I considered it also an elegant watch. Lastly, the wandering hours time display is easily readable, and I find it to be a very quiet time display.
When did you finally buy it?
I bought it during the Phillips Auctions dedicated to Laurent Picciotto’s collection in Hong Kong in 2017. I kept the video of this auction! This purchase process is also part of my love for this watch. I was happy to own a watch which once belonged to Laurent (who is a friend) and auctioned by Aurel Bacs! There are so many prestigious names around!
As I said before, I was in deep love with its style and design. The auctions in Hong Kong created an opportunity… but to be frank, I took the decision to go ahead just one hour before. I was not working this particular day (a coincidence) so I was able to participate in the auctions. I wouldn’t be able to do it from the office… so it was a kind of signal! I couldn’t miss it!
Does your watch get a lot of wrist time?
I wear it quite often. I try to wear a big part of the watches from my collection so I need to go to the safe at the bank to change the timepiece. It is the reason why I usually wear it let’s say two to three weeks in a row, then I change and I come back to it a few months later. I would like to add that it is a watch in my collection that I will never sell. Since I explained the context above, I can tell you the price for which I bought it: 212.500 HK$ on which you need to add the taxes. To be frank, I check the market value from time to time, but more globally on the brand and also in the perspective of future purchases…
Moreover, it is difficult to get an accurate market value because there are not a lot which are sold. The production was very low. In the end, I don’t really care. I will never sell this watch. It is a pillar of my collection.
Do you ever get reactions if you wear or show the watch?
I get A LOT of reactions! People (family, friends, colleagues) are always surprised by the design and the time display. “But what time is it?” is usually the first question. I like to explain the time display, its origins which can be found in the XVIIth century… I also display the control board on the back of the watch… I get more remarks from women. They react to it more than men do. I think because they are more sensitive to style. And of course, this is a feature I like a lot!
Are there any more watches you would like to buy?
Of course, there are! I’m not the guy who says: this one is the last one, I swear it! We always know that when we are passionate, we’ll never stop. I have several targets in mind. If I stay with Urwerk, I am considering a UR202. The UR103.08 TiAlN to me is one of the nicest UR103s due to its colour and glass shape. But you can be sure that I still have the wish to buy another Urwerk piece… I would love to own a UR202!
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But I also have some other targets with other brands. I currently have a project with French watchmaker Pascal Coyon (I own his first piece which has a movement with my initials engraved on it) and I’m always following what brands like A. Lange & Söhne (I bought an Odysseus in steel in June), Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet are releasing… And don’t forget Rolex! I can’t answer about when, though, I can just say: when there will be an opportunity.
Do you have tips for other collectors?
I don’t know if I’m in the best position to give tips. But what I can say to collectors is to consider independent watchmaking more. Because the watches coming from this segment are really very endearing and captivating with a lot of stories behind them. Of course, some may argue about the financial values, the brands’ sustainability and so on… I would like to say: buy substance, buy a mindset, buy the true exclusivity. When I wear the UR103.08 TiAlN, I know that I will not meet another person wearing it in the subway… When it comes to brand sustainability, some independent watchmaking players have created watches for more than ten years, and twenty years for Urwerk. And in these difficult times, a bigger size is not a better shield against the economic crisis.
I would like to remind people of the usual tips which remain very valid: take your time; read, learn, try to define with accuracy your tastes; don’t buy a substitute and never forget the target; buy a “hype” watch only if you love it; build your collection according to your personality and not by following the trends and… have fun! This last tip for me is the most important one. To make a long story short, I bought the UR103.08 TiAlN to have fun! It is an enjoyable piece!