Recently we’ve had the good fortune to wear a spectacular timepiece for some weeks. The watch in question is actually not necessarily what most people think off, when talking about a wrist watch, because it does not have two or three hands to indicate the time. We at Monochrome are passionate about watches without ‘normal’ hands that indicate time in another way. Today’s spectacular timepiece falls in that category – perfect ‘Monochrome material’ as we lovingly call it – and it is one of the best examples of Independent High-end Watchmaking. We got up close & personal with the URWERK UR-210s Full Metal Jacket.
In the world of high-end watches it seems you can go in two directions. It can be either towards ultra innovative, crazy creations, high-tech, high-mech and often with another way to display time, OR ultra conservative in the most classic sense of ancient high-end watchmaking conform all classic Haute Horlogerie design codes. While it seems like to worlds apart, these worlds are actually much closer than you might think! Often both have the same fundaments, being the classic Haute Horlogerie watchmaking skills. Whether we’re talking about an Hautlence HL, a MB&F HM3, or a MCT Sequential Two, what ties them together is that all movement parts are finished with circular graining (pèrlage), beveled and polished bridges, levers and the flat surfaces are usually decorated with a manually applied Côte de Genève striping. These same fundaments can be found in all URWERK timepieces, and the brand’s master watchmaker (Felix Baumgartner) is even a member of the prestigious Académie Horlogère Des Créateurs Indépendants (short AHCI).
Overall appearance URWERK UR-210
The watch at hand (pun intended) is the UR-210, which is probably the most technical creation of Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei, a.k.a. URWERK. The central ‘hand’ – or should be called indicating device? – points towards the minutes on a 120 degree arc, while it shows the actual hours inside as part of the ‘indicating device’. When this hand or indicating device reaches the 60 minutes point, it flies back to zero. And at the same time in ‘picks up’ the next hour digit.
I think we can all agree that this is a very technical creation, and because of its nature the UR-210 is kind of polarising. Something that I noticed during the review period is that everyone, whether they liked the watch or not, was mesmerised by the mechanics, technical aspects, strange shapes, part and the abundance of metal parts. The steel version that comes on a steel bracelet, is the UR-210s, and fully deserving its nickname “Full Metal Jacket”.
Although we get to review some of the most spectacular timepieces, I have to say that wearing the URWERK UR-210 was a remarkable experience that stretches further than ‘only’ a spectacular timepiece. To make myself understood, I have to hark back to something that Martin Frei, co-founder and chief designer of URWERK, once told me back in 2010.
Martin Frei: on a watch with hour and minute hands, it’s easy to see and know what position of the hands will be for the next meeting. This way you will have a visual picture of ‘the future’. URWERK’s timepieces display time in a linear way, which makes the experience of past and future completely different.
While wearing the UR-210 I noticed that I felt more ‘in the moment’ than with any other timepiece with regular hands, and I was less aware of past and future. Maybe even less stressed (or that was caused by the fact that the review period was during my vacation). I didn’t immediately recall the conversation with Martin Frei, however when I started writing this review, and wanted to capture the essence of reading time on this highly technical beauty, it came back to me and somehow sums it up perfectly.
The URWERK UR-210 on its steel bracelet looks very technical, and is rather a piece of technical time-telling art for the wrist, than a normal wrist watch. This description actually applies on pretty much all URWERK timepieces, although the UR-210 is probably the most technical in its looks. It simply does not immediately look like a wrist watch, since most people imagine something with two or three hands (or a digital display of some sort). I guess it’s save to say that the UR-210 is not for the faint of heart, and certainly not the ideal choice for for those who prefer to impress with a big golden watch with a very well known name on the dial. The URWERK UR-210 is for those who sail their own course; it is for the independent spirits among us.
Case and bracelet / strap
The stainless steel case measures 43.8mm x 53.6mm x 17.8mm, however the photo above is probably a better guidance than these numbers. Yes, it’s almost 44mm wide, and almost 18mm thick, however I never felt it was too big. It does have a certain ‘wrist-presence’, and that’s actually befitting its highly technical and outgoing style.
The UR-210 on the steel bracelet is also not really light; again, it has a certain ‘wrist-presence’ and also again, it’s befitting the watch. I couldn’t imagine this watch being ultra thin, or ultra light. It was a pleasure to notice that the UR-210 is very nicely balanced on the wrist, and wears comfortable.
There are three different versions of the UR-210, one being in titanium and red gold (UR-210RG), one is in black coated steel and titanium (UR-210Y) and the third one is this steel and titanium version on a steel bracelet (UR-210S) that we got here. The case back of all three versions is made in titanium, while the front is executed in either black coated steel, red gold or plain steel. The titanium case back is a great choice, because A) it reduces the weight of the watch and B) is hypoallergenic.
As you can see, the case back is host to a variety of things, mostly related to the ‘winding efficiency indicator’ (later more on this). The steel bracelet was originally introduced on the UR-202 back in 2011, and was introduced with the UR-210 earlier this year. The finishing of the case and bracelet is just sublime, and feels smooth on the flat surfaces and even on all edges, angles and everywhere!
An interesting design feat is that the top case is milled in one piece. Milling such a top case, that isn’t flat, is far from easy and requires very difficult machining and finishing. You can see that the sapphire crystal has the exact same curving and it sits flush in the case. At the 12 o’clock position is the crown with a crown protecting shackle, that remains in place, even when setting time, or winding the watch.
Dial and hands
Centrally positioned is the fly-back minute hand. This hand moves from 0 to 60 over a 120 degree arc, and points to actual minute. On its way from 0 to 60, it carries the hour digit, and as soon as it flies back to zero, it releases the hour digit and picks up the next digit when it starts at zero again. A very ingenious system rotates the three hour satellites, so the correct hour digit will always be facing up, and ready to be picked up by the fly-back hand. On top of that, the fly-back hand is also by no means simple, and has to fly back incredibly fast (less than 0.1 of a second) so it won’t compromise indicating the correct time.
The fly-back hand and the satellite system are mounted on a central axis, set in ruby bearings, so that everything moves with as little as possible friction. In order to achieve the right amount of power for the hand to fly back, URWERK uses a cylindrical marine chronometer type spring that runs vertically around the axis.
The fly-back minute hand that also forms a frame for the hour satellites, is milled from solid aluminum (which is black coated and engraved with UR-210) and weighs just 0.302 grams. It is counter balanced by a weight, so it is balanced on its axis.
Also on the ‘dial’ are two indications on the two top corners: left is a winding efficiency indicator and to the right is the power reserve indicator. The winding efficiency indicator is something entirely new and allows the wearer to adjust the watch’ winding to his/her own level of activity. While there are some watches with an indicator that measures the main spring torque, this entirely new complication calculates the difference between energy consumed and energy replenished in the mainspring over the last two hours.
If the indicator is in the red zone, the movement is not being wound sufficiently by its automatic winding rotor and is consuming stored energy. If in the green zone, it is a sign that the mainspring is being replenished with new energy, more than the movement uses at the time. So the goal is to keep it between red and green.
To keep it between red and green you don’t have to adjust your level of activity, but you can adjust the 3-position selector switch on the case back. There are three positions, full, reduced and stop, and two adjustable turbines regulate the winding rate of the automatic winding system.
In the top right corner of the ‘dial’ is the power reserve indicator and we consider this to be known territory for you, so no explanations needed.
Inside ticks the automatic movement, calibre UR-7.10, with a frequency of 28,800 vph (4Hz). The movement has 51 jewels, a Swiss lever escapement, a mono-metallic balance and a flat balance spring. The energy is stored in a single main spring, and holds up to 39 hours of energy, when fully wound. These specs do not sound strange to the seasoned watch collector who knows a few things about watches. What does sound strange, is that the unidirectional winding rotor is coupled to adjustable turbines that can reduce the winding speed.
The main feats are located on the dial side of the watch, and are intended for the actual indication of time. As we already stated before, the finishing is without a question superb, and the UR-210 features all classic Haute Horlogerie finishings: circular graining, circular and straight satin-finishing, the satellites are satin-finished and diamond-polished, screw-heads are beveled and polished and so on.
Conclusion – URWERK UR-210s Full Metal Jacket
Forget regular wrist watches, and delete that imagine in your mind that shows a round, maybe sometimes square or rectangle, watch with 2 or 3 centrally placed hans that indicate the time. Forget anything that has formed your first intuitive image of what a watch is. Enter URWERK with their highly innovative ways to indicate time. Or actually… is this really so new? Well, actually the way to indicate time could be denominates as a ‘wandering hours’ complication, a complication that was used in old clocks of some centuries ago. Yet its execution and design, and even more importantly, the technical solution, is anything but old and can certainly be called highly innovative!
The UR-210 does not look like a normal wrist watch to most people, and that’s actually very cool. It is a conversation piece by nature, and there’s a lot to talk about and even more to admire. Like all URWERK timepieces, the UR-210 is art, time-telling high-mech, high-tech and super duper cool art for on the wrist. Felix Baumgartner, co-founder and master watchmaker, has done everything to ensure that all parts are build to indicate time within COSC specs and is finished to Haute Horlogerie standards. So you could say it is a watch, but you could also say that it’s art. You decide if you want to call the URWERK UR-210 a wrist watch or not. We just want to state that it’s one of the coolest, most innovative, technically impressive and awe-inspiring, time-indicating, devices for the wrist that we have ever reviewed.
There’s one thing that we don’t like about the UR-210s… the price is ‘a tad’ above our own budget. On the steel bracelet the UR-210s has a retail price of CHF 145,000 Swiss Frances and on leather it comes for CHF 135,000 Swiss Francs. Maybe impressive numbers, however we also feel that the price is fully justified.
More info: www.urwerk.com