One of my favorite watches of all times is the rather exceptional UR-CC1 from URWERK. A highly remarkable timepiece that remind of the dashboards of cool 1960’s cars. That’s at least part of the inspiration for URWERK’s UR-CC1.
Recently I came across a photo of an old Patek Philippe, that looks very much like the UR-CC1. After some more research it appears to be a prototype, created by the late Louis Cottier and it was called Cobra. That explains the “CC” in the name; Cottier and Cobra. And the grey gold and black gold versions of the UR-CC1 are nicknamed King Cobra and Black Cobra.
After a bit of a search (you gotto love the internet, because articles remain online for a looooong time, as where the paper version would have been recycled by now), I found an excellent article on Watchismo, giving much insight in the development of URWERK’s UR-CC1 and historical facts about Patek’s old prototype.
More then 60 years ago…
In 1958 two men, Gilbert Albert (who designed many ‘odd shaped’ watches for Patek) and Louis Cottier (the inventor of the worldtimer watches as we know them today!) came together to design something outrageous; the very first watch with a linear time display. This became nothing less then a technical headache of monumental proportions. In 1959 Louis Cottier applied for a patent and that was it; no news if they got ‘codename Cobra’ to work. The Patek Philippe Cobra found a place in the Patek Philippe museum in Geneva ever since.
Now fast forward in time to the year 2006…
URWERK or actually Martin Frei and Felix Baumgartner, had been thinking about a watch with a linear time display since the early days of URWERK. The idea was put aside, until 2006 when Felix saw Hitchcock’s movie ‘Birds’. A close-up in the movie shows the dashboard of an old Dodge with a linear speedometer. This revives the old idea, to develop a watch with a linear time display. During their research they stumble across the old Patek Philippe Cobra and this inspires them even more. After three years of research and one year of testing the URWERK UR-CC1 is released. “CC” stands for Cottier Cobra, a homage to the original inventor.
How it works
Lucky for us, Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei were able to create a working watch with linear time display. The UR-CC1 indicates the time by means of jumping hours and retrograde minutes. Both the hour and minute indicator are rotating cylinders.
The cylinder that indicates the hours has 12 lines, each ‘an hour’ longer than the last against the linear scale of hours. This cylinder jumps to the next line at the end of each hour. The minute-indicating cylinder is the one with the finer lines.
So far, so good, however it isn’t as simple as it looks. Remember that the UR-CC1 is actually quite flat for such a complicated timepiece. Meaning that the normal movement with its gears have to transfer the power to rotating the long cylinders, which indicate hours and minutes.
The power is transferred by a so-called triple-cam (see image below). This triple-cam rotates once every 3 hours. At the side of the movement you can see a rack; this rack is fixed on the left end (of the image) and the other end moves up and down because of the small hook that is attached to the triple-cam.
The side that moves up and down (in the image: the right side of the rack) is equipped with teeth that mesh with and rotate the minute cylinder.
Are you still with me? Sure hope so… The cylinder with minute indications doesn’t make a full rotation; it rotates just 300 degrees and then it jumps back to the beginning within 1/10th of a second. This is all driven by the teeth at the end of the pivoting rack. After 1/3 rotation by the triple-cam, the rack drops, rotates the minute cylinder 300 degrees back to zero and at that moment another gear makes the hour cylinder rotates 1/12th of a rotation (i.e. 30 degrees) to indicate another hour.
I could explain more about the used materials, that ensure the necessary stiffness, lightness and lowest possible friction, but I’ll leave that to maybe a next story.
Oh, and there’s also the pneumatic shock-absorbing Rotor Fly Brake automatic winding system that minimizes rotor and mechanism wear and damage from shock and harsh movements! No worries… also for another time 🙂
For now… some photos! All the following photos are made by Ian Skellern.
And one last photo… what an incredible timepiece!
The price level of the UR-CC1 is north of 200,000 CHF. More information about the UR-CC1 and other URWERK timepieces can be found on the URWERK website.
PS. Soon more news about two unique pieces of the UR-CC1, stay tuned!
This article is written by Frank Geelen, executive editor for Monochrome Watches.