Monochrome Watches
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REVIEW – URWERK UR-T8, The Transformer

| By Brice Goulard | 8 min read |
Urwerk UR-T8 Transformer

UR for URWERK. T for Transformer. 8 for the motion of this reversible case. Add 20 for the 20th anniversary of the brand, and you’ll have the URWERK UR-T8, a watch that is just the concentrate of everything Martin Frei and Felix Baumgartner have created so far, everything they tried to express in their watches since 1997, everything they experienced in terms of style and way to indicate the time. The UR-T8 is all of that. It’s bold, it’s futuristic, it’s provocative, it’s highly unusual… It’s everything why we love URWERK, and more than that. See, we love it… but here is why.

In our introducing article, we presented to you the UR-T8, a watch that at first felt very familiar, still I had some doubts about it. I’m a fan (and by that, I really mean admirer) of URWERK in general, with a special mention for two watches: the UR-103, to me the purest of them all, with a bold, yet understated design, and a display that sums up the idea behind the brand. There’s also the UR-210S Full Metal Jacket, an excessive watch, heavy, large (too large for me but I don’t care), provocative, complex, but at the same time, it also has a certain purity and sleekness, with this entirely metallic look. I had the chance to wear both extensively, for very long periods, as daily beaters (I know, there are many reasons to hate me now) and never, I could find something wrong with them. For sure, this is highly personal, almost emotional and far from rational.

Urwerk UR-T8 Transformer

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Yet, when I’ve seen the press images of the 20th anniversary creation, this new URWERK UR-T8, I was skeptical. No objective reasons, but just a feeling. Press images are never giving credit to a watch. A watch is a 3-diemensional object that needs to be appreciated with proportions, light, reflections, and of course that needs to be worn. This is what I did during the SIHH 2017, where the watch has been introduced. And objectively, there’s a lot to love here.

The Satellite Complication… improved

Urwerk UR-T8 Transformer

One of the signature features of URWERK has always been the satellite complication, which can be found on the very first watch created by Frei & Baumgartner in 1997 (the UR-101) and that can be found on almost all watches created later (UR-102, UR-103, UR-110, UR-20x, UR-210, UR-105, UR-106). Many version of this display have existed. Some, simple ones, with just two discs (UR-101 & 102), some with cubes and a retrograde hand (UR-210), some with 4 discs, some with cubes pointing a minute track… The concept has been used and abused for our biggest pleasure, with always a feast of technical complexity but (and that’s the beauty of it) with each time a great, almost childish, legibility. This has always been the hallmark of the brand. If this display is far away from the traditional hands, if it requires extremely complex to achieve technically, the result is always a great simplicity of time-reading. And that is not often the case with independent watchmakers…

Urwerk UR-T8 Transformer

What about the new UR-T8? Well, you won’t be surprised at first when looking at the dial. The display remains entirely faithful to 20 years of URWERK production. Still based on a carrousel with satellites, using discs like the 105, 103 and 106 and still having a separate digit with the hour clearly identifiable and running on a semi-circular track, to point the elapsed minutes. Also, there’s some of the UR-110 look in this watch, with the minute track on the side of the case, and not on the lower half (like in the 103, 202 or 105). How to read the time? Look at the photo above; it’s 6h34. Easy, very easy. And in the case of the UR-T8, this is the only indication you’ll get. Still, don’t be fooled, the mechanism behind this display is very complex, in fact much more complex than before.

Urwerk UR-T8 Transformer

The 12 hours in groups of four on a three-armed carousel successively sweep across the scale of 60 minutes to show the time both digitally and analogically. Basically, in the middle sits a carrousel with 3 arms, driven by the hour axis of the movement – yet accelerated, because it will do 8 rotations a day and not 2. On each arm, a module comprises 4 digits, each for an hour of the day. Each of these modules, a satellite, is also a carrousel, which rotates on its own. Until now, no difference with other watches of the brand. From 0 to 60 minutes, a digit remain visible and run along the minute track. Once arrived at 60, the upcoming satellite module follows its journey. Meanwhile, when hidden under the case, the satellites will rotate on they own to prepare the digit that will come later on the minute track (see the video below to understand). Yet, this URWERK UR-T8 celebrates 20 years of the satellite complication, thus it had to bring more.

The evolution of the satellite complication concerns the digits and the way they are positioned while running on the minute track. For instance, on a UR-105, they follow the curvature of the track – they are always perpendicular to the track. In the UR-T8, the digits are positioned one a planetary gears, in order to have them always on an horizontal plan – and thus always perfectly visible and straight when looked, whatever their position on the minute track. So it’s not 2 separated rotations done by the entire mechanism but 3 – the  main carrousel, the 3 satellites and the 4 digits of each satellites.

The Reversible Case

Urwerk UR-T8 Transformer

For the first time, URWERK inaugurates a transformable case. A sort of futuristic Reverso… We already knew that most URWERK watches were showing interest on both sides, not because they showed the movement (like most watches) but because of the control dashboard most of the creations were hiding on the caseback – which controls of the accuracy, of the power reserve or with the turbines to control the winding system. Yet, their case were classically fixed. With the UR-T8, we have the “transformer”, a watch that has two sides, and that can be worn on both sides.

Urwerk UR-T8 Transformer

A series of precise actions unlocks the case from its cradle, flips it over and returns it with a click to protect the time beneath a titanium shield. Squeeze again the two buttons on the side of the case to release it, lift it vertically, rotate it 180° around its axis and click it back into its cradle to return to the time display. The idea is to have both a mystery object on the wrist, where actually nothing is displayed, or when the case is flipped, a massive, bold and creative piece of watchmaking with a unique display. It’s up to you, up to the activity, up to the circumstances… The new UR-T8 is a 2-in-1 concept. The funniest thing is that with this watch, Martin Frei explains, URWERK wanted to create a watch “that recalls the Reverso watches”, also known as some of the most conservative watches out there. The Reverso concept has been pushed to brand new level here.

The Look and Functions, so URWERK

Urwerk UR-T8 Transformer

There’s a place where the UR-T8 doesn’t surprise, its style. And to be very straight forward, that’s absolutely perfect for us. What we have with the “transformer” is a mix of many known elements that have made the brand famous, and so easily recognizable.

  • The oversized and notched crown positioned on the opposite side of the minute track (usually, it means the crown at 12, but here the watch is horizontal, so it finds its place at 9). This element can be seen on the 103, the 105, the 210, the 202 or the 106. It’s a signature element of the brand.
  • The U-shaped window – again a feature that goes back to the 103, and later used on certain modern versions (for instance on the T-Rex 105, in a smaller version though)
  • The combination of black and titanium
  • the articulated strap attachment – while most URWERK are massive watches, because they don’t come with usual horns but a strap attached directly on the case, they do wear comfortably. The T8 is no exception to the rule.
  • The textures… Matte black textures contrasting with rough metals, depending engravings on the carrousel. All of that again recalls previous creations of the brand. More than that, it is the pattern on the upper case and on the hidden side of the case that is typical to the brand (recalling the UR-105 T-Rex)
  • The horizontal display, with 60-minute track on the right side, just like the 110 Torpedo. This allows to have the watch under a cuff (in case you manage to fit it under a cuff) and to see the time with just a tiny bit of the watch appearing.
  • The pneumatic control of the selfwinding system. A gilded spinning vane connected to the winding rotor absorbs any sudden and violent movements of the rotor without compromising its winding efficiency. While on some of the creations (UR-105 or UR-210 for example), you could choose the winding style, not here. But the system here basically fulfills the same goal.

Urwerk UR-T8 Transformer

Personally, when I look at this URWERK UR-T8, I see a mix of the UR-105 T-Rex for the texture of the case, of the Torpedo UR-110 for the shape and the right-sided display and finally of the UR-103 for the shape of the crystal on top. Yet, I love how the integration of all these elements in one watch is made. It is not a copy-past, not an unbalanced mix, not something that feels seen. Yet, it has some inspirations but it makes it a very nice commemorative watch.

The URWERK UR-T8 will be available in an initial series of 60 watches, in two versions: a full black one and the one you can see in these photos, mixing uncoated titanium and black. Price: 100,000 CHF (before taxes)

To understand how URWERK was created and what was the inspiration for the first pieces, take a look at our video interview with Felix Baumgartner, co-founder of the brand.

1 response

  1. I like complex watches but this one seems to “play the same tune” with different clothes. Yes the concept is mind blowing. The execution is just too big. I would not want to wear it. I would be fasinated to watch it work but not on the wrist.

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