Four years ago I visited Singapore to meet clients and also new influential contacts. One of my meetings was conducted in the prestigious Marina Bay area. The gentleman I arranged an appointment was a high flyer in commodities and had a penchant for exclusive mechanical watches. In fact, his collection (worth millions of dollars) was incredibly impressive and somewhat surprising. As well as owning select pieces from Harry Winston, MB & F, De-Bethune, Vianney Halter, Rolex etc. he also owned some rare vintage models and a Nixie watch. Before I forget there were a few limited edition Urwerk timepieces in the display case he brought along. That is why I am sure he has reserved one of Urwerk’s phenomenal UR-111C watches.
It is fair to say that Urwerk was one of the brands that inspired me to write about horology in the first place. Realistically these small independents added spice to the industry with their marvellous futuristic designs. As their watches are exceptionally complicated new models are far and few between. However, when they do unveil new models it is an occasion to celebrate because they are normally brilliant. Certainly, the UR-111C illustrates this point and I sure it will attract a lot of enthusiasm from collectors.
What makes Urwerk so special is the relationship between Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei. Normally watch companies employ industrial designers and use renowned watchmakers to devise complicated movements. However, this dynamic team keeps everything in-house and that pays dividends. It also means they have the creative autonomy to invent horological machines like the UR-111C. Interesting they have compressed a highly sophisticated bespoke 37-jewel mechanism into a smaller (than normal) 42mm x 46mm x 15mm case. Presumably, they have adopted this strategy to appeal to the Asian market, which is wise in the current climate. However, it doesn’t in anyway detract from the overall ingenuity of this watch.
Aesthetically the UR-111C is totally eclectic and instantly recognisable as a Urwerk invention. The geometry of the architectural stainless case (available and natural variations) is inspired by Science fiction and realistically could be featured in a forthcoming blockbuster movie. Inspired details on this model include an integrated roller (instead of a conventional stem crown) linear retrograde minutes, jumping hours and digital seconds. Unfortunately, revolutionary timepieces like this one are beyond most people’s budgets and that is reflected in the CHF 130,000 (approximately $134,370) price tag. Nevertheless, the creativity of this level will undoubtedly inspire future generations of watch and industrial product designers.