Think Watches Are Bor­ing? This $68,000 Master­work Begs to Dif­fer

Financial Chronicle - - BRANDS - JON BUES

THIS is the lat­est time­piece from Ur­w­erk, the UR-105 CT Stream­liner, and it's a watch that comes to us on the 20th an­niver­sary of one of the most off­beat and cre­ative in­de­pen­dent watch mar­ques in ex­is­tence.

It’s in­ter­est­ing to re­flect on Ur­w­erk at 20. Felix Baum­gart­ner and Martin Frei were real in­no­va­tors for launch­ing a com­pany wholly pred­i­cated on an un­usual mech­a­nism and sys­tem for dis­play­ing time—and they did it way back in 1997. It's tough to over­state how dif­fer­ent things were back then. The whole idea of in­no­va­tive, mod­ern horol­ogy was ba­si­cally un­heard of at the time, and Baum­gart­ner and Frei are a big part of why we now take this whole seg­ment of the watch mar­ket for granted. The UR-105 Stream­liner is the re­sult of some re­flect­ing on the early days of their com­pany, so let's look a lit­tle closer.

In 1997, Frei and Baum­gart­ner had only re­cently hatched Ur­w­erk, but Frei left Switzer­land and set out for New York. He’d grad­u­ated from the Col­lege of Arts and De­sign in Lucerne, and wanted to set up a shop in the cre­ative hub of late nineties Brook­lyn. Felix, mean­while, was liv­ing in Geneva. Nei­ther of these guys knew for sure whether they should con­tinue with a watch­mak­ing pipe dream that was eat­ing into their sav­ings.

Felix vis­ited Martin in New York, and, as they tell it now, they wan­dered the city streets, tak­ing pic­tures and gaz­ing at the Art Deco build­ings, and, ac­cord­ing to Ur­w­erk’s press re­lease, the city’s “gleam­ing sub­way.” Per­haps it gleamed 20 years ago, but I can't think of any New Yorker who would reach for such a word to­day. But I di­gress …The UR-105 CT is a time­piece in­spired by these ini­tial im­pres­sions of New York, its mag­nif­i­cent Art Deco sky­scrapers, and the metal­lic tubes fer­ry­ing com­muters through a sub­ter­ranean labyrinth. Its eight-sided shape re­calls the metal­lic rib­bing along a sub­way car and the sky­ward-reach­ing lines of the Em­pire State Build­ing.

Sit­u­ated in the mid­dle of the lines that adorn the top of the UR-105’s ob­long oc­tog­o­nal case is a catch, which you can slide open to re­veal the mech­a­nism that guides the wan­der­ing hour mech­a­nism. This kind of dis­play is text­book Ur­w­erk, but the spe­cific open­worked ver­sion pre­sented in the UR105 CT is some­thing new.

“The UR-105 CT is a watch with a fleixble de­sign,” say Baum­gart­ner. “When it is closed, it looks aus­tere, with only the time in­di­ca­tion vis­i­ble. Open the pro­tec­tive cover and you delve into a metal­lic en­vi­ron­ment that is quite cold. The Stream­liner’s carousel has been com­pletely re­designed, be­com­ing lighter, stronger, and far more ef­fec­tive.”

On the dial, you can also read the the amount of power re­main­ing in re­serve (out of a to­tal of 48 hours), as well as the dig­i­tal sec­onds, which are meted out in in­cre­ments of ten. This mech­a­nism was man­u­fac­tured us­ing pho­tolithog­ra­phy and has been open­worked to achieve of to­tal weight of less than a tenth of a gram.

As you’ve seen be­fore from Ur­w­erk, there are pneu­matic tur­bines on the back that gov­ern the self­wind­ing rate. You can set these ac­cord­ing to your an­tic­i­pated ac­tiv­ity level via a sim­ple lever mech­a­nism. If you de­cide to do some­thing crazy like play golf with this watch, you’ll want to turn the self-wind­ing all the way to stop to avoid putting stress on the mech­a­nism. Also, if you de­cided to do that, give us a call—we'd love to see the watch in ac­tion.

The move­ment here is the self­wind­ing UR 5.03 cal­iber, which, for all of its un­usual fea­tures, runs at a con­ven­tio­nial rate of 28,800 vph. Some of the ex­otic ma­te­ri­als used to con­struct this cal­iber in­clude beryl­lium bronze for the satel­lite hours on Geneva crosses, alu­minum for the open­worked carousel, and an al­loy called ARCAP for the afore­men­tioned su­per light dig­i­tal sec­onds dis­play.

The UR-105 CT Stream­liner comes in two ver­sions, both of which will set you back 65,000 CHF. One is in ti­ta­nium and mir­ror­pol­ished steel, while the other is ti­ta­nium and black PVD-coated steel.

A re­verse view of the UR-105 CT

Slid­ing back a sec­tion of the case of­fers a bright view of the open­worked satel­lite mech­a­nism

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