Laurent Ferrier x Urwerk
Angus Davies reviews the Laurent Ferrier x Urwerk LF-UR2, a limited series of four timepieces destined to be sold for the benefit of medical research.
This detailed review of the Laurent Ferrier x Urwerk includes live images, specification details and pricing.
On the face of it, Laurent Ferrier and Urwerk are disparate entities. The eponymously named company, Laurent Ferrier, produces classical timepieces, upholding fine watchmaking traditions. Urwerk, on the other hand, is an exponent of avant-garde design and frequently embraces cutting-edge technology.
However, the two organisations surprisingly share much in common. Both independent companies create exemplars of haute horlogerie and produce very limited numbers of timepieces. Furthermore, both maisons have cleverly employed state of the art materials, providing notable benefits for their customers.
In 2017, a unique timepiece, the Arpal 1 watch, was designed and developed by the two watchmaking firms. Created for the Only Watch 2017 charity auction, this unique timepiece did not resemble anything either of the brands had previously produced. The gleaming case was constructed of an ‘exclusive alloy called ARPAL+ specifically developed for this unique watch. ARPAL+ consists of 75% precious metals and resists wear and scratches better than white gold or steel. Its colour never fades, nor does it oxidise’. The curving profile of the case seemed to echo the profile of the wrist. The wandering hours display, proclaimed the prevailing time in a succinct form. Every element was novel, stylish and thought-provoking.
Recently, the brands chose to collaborate again, crafting a timepiece without a real name, known simply as Laurent Ferrier x Urwerk. While this watch, limited to only four pieces, shares the same dimensions as the Arpal 1, it evinces a distinctly different character. Again, the financial proceeds from the sale of these four special timepieces will be donated to Only Watch.
The Laurent Ferrier x Urwerk features the latter company’s wandering hours display.
A problem with modern life is that we are often overloaded with information. Distinguishing between the essential and the extraneous is a daily challenge we all face. The appeal of this particular display is that it shows the relevant hour and minutes in lucid form, excluding any unnecessary numerals.
Inspired by the wandering-hour clocks made by the Campani brothers in the 16th century, the display employs four orbiting satellites, each featuring three hour numerals and each taking their turn to depict the hours. The prevailing hour moves adjacent an arcing minute track, displaying the time using a combination of digital and analogue forms. This ingenious display magnificently fanfares the time, creating a sense of occasion.
The minute track features white numerals, save for ’60’ minutes which is shown in red. Both the hours and the minute track are treated with SuperLuminova.
The prevailing hour is framed by sections of the orbital structure, adorned with a guilloché motif. The orbital structure is made of PEEK, a thermoplastic polymer used in engineering and noted for its mechanical and chemical resistance, even at high temperatures. The use of cutting-edge materials is something familiar to Laurent Ferrier and Urwerk. Personally, I love the appearance of the black orbital structure, it reminds me of the scales found on the skin of a snake with different shades of grey and a wonderful texture.
Both Laurent Ferrier and the Urwerk team appear incredibly modest. Not only have they been reticent to name this special watch, choosing to refer to it as merely ‘Laurent Ferrier x Urwerk’, they have also avoided any overt branding. A small cartouche sits next to one of the black sections of the orbital structure and is modestly labelled, ‘LF-UR’. Based on the magnificence of this joint creation, I cannot understand this self-effacing approach to branding.
While Martin Frei usually designs all the watches bearing the Urwerk name, in this instance, Laurent Ferrier was tasked with styling the case of the Laurent Ferrier x Urwerk. The remit was for the case to accommodate Urwerk’s UR5.03 movement while proffering something new.
In addition to a passion for fine watchmaking, Laurent Ferrier has a love of motor sport and for several years he was a professional racing driver. He has also previously employed his creative talents making car components.
It is while holding the Laurent Ferrier x Urwerk in one’s hands, that the influence of Ferrier’s love of motorsport shines through. Unlike Urwerk’s sharp, angular lines, the case of this limited edition timepiece features curved, sensuous contours. The upper surface resembles the aerodynamic bodywork of a race car, painstakingly honed within a wind tunnel. The case-band exhibits a feminine mien, mimicking the nipped-in waist of a supermodel.
The barrel-shaped case-back is relatively flat, save for the sides which taper towards the lugs. The juxtaposition of the case-back’s horizontal surface with the curving lines of the lugs, augments visual intrigue. The complexity of this case will make this component expensive to produce. The case-back is marked with both brand’s logos, the model reference and the case material.
The Laurent Ferrier x Urwerk is constructed of titanium which has been sandblasted and shot-peened. This gives the watch a stealthy character, immediately differentiating it from the Arpal 1. The unusual u-shaped sapphire crystal is intricately formed and specific to the timepiece. Clearly, the Laurent Ferrier x Urwerk eschews off the peg sapphire crystals in order to incorporate a very individual design language.
Measuring 60.8mm x 40.9mm, with a case height of 20.7mm, the Laurent Ferrier x Urwerk is a substantial timepiece.
The crown sits adjacent the lugs and resembles the curving form of The Gherkin, London’s iconic tower. Adorning the crown are parallel lines, contributing to the allure of the watch as well as providing a means of grip.
The UR5.03 is automatic, providing wearer convenience and making it ideal for daily wear. The frequency of the balance is 28,800 VpH (4Hz), the movement contains 52 jewels and the power reserve is sufficient to deliver 48 hours of autonomy. This is where the similarities to conventional watches end.
The satellite hours are driven by four bronze beryllium Maltese crosses. The carousel and triple baseplate are constructed of ARCAP, an alloy which does not contain iron, hence it is non-magnetic. Moreover, ARCAP possesses high tensile strength. Laurent Ferrier and Urwerk are both known for their use of cutting-edge materials and this is manifest with the Laurent Ferrier x Urwerk.
Discussions about innovative technologies may lead some to assume this watch sets aside traditional finishing. This is not the case. Both Laurent Ferrier and Urwerk are known for their no-compromise finishing, respecting fine watchmaking traditions. The movement of the Laurent Ferrier x Urwerk features a circular grained baseplate, sanded satellites, satin-finished carousel and chamfered screw heads.
The beauty of design is that no machine can supplant the creativity of the human mind. Some individuals possess artistry, while many clearly don’t. Despite the most talented designers having a unique and personal view of the world, collaboration can produce something greater than the sum of its parts.
Laurent Ferrier, Martin Frei and Felix Baumgartner all possess their own ideas in terms of styling, each equally valid. Where the Laurent Ferrier x Urwerk is special is that it is the synergistic outcome of three creative minds working together to create something new and very different.
Each of the four Laurent Ferrier x Urwerk pieces will be sold for CHF 88,000 excluding taxes. The proceeds of the sale will finance a ‘specific programme associated with the Only Watch’.
The press release for this watch implies that this is the final collaboration between the two companies. I hope this is not the case. While the motivation for producing the Laurent Ferrier x Urwerk was to help a good cause, the exercise has shown the merit of the two maisons collaborating.
- Model: Laurent Ferrier x Urwerk
- Case: Titanium; dimensions 60.8mm x 40.9mm, height 20.7mm; sapphire crystal to front and solid caseback; water resistant to 3 ATM (30 metres).
- Functions: Wandering hours and minutes
- Movement: UR5.03 ; Self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 VpH (4Hz); 52 jewels; power reserve 48 hours.
- Price: CHF 88,000 excluding taxes (RRP as at 23.7.2018)