Urwerk Pre-owned

Urwerk Pre-owned provides an alternative method of procuring a fine watch. Angus Davies chats to Felix Baumgartner, Urwerk’s Master Watchmaker and Co-Founder, to learn more about its branded pre-owned products.

Urwerk Pre-owned

Image – Urwerk UR-105M Dark Knight Limited to 77 pieces SFR 44,100 (as at 19.9.2019)

As adolescents we crave cars, cameras, watches and other luxurious items, but invariably lack the pecuniary means to purchase them. Later in life, new-found affluence facilitates acquisition of these luxury goods. With a sense of nostalgia in our hearts, we may choose to overlook the products of the day, often yearning for the items that eluded us in our youth.

Furthermore, while many buyers may have the financial means to purchase a new object, some still choose to procure a used item, enjoying the cost savings this approach often confers.

Urwerk Pre-owned

Image – Urwerk UR-105M Dark Knight Limited to 77 pieces SFR 44,100 (as at 19.9.2019)

There are clearly a variety of reasons for the would-be buyer to consider a pre-owned item.

Caveat emptor

In the rarefied world of haute horlogerie, there has been a long tradition of selling pre-owned watches. Some vendors are ethical and sell well-maintained timepieces with impeccable provenance at fair prices. Alas, there are various traders of watches who sell timepieces which are blighted with a myriad of issues.

The bruised and battered watch may be obvious to the layperson, however, what about the integrity of the movement, the water resistance of the case or the functional performance of the watch?

Is the watch what it seems? Unfortunately, there have been several instances of watches constructed from a hotchpotch of parts, fused together in order to masquerade as something else. Such is the prevalence of this horological phenomena that it has led to the term, ‘Franken watch’.

Indeed, there are a myriad of pitfalls awaiting the unsuspecting buyer of pre-owned goods. Unfortunately, when acquiring goods the buyer has to exercise great caution. In law, the principle of ‘caveat emptor’ places all responsibility for purchasing an item with the buyer. Thankfully, the Swiss watch brand, Urwerk, has recently launched a trustworthy means of acquiring a pre-owned timepiece.

Urwerk Pre-owned

The name ‘Urwerk’ is synonymous with avant-garde haute horlogerie and innovative watchmaking. It is a brand that has made the ‘wandering hours’ watch its own and has conceived products such as the EMC and AMC models that push the boundaries of horological performance with mind-blowing chronometric precision.

Image – Urwerk AMC

The Swiss Maison, a brand known for innovation, has conceived a new method of marketing used watches. Urwerk Pre-Owned provides prospective clients with the opportunity to purchase a formerly cherished Urwerk watch, bundled with an unprecedented degree of buyer comfort.

According to Felix Baumgartner, Urwerk’s Master Watchmaker and Co-Founder, the brand procures 50% of its pre-owned watches on the open market. However, the remaining 50% are bought from customers wishing to trade-in their watch for a new model. This latter statistic demonstrates the high regard Urwerk’s clients have for the company’s models.

Image – Felix Baumgartner

As Felix Baumgartner explained, ‘The life of any Urwerk watch doesn’t stop once we have shipped it to its first owner.’ Quite simply, an Urwerk is intended to last, providing enjoyment not only to its first owner but also any subsequent owners.

What happens to a pre-owned watch prior to sale?

Once a pre-owned watch is received by Urwerk, it is transferred to the company’s workshop, fully serviced and then subject to extensive testing. This involves removing the movement from the case and testing it over a two-week period. Thereafter, the movement is encased and the water resistance is checked, ensuring it conforms to the model’s stated specification. At each stage, if any parts are found not to be to the brand’s exalted standards, they are replaced.

Urwerk Pre-owned

Image – Urwerk EMC movement

Some Urwerk watches, such as the EMC model, contain electronic components. For example, the e-module is assembled by the watchmaker along with the movement. Again, should the e-module prove faulty, the company will fit a replacement. As Baumgartner explains, ‘We have the same quality standards for electronic parts as we do for mechanical components.’

The condition of each watch is assessed and the pre-owned model is classified using criteria clearly shown on the brand’s website. Moreover, images of the watch are shown on the website, faithfully showing any marks or signs of use. All details appertaining to the condition of a watch are freely shared with visitors to the website in order that they can make an informed choice.

Urwerk Pre-owned

Image – Urwerk EMC Black Series SFR 72,000 (as at 19.9.2019)

Every watch is supplied with a 24-month international warranty. While some horophiles spend much time seeking watches with ‘box and papers’, no search is necessary with an Urwerk Pre-owned watch as every timepiece comes as standard with a box, instruction manual and new warranty card. In many instances, there is little to differentiate a pre-owned model from a new watch.

How has Urwerk Pre-owned influenced the sales of new watches?

Chatting to Baumgartner, he freely admits that the Pre-owned website has led many existing clients to part-exchange their cherished Urwerk for a newer model. Indeed, half of the models offered for sale on the website are so-called ‘trade-ins’.

This has not only increased the sales of new watches, but shown both potential and existing clients that a pre-owned Urwerk timepiece is highly desirable and there is a buoyant used market for these avant-garde watches. Nevertheless, while Urwerk has seen a rise in ‘trade-ins’, the number of pre-owned models available remains few, especially when contrasted with the brand’s new watch sales. Quite simply, few owners are willing to part with their beloved Urwerk.

It’s personal

Urwerk remains an independent watch brand, making approximately 150 pieces per annum. It is owned and operated by friends and co-founders, Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei. Both men are passionate about their work and take pride in each timepiece bearing the esteemed name, ‘Urwerk’.

Image – Martin Frei and Felix Baumgartner

When I spoke to Baumgartner, he explained, ‘I feel responsible for every Urwerk in circulation’. His commitment to customer service is palpable. Quite simply, the Master Watchmaker and Co-Founder clearly cares about the life of each watch his team have lovingly created.

Worldwide shipping

Urwerk clients are scattered around the world. Indeed, the Swiss Maison has dispatched pre-owned Urwerk timepieces far and wide. I asked Baumgartner, ‘Bearing in mind Urwerk is based in Geneva, what is the greatest distance that you have sent a pre-owned watch?’ He replied with a smile, ‘California’. It seems discerning clients can be found in all four corners of the globe.

Based on the geographic dispersion of horophiles throughout the world, Urwerk has chosen to offer its pre-owned clients worldwide shipping, free of charge. This complimentary service also extends to insuring the watch while in transit. 

A typical Urwerk Pre-owned client

The words ‘typical’ and ‘Urwerk’ seem incompatible. A customer of the brand is, by virtue of the watch they have chosen, a connoisseur. They appreciate the fusion of modernity and traditional craftsmanship.

When talking about Urwerk Pre-owned, this rare breed of watch buyer falls into one of two categories. Approximately, 60% of clients choose the pre-owned route to ownership in order to save money. However, perhaps more surprisingly, 40% of buyers choose a used watch because they crave a model they failed to acquire at the time it was originally new.

Urwerk Pre-owned

Image – Urwerk UR-103.07 TiALN SFR 35,700 (as at 19.9.2019)

Urwerk, a brand that has repeatedly reimagined the notion of timekeeping, has created a reliable means of acquiring a cherished exemplar of haute horlogerie that may have previously slipped through the buyer’s fingers.

Sometimes in life, we are presented with a second chance. Thanks to Urwerk, that second chance is now available for the most discerning horophiles.

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