The Urwerk UR-111C stands out from the crowd, courtesy of its ingenious design, unusual means of indicating time and ergonomic case design. However, while it may be an exemplar of neoteric design, it upholds fine watchmaking tradition with peerless finishing and sublime craftsmanship.
This detailed review of the Urwerk UR-111C includes live images, specification details and pricing.
Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei, the co-founders of Urwerk, look at horology through a prism of ingenuity, viewing time from an alternative perspective. The Maison is synonymous with avant-garde design and wandering hour displays. Likewise, it received two GPHG awards in 2014 for its incredible EMC model, an innovative creation which allows the wearer to monitor and adjust the timing of their watch.
Throughout its history, the prestigious Swiss brand has conceived thought-provoking products. The AMC, launched at Baselworld 2018, is a modern-day interpretation of Breguet’s 18th century sympathique clock. In this instance, a hand-wound watch is placed within a space-age master clock which automatically winds the timepiece. Furthermore, the master clock communicates with satellites taking a reference time from them and synchronising the watch accordingly.
Despite the contemporary nature of Urwerk’s watches, the brand upholds traditional Swiss craftsmanship. The Geneva stripes, snailing and chamfered screws typical of haute horlogerie’s old guard prevail at Urwerk. Indeed, the Swiss company is an exemplar of fine watchmaking.
Recently, Urwerk unveiled a new model, the UR-111C. This contemporary timepiece employs creative thought to spellbinding effect. Once again, conventional watchmaking ideas have been set aside and a new means of indicating the time has been realised.
When the Urwerk UR-111C is applied to the wrist, the time is viewed from the side, making it ideal for reading the time while holding a steering wheel. The wearer is presented with three panes of sapphire crystal.
The left hand pane resembles a trapezium placed on its side. Two grilles are positioned to the upper and lower surfaces of the pane, while the prevailing hour is revealed in full at the centre of the display. Those numerals behind the grilles can be partially seen, piquing the wearer’s interest. The odd-numbered hours are positioned to the left of the display, while the even-numbered hours are presented on the right hand side.
At the centre of the watch, the large rectangular window presents the minutes on a revolving cylinder. A green line travels from left to right against a diagonal minute track to indicate the minutes. The cylinder rotates 300° about its axis in order to reach ’60’ minutes, indicated in red. As it does this, a long coiled spring is armed. Once the green line touches ’60’, the spring is released, resulting in the cylinder jumping forward by a further 60°. This causes the green line to indicate ‘0’ minutes and the hour wheel to jump to the next hour.
Behind the right hand pane of the sapphire crystal is a further minute display. This depicts the time in 1-minute integers, proving ideal for monitoring small intervals of time.
No aspect of this watch is the product of expedience. It seems Baumgartner and Frei enjoy embracing challenges when advancement is the potential prize. The small seconds display is shown via an aperture on the top of the watch. The seconds are mounted on two small wheels. One wheel depicts 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60, while the other displays 5, 15, 25, 35, 45, 55. The super-light wheels, formed using LIGA, pass across a round window. Each wheel takes its turn to proclaim the prevailing seconds. The numerals are ‘transported into visual range by a dense cluster of precisely aligned optical fibres, known as image conduit, positioned a tenth of a millimetre above the numerals’. The resultant indication lucidly converses with the wearer.
Despite the modernity of each indication, everything is simple to read and proves eminently logical.
The stainless steel case of the Urwerk UR-111C measures 42mm (W) x 46mm (L) x 15mm (H). These dimensions cannot be compared with a conventional round watch as the shape of the watch is quite unique. The arcing underside of the watch head ergonomically embraces the wrist.
Most watch cases are formed of three parts, namely, the bezel, main case (including caseband and lugs) and, lastly, the caseback. The case of the Urwerk UR-111C is different. The central body of the case is curved and open-sided. The movement is carefully slid into position and then two end sections are fitted either side.
With this watch, Urwerk has repeatedly set aside watchmaking convention. On the upper surface of the case is a fluted cylindrical roller used to energise the mainspring. While it flies in the face of horological norms, it proves intuitive to use. Winding the watch using the thumb is effortless.
A pivoting lever on the right hand flank of the case pulls outwards and is used to adjust the hours and minutes. The watch features a stop second, allowing the wearer to synchronise the watch with a reference clock.
The absence of a conventional crown, the omission of protruding lugs and the aforementioned arcing underside of the case confer a wonderfully comfortable union with the wrist.
At the heart of the Urwerk UR-111C is a self-winding movement. The balance has a frequency of 28,800 VpH (4Hz) and the movement contains 37 jewels. Surprisingly, despite the watch being endowed with a jumping hour and retrograde minute displays, two indications known for quaffing energy, the power reserve is an impressive 48 hours.
Urwerk may create cutting-edge watches with breathtaking indications, but it does not eschew flawless finishing. The surfaces of the movement are embellished with circular graining, sanding and Côtes de Genève. Even the screw heads are polished to a no-compromise standard.
Throughout its history, Urwerk has shown that time does not have to be depicted with two hands on a round dial. Baumgartner and Frei choose to reflect on established practice and create something new and thought-provoking. However, both gentlemen never abandon functionality, day-to-day practicality and high-end finishing.
The indications are simple to interpret, the case provides sublime wearer comfort and the movement delivers convenience, courtesy of an oscillating weight.
UR-111C GUN METAL
The watch is offered in two versions, the UR-111C IRON and the UR-111C GUN METAL. The former model is presented with highly polished accents, while the latter employs matt, muted tones. The only problem is deciding which model is best. I found myself vacillating between both versions and even as I type this review, I am finding it difficult to choose my favourite reference.
Urwerk does not subscribe to convention, it chooses to step-back, contemplate and find solutions to questions few thought to ask. I applaud the brand’s creativity and, more pertinently, the watches it produces.
- Model: Urwerk UR-111C
- Case: Stainless steel case; 42mm (W) x 46mm (L) x 15mm (H); various sapphire crystals; water resistant to 3 ATM (30 metres).
- Functions: Jumping hours; retrograde linear minutes; digital minutes; digital seconds
- Movement: Self-winding calibre with stop seconds; frequency 28,800 vph (4Hz); 37 jewels; power reserve = approx. 48 hours
- Price: CHF 130,000 (RRP as at 13.11.2018)