UR-102 | wandering hours | ceramicized aluminium
1 of 25
This Urwerk UR-102 represents one of the earliest steps from the brand in establishing its whimsical, futurist design philosophy. Reminiscent of a satellite or a spaceship, integrating an atypical wandering hours display, this UR-102 embodies the contrarian design principles which birthed the brand. It may not be for everyone, but then again, that’s part of the idea.
In 1995, Felix Baumgartner, a promising young watchmaker, and Martin Frei, an industrial designer, first met in order to discuss the idea of creating a new way to perceive time. From their meeting, Urwerk was born, a combination of the words Ur – the city where time was first measured over 6,000 years ago using sun-lit obelisks and Werk – which means "to create" in German.
Felix Baumgartner first learnt about watchmaking in his father’s atelier, who restored historically significant clocks, including the Campani brothers’ night clock from 1656, believed to feature the first ever wandering hours complication. He would later attend the prestigious watchmaking school in Solothurn and create complicated watches for independent Sven Anderson. The other half of Urwerk, Martin Frei has a background in graphic and industrial design, complementing Felix’s watchmaking abilities.
A foundational watch
Following their meeting, the pair established Urwerk in 1997. In the same year, they launched the UR-101 and UR-102 watches at Baselworld, the first steps in their mission to push forward innovative ways of displaying time. With their atypical time display, use of modern materials and futurist design, the first Urwerk watches certainly surprised the rather conservative watch world. As Felix Baumgartner himself recalls,
“We were not businessmen. It was extremely risky because we had no idea how our watches would be accepted.”
Both the UR-101 and UR-102 feature a wandering hours display, incorporating the same movement, with some variation in case design between the two models. This UR-102 features a distinctive wandering hours running on a semi-circular minute track. With a futuristic design inspired by science fiction and space exploration, it also incorporates non-traditional materials, made out of ceramicized aluminium with platinum caseback.
The wandering hours complication
It is believed that the wandering hours complication was first used on a night clock designed for Pope Alexander XII in 1656 by the Campani brothers, a well-known family of clockmakers in Rome. The insomniac pope requested the ability to read time in the dark, so an oil lamp was placed inside the clock case, illuminating the dial and allowing him to read the time through the open-worked numerals. The concept was briefly translated to pocket watches but was supplanted by the two-hand method of displaying time. It is either an improbable coincidence or an early source of inspiration that Baumgartner’s father was once involved in its restoration, at a time when his son would have been wandering around the workshop.
The UR-102 wandering hour movement relies on a carrousel driving an hour-module, with discs pointing to the minutes on a semi-circular track – a simple display that is highly intuitive, yet was unique at the time, and remains so today. The automatic movement operates at a frequency of 28,800 A/h and has a power reserve was 44 hours. This foundational way of displaying time would later be pushed to the extreme in successive models released by Urwerk, with the first iteration of the idea clearly visible in this UR-102.
This UR-102 has a unique appearance, unlike that of any other wristwatch. It features a curved case, made out of ceramicized aluminium, in a colour somewhere between grey and blue. The matte texture of the case does not reflect the light, giving the UR-102 the appearance and feel of an industrial, almost scientific object.
Ceramicized aluminium would have been a particularly difficult material to work with at the time. Indeed, a similar model to this one, the UR-101 Nightwatch in black ceramicized aluminium was only made in about 15 copies, despite the initial concept of 50 pieces, due to the complexity of the case production.
At 12 o’clock, there is a semi-circular track, displaying the wandering hours and pointing to the minutes. The track is finished in a circular grain, helping with legibility but also offering welcome contrast with the rest of the watch. An elevated section on the bottom of the track is marked in 5-minute increments. At 6 o’clock, the brand name Urwerk is proudly marked into the case.
The lugs on this watch remain relatively close to traditional watchmaking. Whereas other UR-102 watches feature teeth-like lugs, this UR-102 has two straight lugs, similar to the UR-101 Nightwatch. Overall, the case measures 38mm in diameter, though it wears larger on the wrist thanks to the extended proportions.
This Urwerk UR-102 comes on its original black alligator strap, with corresponding aluminium buckle. It also comes with its original box and certificate, confirming this example as 1 of 25.
With recent examples of early Urwerk watches commanding the attention of collectors, most notably at auction, this is an exciting opportunity to own one of the defining steps in the journey of the brand.
|Features:||wandering hours, 1 of 25
|Case:||38mm ceramicized aluminium
|Bracelet:||black alligator strap
|Box & papers:||box, certificate
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