In 1995, Felix Baumgartner and his brother Thomas, both promising young watchmakers and Martin Frei, an industrial designer, first met 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 Svend Andersen. The other half of Urwerk, Martin Frei has a background in graphic and industrial design, complementing Felix and Thomas’ watchmaking abilities.
Following their meeting, they 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.”