The latest timepiece to come from the combined talents of Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei at Urwerk takes its inspiration from a period when you could only tell the time if you were standing outside a cathedral or building of similar stature. In these medieval times, knights renowned for their chivalry and valour depended solely on metal for their survival – the steel of their shield and armour for defence and that of their sword for attack.
Medieval inspiration for the new UR-105M is part of what Martin Frei calls an “ongoing” design process. “It’s a permanent way of life, so wherever I am or whatever I see I look at it from a design angle,” he explains. “When I design something I draw on this huge collection of thoughts and impressions that I have accumulated over time. The idea of a shield protecting something is inherent in every watch, since the case has to protect the movement inside. When I designed the UR-110 case I created the first spherical-shaped case, which already reminded me of a shield. With the UR-105 I had much more of an idea about armour and I wanted to create a piece of armour for the wrist.”
The material and design of the cases of the two new UR-105M models recall this bygone age, finished to modern watchmaking standards with sand-blasting, circular and vertical graining in the case of the Iron Knight model and with an AlTiN-coating and bead-blasting on the Dark Knight model. On both versions, visible “T-bars” indicate where the bezel is fixed to the titanium case back and recall the functional design of a knight’s suit of armour with its visible rivets. This is, however, inspired by technical as much as design constraints, as Martin Frei explains: “The screws had to be tightened from the back, because there was not enough space available from the front. So the T-bars on the top of the case pull the case down on to the case back.”
Beneath this armour-plated exterior, however, the technology is cutting edge. Urwerk’s unmistakable time display, with its four hour satellites driven by bronze beryllium Geneva crosses, requires an ultra-lightweight frame and must rotate with absolute precision. This is achieved with a canopy made of PEEK (PolyEtherEthercetone), a highly resistant organic polymer that is used in the production of pistons and bearings, as well as medical implants.
Martin Frei describes the UR-105M as a next-generation UR-103 model, opening up the satellite hour complication to closer inspection. “I like to draw parallels with Alfred Hitchcock,” he says, “who used the same theme for all his films but gave it a different expression in each film. For us, the satellite hour complication is the theme and the UR-105M is the latest expression of it. It has been enhanced and designed for an open case and the mechanism is designed to be seen.”
The driving force for these orbiting indications comes from the UR 5.01 manually wound movement, which operates at 28,800 vibrations per hour (4 Hz) and has a power reserve of 42 hours. But in addition to the hours, minutes and a glimpse at the tens of seconds, all read digitally around the bottom of the dial, the UR-105M has to be discovered in three dimensions: magnifying apertures on the side of the case show the running seconds and power reserve as a visual indication of operation even when the watch is concealed under a shirt cuff and the case back is devoted to the brand’s familiar control board. In the case of the UR-105M this consists of the power reserve indicator in full, the oil-change indicator (calibrated over five years of operation) and the fine-adjustment screw and display that allow the watchmaker or the wearer to adjust the timing of the UR 5.01 movement without having to open the case.
Like any Urwerk timepiece, the UR-105M has an imposing design, but as Urwerk’s master watchmaker Felix Baumgartner explains, “With the UR-105M we’re not trying to show off, but rather ignite a calmer and mellower dimension. We offer an intuitive time display, with playfully ergonomic time setting. Technical challenge is at the heart of all our creations, and the performance here is subtle.”