Since its inception, Urwerk has always been about pushing the boundaries of what a mechanical watch can be. Founders Martin Frei and Felix Baumgartner continue to innovate in terms of both design and mechanics, while always using their solid watchmaking foundation to ground their work in the history of horology. Their latest creation, the Urwerk UR-111C Gunmetal uses a totally new kind of time display that’s a bit of a departure from the orbital satellite system that the brand is best known for. And it’s a doozy. On the “front” there are two conical displays – jumping hours on the left and running minutes on the right – and a unique helix-shaped minutes indicator in the center that also has a retrograde function. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s also a jumping digital seconds display on the top of the watch that uses an array of optical fibers to project the numbers up toward the sapphire crystal window. Like I said, it’s a doozy.
In addition to the new ways of showing the time, Urwerk UR-111C Gunmetal wanted to give wearers a new way to interface with the watch. You’ll notice that there’s no traditional crown to speak of. Instead, there are a pair of mechanisms for winding the setting the watch. For the former, you use the cylindrical roller that’s set into the top of the case, just below that jumping seconds display. Now, to set the watch, there’s a lever that pops out of the right side of the case that can then be used to turn things forward or backward. This is definitely a watch that’s all about doing things differently and if you’re looking for something genuinely unique, the Urwerk UR-111C Gunmetal looks like a heck of an interesting option.
Urwerk’s watches are tough to appreciate without seeing them in the metal, but even from the images here and the brief descriptions Urwerk sent over, I’m really impressed here. This watch is completely excessive in its pursuit of doing things in different, surprising ways, and the various indicators are constructed to an extremely high level, in terms of both precision and craftsmanship.
While I’m not at all shy about saying that a watch like this probably won’t be making its way onto my wrist in real life any time soon, I’ll also say I’m very excited to see this one in the metal. What Urwerk does stands on its own merits, and I think you’d be hard-pressed to find many watch nerds who don’t at least appreciate what the brand is doing from a conceptual standpoint. Watches like the Urwerk UR-111C Gunmetal make us question what we think we already know about mechanical watchmaking, force us to interact with them in new ways, and challenge us to be open to new interpretations of traditional horology. I’m always up for that.