Unveiling the UR-111C
I like to think that if I inhabited the Blade Runner universe I’d be wearing something from Urwerk on my wrist. Since unveiling their first watches – the UR-101 and the UR-102 20 years ago – Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei have essentially been creating science-fiction for the wrist….except, in this case, it’s not the stuff of books and films, it’s real. Hyperbole aside, the teaser campaign for the UR-111C was very Blade Runner-esque (with Urwerk even admitting it as a source of inspiration). And even after seeing and reading about the new UR-111C, I went back to watch the whole teaser video again, just because it’s cool.
In true Urwerk fashion, none of the UR-111C’s indications are conventional. Minutes are shown both linearly (a descendant of the UR-CC1 King Cobra watch) and digitally. It also has, for the first time, a roller attached to the case performing the functions of the crown. On the dial, running seconds meander across a cluster of optical fibres (another first).
Instead of the conventional crown at the end of the stem, Martin Frei and Felix Baumgartner conceived a roller integrated into the top of the case, running parallel to the winding stem. It’s a new sensation rolling the long fluted cylinder crown of the UR-111C. Winding the watch in such a way relies on miniature gearing, complex articulations and intermediate wheels to connect the controls to the winding stem. The same applies when setting the time. Instead of pulling out the crown, you swing a lever from the side of the case and turn the roller in either direction.
Hours & Minutes – Forward Action for a Retrograde Indication
The hours and two versions of the minutes are displayed within glass sapphire covers along the side of the case so that you can see them at a glance without turning your wrist or letting go of the steering wheel. Again, converting the horizontal movement to a vertical time display required precisely angled transmission with miniature bevel gears. The jumping digital hours and progressive minutes are displayed on rotating truncated cones left and right of the retrograde linear indication of the minutes. Of course, the linear display of minutes has been done before by URWERK in the CC1 King Cobra watch, but Martin Frei decided to set an extra challenge to URWERK’s construction engineers for the UR-111C.
Martin wanted to produce something visually different, whilst simultaneously making the linear track longer. To do so, it was decided that the linear track of the display should slant diagonally across its aperture, instead of horizontally in line with the rotating cylinder that carries the helix marker along the track of minutes. Because of the slanting track, the cylinder rotates 300 degrees about its axis to bring the helix to the 60thminute, at the same time arming a long, coiled spring. To bring the helix back to the start, the spring releases to snap the cylinder forward another 60 degrees and make the hours jump to the next hour.
Optical Fibre Seconds
The UR-111C’s digital seconds are mounted alternately on two tiny wheels: 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 on one wheel, and 5, 15, 25, 35, 45 and 55 on the other. Each openwork seconds wheel weighs 0.018 grams (0.025g with numerals) — miniature lacework in metal thanks to the LIGA process (LIGA is a German acronym for lithography, electroplating and moulding – used to manufacture microstructures by deep X-ray lithography).
The seconds numerals look strangely close as they pass across a circular window in sinuous progression. They appear alternately, transported into visual range by a dense cluster of precisely aligned optical fibres, known as an image conduit, positioned a tenth of a millimetre above the numerals. This is a world Première in watchmaking.
The final touch of complexity in an already complex machine is its case. The movement with its unique indications, complicated transmission systems and self-winding gear have to be slotted from the side of the case, once the panels have been removed and the time-setting lever dismantled. This is a slow and delicate operation given the tiny clearances and fragile mechanisms. The various finishes of the case are worthy of note — a harmonious combination of surface textures that have been sanded, shot-blasted, polished or satin finished. A simple screw can be finished in a number of different ways according to the surface on display.
Importance of the User Experience
Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei, the co-founders of URWERK, have always considered the owner’s interaction with the watch of extreme importance. “Wearing a fine mechanical object is a source of pleasure and pride,” declares Felix Baumgartner. “There has to be a strong bond with a mechanism that merges into your wrist and communicates with you. A mechanical watch is like the first steps towards enhanced intelligence: a machine that becomes part of you and which gives you information in return for energy. It’s an exchange. You take care of your watch and it will provide you with a lifelong service.”
UR-111C Tech Specs
25 in polished steel and 25 with a gunmetal finish
Price : CHF 130’000.00 Swiss francs (tax not included)
- Anodized aluminium cylinder; LIGA-processed nickel second wheels
- Surface finishes: Circular graining, sanding, côtes de Genève, polished screw heads
- Sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating
- Pressure tested to 3ATM / 100’ / 30m
- Selfwinding calibre with stop seconds
- 37 jewels
- Swiss lever escapement
- 4 Hz frequency
- 48 hours power reserve
- Jumping hours
- Retrograde linear minutes
- Digital minutes
- Digital seconds.
- 42 mm width
- 46 mm length
- 15 mm height
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