Founded in 1997 by Martin Frei and Felix Baumgartner, Urwerk is one of the independent watchmaking industry's most prolific brands with a sense of watchmaking that fuses the traditional with futuristic design and a somewhat novel appreciation for the very concept of time. As such, Urwerk's timepieces are outside of the ordinary regarding their mechanical operation and their aesthetic design. Representing the basis of their offerings is the UR-100 collection, blending their quirky aesthetic with stunning craftsmanship.
First released in 2019, the UR-100 features a pair of interesting astronomical complications that build upon its solar and celestial-inspired design origins while simultaneously pushing Urwerk's watchmaking credentials even further into the ether of Haute Horlogerie. As referenced by the collection's name, these complications are fundamentally tied to space. They are the distance the earth has traveled through space during its orbit of the sun and the distance we have traveled on earth as it rotates.
Displayed at 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock, these two 20 minute sections of the dial mark out a 555.55km distance, and a 35,742km distance, with the three satellite hour markers jumping from the end of one to the start of the next every hour in a hypnotic display of exuberance that only a brand like Urwerk could pull off, thanks to their Urwerk cal. 12.01, which features a planetary flat turbine that is showcased behind the exhibition caseback.
What Urwerk has done with the UR-100 has been quite interesting, choosing to release variations on the watch in different materials in limited editions of 25. This is very much like what Roger Dubuis did in his day, releasing 28 pieces of each variant only.
Limited to 25 pieces, this particular example was released in 2021 and is known as the UR-100 Electrum. Electrum is a material that dates back to ancient times and is perhaps one of the original precious metals. Consisting of an alloy that is composed of yellow gold, at least 20% silver, and other elements like copper and iron, it was referred to as ‘white gold’ in the past and used by the Ancient Greeks.
What makes this material so appealing on a watch is not only its rarity but also the tone achieved. With a lot of gold watches these days coming off as very bright and shiny, it puts off a lot of collectors who fear looking too ‘bling’. What Electrum achieves is a very pleasing dull tone of gold that doesn’t come off as ostentatious at all, and very much mimics what us vintage watch collectors call ‘old gold’. Furthermore, this variant of the UR100 is one of the more special ones as its features concentric circular engravings on the case that really makes for a beautiful and aesthetically unique looking watch. The textural quality achieved and the feel of it is like no other watch.
With its domed sapphire crystal feeding into its heritage-inspired aesthetic, the UR-100's most compelling piece of design is its unconventional yet rather wearable 41mm stainless steel case that measures a very wearable 49.7mm from lug to lug.
With the appreciation of independent brands growing to an all-time high in recent times, Urwerk is certainly a brand to watch, creating watches that are both rare and truly unique.