As we head into a brand-new year, Revolution takes a look at what one of the world’s most inspiring watch brands have been up to over the last 12 months, the dynamic duo Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei from Urwerk.
The year 2018 got off to a spectacular start for Urwerk when it announced during SIHH that it would be making an atomic clock that would be paired with a wristwatch. Much like Breguet’s Sympathique clock invention from 1793 that had a docking station to wind, regulate and set a pocket watch, Urwerk’s Atomic Master Clock, or AMC, would do exactly the same thing.
We had to wait until Baselworld to see the finished piece, but it was well worth the wait. The AMC does exactly the same thing as Breguet’s Sympathique clock, only it takes its reference time from the most precise clock in existence — the atomic clock — offering a precision of +/- one second every 317 years. The AMC timepiece features a balance rate adjustment, winding through the master clock and it synchronizes both the minutes and the seconds to atomic precision. It is no surprise to learn that the AMC has been over a decade in the making.
If there is one thing that Urwerk loves more than anything else, it is to produce unconventional ways of reading the time. The new UR-111C is no exception with its minutes that are displayed in two different ways. You can read them in a linear or digital fashion, depending on how much precision you require. Other features include a roller on the case instead of a crown and a running seconds hand that travels across a cluster of optical fibers — a world premiere in the watchmaking arena. And if all that isn’t complex enough, the watch has one of the most sophisticated cases that slides onto the movement from the side.
With a nod to the substance that could hurt the fictional character Superman, the UR-105 Kryptonite features numerals with the most intense green light. This desire to create a timepiece that truly glows in the dark came from one of Baumgartner’s childhood memories. “My father was fascinated by the stories associated with the historical timepieces he restored,” he recounts. “According to one legend, the Pope ordered a special clock from the Campani brothers. It had to tell the time in the dark when he celebrated the divine offices at night. But the clock had to be silent so as not to disturb the Pope when he slept, while the time had to be immediately visible. The Campani brothers produced the so-called ‘wandering hour’ clock in which the hands were replaced by hour numerals that successively traversed a scale of 60 minutes. The passing hours were illuminated from within the clock by a candle. Needless to say, many of these clocks, made largely of wood, caught fire, and the system fell into disuse, but one survivor was sent to my father for restoration. I found it fascinating.”
One of the requirements of every Urwerk timepiece is that it shows the time clearly in the dark and there is nothing like a great dose of green ‘kryptonite’ SuperLumiNova to make that happen.
Robert Downey Jr.
Last but not least for our Urwerk 2018 round-up, Robert Downey Jr. sold the UR110 RG watch that he wore in the film Spider-Man: Homecoming at a Phillips, Bacs & Russo auction this summer. The timepiece raised 150,000 Swiss Francs for the Manusodany Organisation for Haiti, going way over its top estimate. The money went to promote literacy programs in Haiti, a worthy cause that Urwerk was proud to help Robert Downey Jr. support.
For such a small brand, it is surprising how many things Urwerk have been up to in 2018. We can’t wait to see what the dynamic duo has in store for us for 2019. According to the AMC, there are only 2,592,000 seconds left to go!