Recently I was asked by my friend Ben Clymer, founder of Hodinkee, the seminal watch website, to appear in an episode of his interview format video, “Talking Watches”. The only issue was that it was to be filmed in Manhattan and, as such, I wanted to limit myself to no more than six to eight watches which, when you’ve got as little impulse control as I do, takes a fair bit of considered culling.
In the end, I decided to bring the watches that made the most emotional significance to me in my growth as a watch collector and journalist. And with that as the criterion, I knew I had to bring an Urwerk.
Why? Because Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei are the only watchmakers to emerge from the heady period at the beginning of the millennium that saw the birth of high horological modernism, who have defined an all-new time-telling language and then, over the next two decades, continued to focus on extrapolating all the dynamic energy and expressive potential from that language with laser focus and yet evocative time-telling magic.
From the UR-103.03 worn on Baumgartner’s wrist at the presentation of the Harry Winston Opus V in 2005, to the engraved UR-210, which was the timepiece I had selected to show Clymer, to the two extraordinary evolutions of Baumgartner and Frei’s unique vision — the UR-T8 and the UR-105 CT Streamliner released this year — each ensuing Urwerk watch has continued to be a perfect expression of their alternate watchmaking universe that, as Marcel Proust would say, is “seen only by them and not visible to others”.
Says Baumgartner: “The idea for 2017 was to create a greater sense of interactivity with our watches. I always liked the idea of the ritual of drawing a pocket watch or flipping the case on a Reverso. I wanted to create charming rituals related to our own watches that would draw the wearer into constant dialogue.”
The UR-T8 does this with a case that can be unlocked from a carrier, then swivelled in a figure 8, hence the name “T” for Transformer and “8” for the unique kinetic pathway it traces whilst in liminal state, allowing you to wear the watch back to front for ultimate protection of the crystal.
The UR‑105 CT Streamliner integrates a Targa mechanism into its geometric blueprint, effectively allowing you to raise the external metal canopy and gaze deeper into the microcosm of the movement within.
Says Frei: “With Urwerk, we are in some ways happily oblivious to what is happening in the rest of the watch world. We continue on our path.” This year, both of Urwerk’s latest watches, and the men behind them, receive my Founder’s Choice Award for two full decades of blazing their own inexorable path to greatness.