The URWERK UR-106 is not a ladies’ watch. Remember this, if you ever have the pleasure of encountering the UR-106 personally. It is beautiful, it is elegant, it is graceful and intelligent and it is above all feminine, but it is not a ladies’ watch.

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The term “ladies’ watch” ought not to exist in the first place, really. Neither should the term “men’s watch”. Using these terms out of convenience is one thing — I mean, I get it — but seriously hearing someone talk about watches using these terms in earnest is like listening to my mother try and talk about pop music.

Surely we are way past the era in which we feel the need to separate things into categories that are dictated by our chromosomal makeup. Are we complex beings or are we not? Do we wear watches as an expression of our personalities, which have both feminine and masculine aspects, or do we wear them as an expression of our anatomy?

(I really hope my last question is fully understood by everyone reading this as a rhetorical question. I’m not sure what to do about my faith in humanity otherwise. Consign it to the uttermost catacombs beneath cathedrals of despair, probably.)

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What I feel like doing when people use the term “ladies’ watch”

A man could wear the UR-106. A woman could wear the UR-106. Specifically which man and which woman would wear the UR-106 remains, of course, a question of the individual. Martin Frei, design powerhouse of URWERK, describes the creation of the UR-106 as a conscious flowering of form, letting the shape of the case and its features emerge organically on the drawing board. In comparison, the other URWERK designs all incorporated some deliberate element of asymmetry or disruption, in order to emphasise the mechanistic, aggressive nature of their watches.

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In recent years, the URWERK timepieces have come appended with names that sound kind of military and fierce, like the UR-110 Torpedo, or the UR-210 Black Hawk, or the UR-105 Iron Knight. Previously they came with names that were equally fierce, though mostly nature-inspired, such as the UR-202 Hammerhead, or the UR-103 Tarantula, or the UR-CC1 Cobra.

With the feminine UR-106, Martin and his partner and co-founder Felix Baumgartner (not the space-jumping one; different guy with the same name) have gone with the evocative “Lotus”. Presumably fierceness is antithetical to femininity, which I feel is extremely debatable, but okay we’ll just roll with it.

Anecdote which may or may not be relevant: one of my international colleagues, meeting me for the first time, told me she was taken by surprise, as she’d heard I was “really fierce”. “You mean like Beyoncé-grrr-meow fierce?” I inquired, rather pleased. Apparently not, was her reply, more like Asian Auntie fierce. Was on the verge of responding when I noticed people around me scurrying away, terrified, in search of cover, and decided to change the subject.

Let’s just agree that the UR-106’s interpretation of femininity is, at least superficially, the non-fierce kind. It follows naturally from Martin’s experience of designing the UR-106 that the watch should be identified with a flower, and specifically with the lotus.

The lotus is seen in several Eastern philosophies as a symbol of purity and divinity, because it is rooted in mud and mire yet rises above the water to blossom. This concept of transcendence and transformation from base beginnings to ethereal beauty is echoed in the use of diamonds (originating from common, grimy carbon) to embrace the window of sapphire crystal. Diamonds and lotuses also have that unstained aura of resilience about them, which is something of a motto for a life well lived — to be refined, and not broken, by trials.

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The UR-106 Lotus bears the revolving hour satellites that have become a hallmark of URWERK, as well as a display of the phases of the moon. We last saw the lunar display in the UR-202, and it’s always welcome back, especially in the form that we see in the UR-106 — close observation shows that the moon is represented by a disc etched with a labyrinthine path, a six-lobed flower at its midst.

UR-106 MOONPHASE

There’s the fierceness we thought we missed — hidden in the tiniest detail of the watch, with the barest suggestion of Minotaurean threat should you lose yourself in its depths.

Since we’re on the topic of Greek myths here, I may as well just mention that when I first heard the name of the UR-106 and saw it in person, what came to mind was not the flower (oddly enough), but the fabled island of lotophagi, or lotus-eaters, that nearly ensnared Ulysses and his men as they sailed home to Ithaca. The island grew narcotic lotuses, causing those who ate their fruit to go into some kind of trance that stopped them from going about their business and made them only want to eat more lotus fruit.

The very first time I saw and held an URWERK timepiece, it was as if I had forgotten everything else around me apart from the watch in my hands. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person this has happened to. And of course you know what happens next — the incessant desire for more.

I guess Felix and Martin didn’t name the UR-106 with this entire web of literary and mythical allusions in mind, but you really can’t control how people experience and assimilate a complex, evocative timepiece like this. Intent and outcome are two separate things and they only sometimes coincide. Just like how the UR-106 was originally designed for women. But it is not a ladies’ watch.

 

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