When pressed on what it is about watches that continues to fascinate me, my answer is always the ingenuity of it all; how hundreds of years ago, long before the advent of electricity, some very clever people decided to fashion portable mechanical devices that offered context to their place in the universe, a scale upon which to measure their day.
A few years ago, over a very leisurely lunch, I discussed this subject with Urwerk’s chief designer, Martin Frei, who was in a similarly philosophical mood and also enamoured by the humble watch’s ability to fix our position in heavens.
So, it’s no surprise that Urwerk has created a watch with a new complication capable of displaying our movement through time and space, only that it’s taken this long.
The UR-100 SpaceTime makes far more efficient use of the brand’s signature wandering hours architecture than ever before. Previously, only one arrow-tipped arm of a Urwerk carrousel is ever ‘active’ at any one time, tracking against the minute scale, leaving the other two to ‘rest’ until they rotate into action again, one after another.
For its new watch, Urwerk has added two additional scales to the periphery of its dial, making use of the rotation of all three arms at once. When the arrow has completely rotated from 0-60 on the minute scale, it moves on to a second and then third scale, representing the distance travelled on Earth (via planetary rotation) and the distance travelled through space (via our orbit of the Sun).
The first of these depicts how far the earth (and therefore the wearer of the watch) has rotated around the earth’s axis, which averages 555km every 20 minutes at the equator while the second concerns the distance travelled by the planet around the sun, an even more rapid 35,740km over the same period.
Aesthetically, the UR-100 owes much to some of Urwerk’s earliest watches, something hinted at by its throwback model number. Urwerk’s turn-of-the-century 101 and 102 watches used round cases with C-shaped apertures, revealing nothing more than the minute scale. The UR-100 is housed in an unusual seven-sided case with three serrated edges. Think UR-202 by way of the AMC.
Two versions are offered, one clad in black DLC-coated titanium and the other in stainless steel. The self-winding Urwerk Caliber UR 12.01 beats at 4Hz and offers a 48-hour power reserve.
As it turns out, Frei’s watchmaking partner Felix Baumgartner was inspired to create the SpaceTime, not by our lunchtime conversation, but by an unusual clock he was given by his father, a regulator that measured rotational distance at the equator. But like that piece, made by Gustave Sandoz for the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, the UR-100 will make you stop and think about your place in the universe.
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