In terms of avant garde watchmaking, Jacob Droz is dragon its feet. The company that invented mind-blowing automatons – “the remote ancestors of modern computers” – is busy selling a $74k watch with an animated dragon lazing about, pawing at an orb. Meanwhile, URWERK got to work creating the UR-20 . . .
“The UR-120 is a new stage in the constant mutation of the URWERK species,” the watchmaker’s website proclaims. Props for using the word “mutation.” URWERK’s admitting the possibility that UR-20 – as well as the other members of the Satellite clan – could be an evolutionary dead end. That natural selection (i.e., the marketplace) will decide its fate.
It’s that Devil-make-care, “let’s throw it against the wall and see what sticks” spirit that makes URWERK watches so compelling. While Felix Baumgartner and Co. are known for their “wandering hour” display system, unlike JD, URWERK isn’t held back by horological tradition – theirs or anyone else’s.
That said, URWERK’s UR-Chronometry Collection features watches with ye olde hour and minute hands. While those timepieces don’t push the design envelope like other examples of the Swiss watchmaker’s art, mechanically, OMG.
The DIY EMC is a tour de force, “the world’s first precision mechanical watch in which the timing can be both monitored and adjusted by the user to suit their lifestyle.” Not precision. Lifestyle. Go figure. Meanwhile, the case-based visual pun – EMC squared – adds the perfect touch of horological self-deprecation.
OK, back to the UR-20 . . .
And so we turn to the co-opted wordsmiths at HoDinkee for an explanation of how the wearer uses the new model – nicknamed “Spock” – to tell time.
Timekeeping on the UR-120 is indicated when each arm passes over the sloped vertical minute track, which is placed on the far right side of the watch (the time reads approximately 11:37 in the above image).
After an hour has passed, the hand that was actively displaying the time continues its rotation around the rest of the front-facing watch surface, but the digital hour now splits into two pieces, with each rotating separate from one another, before gradually coming back together to form an entirely new digit.hodinkee.com
Got that? No? Using this newfangled technology called video, we can get a feel for how URWERK’s 44mm X 47mm watch tells the time.
I’m not convinced that an hour display cleaving itself in two and recombining evokes Dr. Spock’s Vulcan salute. If you’re going full Star Trek, any fan worth William Shatner’s wig will tell you satellites have bad intergalactic juju. (One went seriously wrong.)
A better parallel [universe]: the URWERK UR-20 is as restless as the crew of the Starship Enterprise; spinning, rotating, bifurcating and pointing 24-7 (the watch, not NCC-1701). That’s a good thing. Not a cheap thing ($100k). But an entertaining thing. A thoroughly modern thing.
In the post-smart-watch world there are two ways to go: subtle, elegant, reserved, old school or techno bonkers. Jacob Droz tries to split the difference. URWERK does not. Here’s hoping Felix and Co. boldly go where they went before – and beyond!