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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Up Shut and Private with the URWERK UR-103

Readers of The Collector’s Sequence and the Collector’s Nook know that I typically contribute to the column – writing articles for the collection is only one extra approach for me to get enthusiastic about classic watches. I learn a bit of a couple of particular watch, go deeper down the rabbit gap, and earlier than I do know it, I’m searching for listings on chrono24. Generally, I write bizarre, off-kilter posts like that point in October 2022 once I visited Ondřej Berkus’ atelier (and in addition a few weeks in the past) and spent the day speaking about watches and life with him. For this inventive freedom, I thank the staff at MONOCHROME! This piece falls in that very same vein. Name it my approach of turning into higher acquainted with a bit I personal, name it the ramblings of somebody who has now properly and actually misplaced all his marbles. In any case, I hope you benefit from the experience. As a result of the story of this Urwerk UR-103 is sort of a posh one.

Editor’s observe: @aaaaaaaaaarian ought to be credited for a few of the pictures discovered on this article (photos with a darkish background). The opening picture ought to be credited to www.acollectedman.com.


The Urwerk UR-103 is a watch that I by no means anticipated to personal. I spent many of the Covid-19 pandemic attempting to find and proudly owning neo-vintage items like the Cartier Tank Américaine, the Breguet Ref. 3237, or the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Chronographe Rétrograde. Some would say I uncovered myself too rapidly to 1 style of watches. Tastes change, as do accumulating preferences and priorities in life. I wasn’t proof against the latter, and main life modifications necessitated the troublesome determination to half methods with most of my neo-vintage assortment. 

Nonetheless, even earlier than that, I had been considering of taking my assortment in a really totally different route. I had already dabbled in indies, buying a Habring2 Foudroyante Felix as a approach of displaying my assist to the watchmaking scene in Austria. I admired impartial watchmaking and what it stands for; new designs, supplies, issues, and the sensation of marvel and amazement the watches encourage in me. My collector good friend circle performed an enormous half on this, exposing me to indie after indie – @aguy2watch is an particularly egregious instance of this. As my accumulating journey progressed, I requested myself: why even personal a mechanical watch? I imply, if you wish to know the time, simply whip out your telephone and have a look. It’s as simple as that. There isn’t any have to personal an costly, extra possible than not fragile, and mechanically out of date timekeeper. 

No, we purchase these objects for the feelings they invoke in us, and I noticed that, as stunning because the watches in my assortment had been, they had been perhaps a bit too standard, a bit too “regular” for me. 

I’m a baby of the 90s. Star Wars is one in every of my favorite franchises (properly, earlier than Episodes 7, 8, and 9 got here out, that’s. We don’t speak about these…), a lot in order that at one level, I had the entire scripts of Episodes 1-6 memorized. I don’t keep in mind precisely once I first noticed the URWERK UR-103. Possibly it was one of many two instances it was featured within the Collector’s Sequence (right here and right here), perhaps it was an outdated Instagram put up. There was one thing in regards to the watch that resonated with me. It seemed like one thing out of the Star Wars universe. It was a technical, but natural aesthetic, and it seemed altogether alien. I couldn’t assist however see the parallels of the case design with the flowing curves of the Covenant’s ships within the Halo franchise. The case and the curved sapphire had been uniquely sculptural. The huge crown at 12 o’clock seemed like some sort of exhaust jet. I used to be hooked. 

I seemed by way of the more moderen URWERK references, and regardless that my appreciation of the model’s designs and technical accomplishments solely grew, the 103 resonated with me probably the most. It had not fully adopted the techno-industrial aesthetic of recent URWERK, as an alternative sustaining a extra sensuous, curvy kind. Additionally, the 103 represents the pivotal motion of success for the model, one which anchored their design language and set the stage for the developments to return. And, to not skirt across the matter, there’s the worth issue – trendy URWERK is approach out of my finances!

As my consolidation progressed, I made a decision to pursue the UR-103 extra critically. Some people I talked with truly really useful not shopping for one, that it could be too giant, that it’s the fallacious look ahead to me, that it doesn’t match me or my type. Being the cussed individual I’m, I disregarded all this recommendation. The chance to see the watch in individual offered itself when, once more because of @aguy2watch, I had the possibility to go to the URWERK headquarters in Geneva in March 2023. There, lastly, I had the possibility to not simply maintain the UR-103 in purple gold and expertise it, but additionally to strive it on. It seemed wonderful and it felt proper on my wrist. And, most significantly, it didn’t look too large. Cue the need. 

The search continued, typically extra intensely than not, and when the best commerce alternative offered itself for a particular UR-103.08, I jumped on it.

A better take a look at the UR-103.08

URWERK is now 26 years outdated, having celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2022. Unarguably, the UR-103 is the reference that firmly cemented the design language of the model and allowed it the financially steady footing that permitted additional experimentation. The 103 marked a break from the “outdated” world of watchmaking – the brand new millennium required a brand new approach of telling the time, one which revered the previous whereas nonetheless exploring new paths.

The UR-103 was offered on the AHCI stand at Baselworld 2003 – keep in mind, this was a special period. We hadn’t seen loopy MB&F Horological Machines but, and watches nonetheless tended to be spherical issues. For some perspective, Rolex unveiled its Fiftieth-anniversary Sub “Kermit” the identical yr. It looks like a century in the past…

The 103 was a revelation, one which required a basic rethink of watchmaking supplies because it did a rethink of what a mechanical wristwatch might be. The orbiting satellites, being 160 instances heavier than conventional palms, necessitated the usage of non-traditional alloys. Cue aluminum satellite tv for pc discs, non-magnetic ARCAP P40 for the bottom plate, grade 2 titanium orbital cross, and a grade 5 titanium caseback for the Management Board indications. 

The UR-103.08 includes a “commonplace” 103 Targa case with a curved sapphire crystal. The 103.08 marks a contented center floor between the early 103.03, which had 12 units of engraved grooves, and the 103.05, which solely had 6. The ten units of grooves create visible curiosity, whereas leaving a easy, polished border that frames the time show. To me, this can be a small contact that provides a lot to the design – that little additional little bit of easy, curved and polished metallic echoes the swooping form of a Thirties sports activities automobile. The 103.08 case is made out of stainless-steel, which additionally marks a primary for a series-production variant within the mannequin household. On high of the metal, URWERK then applies a coating of TiAlN (Titanium Aluminum Nitride), which not solely makes the watch extraordinarily proof against scratches but additionally lends a heat purple-brown hue. 

URWERK describes it greatest in one in every of its preowned watch listings: “Titanium Aluminum Nitride. A remedy well-known within the industrial trade for its distinctive properties. A TiAlN coating that’s lower than 4 microns thick and has the impact of multiplying the resistance of the underlying metallic to scratches, shocks, oxidation and even acids. Utilized to instruments when machining metals to ensure the instrument head is tougher than the fabric to be machined. More durable than DLC and has a Vickers score of 3500. To place it into context, metal is barely 600 Vickers, and sapphire is 4000. The purple/brown tones are created from how the Titanium and Aluminum are combined; the result’s a primary within the watch trade.

So what’s the watch like on the wrist? The UR-103.08 has an unconventional form, so greatest to interrupt down the measurements. The width from 3 o’clock to 9 o’clock is probably the most easy, at 36mm. At its longest, the case measures 49mm, although, for the reason that crown sits inboard of the outermost outcropping of the lugs, the watch doesn’t look it. The place it will get actually troublesome is the thickness, so I’ll offer you three measurements: at the place 6 o’clock would historically be (6mm), in the midst of the case (14mm), and at the place 12 o’clock would historically be (13mm).  

On the wrist, the watch wears remarkably gentle. That is because of the metal case, titanium caseback, and enormous sapphire floor. Moreover, the usage of aluminum for the satellite tv for pc discs and an ARCAP P40 (a non-ferrous copper-nickel-zinc alloy) baseplate actually helps. The 103.08 takes up numerous wrist actual property however by no means feels uncomfortable. I believe that is fairly an achievement, seeing as I offered a Speedmaster Skilled as a result of I didn’t take pleasure in the way it sat on my wrist and hated its tendency to get hung up on door sills, my desk, and each sleeve in my wardrobe!

It’s the interactions that rely – watchfam

Episode 1: I used to be in London in August 2023 and reached out to some #watchfam within the metropolis to ask if they might have the time for a chat and dinner. Sadly, just one individual made it. Fortunately, that individual was @f1ptb, a champion of the impartial scene on the highest ranges of accumulating. 

Alongside @aguy2watch, @nuewatchguy, and @apexluxuryuk, @f1ptb is the man I bombarded with questions on usability, legibility, day-to-day sporting consolation, and total expertise with the 103. Connecting with these collectors, and taking wrist photographs whereas sporting the identical base reference – these are a few of the highlights of my watch accumulating journey so far!

Episode 2: Because of Ondřej Berkus’s invitation to choose me up from Brno to drive to Prague collectively, I made a decision to tag alongside for Salon of Distinctive Watches in late October 2023. What occurred these two days was terrific proof that I had made the best determination with the 103. So many individuals got here as much as me and requested what was on my wrist… after I handed it to them, they strapped the 103 on their wrist with a glance of wonderment, then handed it again to me, grinning ear to ear. It was a pleasure to expertise that very same rush once more once I first noticed the watch – that is indie watchmaking at its very core, and I don’t assume it can ever get outdated! 

Right here’s to many extra!

Q&A with Martin Frei

As a option to get to know the watch higher and study its inspiration and historical past, I reached out to URWERK by way of their Proprietor’s Lodge. The edited Q&A is under, in your studying pleasure!

Particular thanks goes to Yacine Sar, Head of Communications at URWERK and to Martin Frei, who took the time to undergo my exhaustive listing of questions.

Martin Frei (proper) and Felix Baumgartner (left)

Suhrud: What had been the inspirations for the unique design of the UR-103?

Martin Frei: We initially created our two first watches UR-101 and UR-102. That was earlier than the Millennium, within the outdated century … 

Crossing into the Yr 2000 marked a big milestone for. It was the large leap. To commemorate this transition, we devoted the UR-101 to the Millennium and the Millennium Falcon was one of many inspirations for its design. This was when the distinctive, asymmetrical URWERK format got here to life. 

The UR-103 introduced a contemporary perspective, influenced by the insights of Felix Baumgartner’s father – distinguished clock specialist – we flip the watch right into a driver’s one. This led to a big shift in design, with the time indication relocated to the alternative aspect of the case, going through the wearer. The large crown discovered its new place on the higher aspect the place it was subsequently properly protected and never bothering the wrist. The UR-DNA was born. 

The case, now extra complicated, needed to be made by CNC machining – a departure from our preliminary handmade instances – and that additionally allowed us to machine-engrave the case with streamlined grooves. 

Have been there different designs for the UR-103 that had been shut seconds?

No, the UR103 was a clear-cut piece, a creation that merged the round precept with the sq. one. 

How lengthy did it take to machine a UR-103 case in metal? In white gold/purple gold? In platinum?

It actually trusted whether or not the watch was engraved and the kind of materials it was crated from. At the moment, a reasonably easy spherical watch case in metal or gold concerned: eight hours to program the machine; 4 hours to manage/alter the instruments; half-hour to really make the case; utilizing as much as 5 commonplace instruments (drills, and so forth.); two case place modifications (back and front); and 200 instances made earlier than needing to interchange instruments.

To make a gold case 103.03 took roughly: three full weeks to program the machine, one full week to manage/alter the instruments; seven hours to really make the case; 15 commonplace instruments and 4 particular instruments; six case place modifications; and 50 instances made earlier than needing to interchange instruments.

To make a platinum case 103.05 the figures had been even “worse”: 4 and a half weeks to program the machine, three full weeks to manage/alter the instruments; over two days to really make the case; 15 commonplace instruments and eight particular instruments; six case place modifications; and 5 instances made earlier than needing to interchange instruments. 

Do you might have any schematics / technical drawings from the motion growth or total growth section that you’d be keen to share and have printed on MONOCHROME Watches?

Now we have these plans with URWERK Geneva and I actually can share an early sketch of the watch…

What had been the manufacturing volumes of the varied UR-103 references?

I would not have exact figures. I do know that already again then the UR-103 was a reasonably properly promoting watch. Nonetheless, the manufacturing was very restricted and unique. Fashionable CNC machining allowed us to make case with extra precision and complexity however it isn’t magic. 

What had been the largest challenges in making the UR-103?

For us there have been fairly a number of challenges linked to this second in time. The entire manufacturing needed to be financed by promoting a number of items. Technically we started to discover new prospects with the assistance of CNC machines. The spherical crystal glass needed to be minimize out of sapphire in its unconventional form and match into the enduring case of the UR-103, that was not that simple in any respect! We had been among the many first, if not the primary to have totally curved glasses to provide this 3D impact to our watches. 

How do the founders see the present marketplace for impartial watchmaking?

For a number of years now we’ve got been feeling a wave of affection for impartial watchmakers and impartial watchmaking. Undoubtedly hope this can final … 

What are URWERK’s plans going ahead? New issues? New supplies? What can we count on to see? (nothing confidential, after all)…

Our motivation is to specific our very personal tackle modern watchmaking creating our timepieces. URWERK is a challenge of the Avantgarde and subsequently it’s a program for us to all the time invent and be impressed by the second…to boldly go the place nobody has gone earlier than!

The Urwerk UR-103 by way of the years

Beneath is an outline of the varied UR-103 references, together with manufacturing volumes, every time I discovered them (references embrace URWERK’s personal pre-owned store and auctions). The 103 was in manufacturing for 7 years, and over the span, the mannequin developed, so removed from being a reference household, I believe it’s secure to name the 103 a mannequin household. 

The primary version, the UR-103.01 EW
  • UR-103.01 EW: Watch obtainable in 18k white gold or 18k purple gold, every restricted to 25 items, with a case characterised by slim spacing between case engravings that proceed previous the minutes monitor, small sapphire cutout for hours and minutes solely
  • UR-103.03: the primary UR-103 with a “targa” sapphire crystal form, 12 units of double engraved grooves within the case, manufacturing quantity unknown for each white gold and purple gold
  • UR-103.05: fully-polished platinum case with sapphire crystal home windows in cut-outs within the case flanks, broader spacing between case etching grooves in comparison with earlier editions (solely 6 units of grooves in whole), restricted version of fifty items.
An instance of UR-103.05 in platinum
  • UR-103 Blackbird: platinum case with no case engravings coated with black PE-CVD, dial, satellites, orbital cross black PVD-coated, 2006 version restricted to 10 items.
  • UR-103.06 JOAILLERIE: case, crown, buckle paved with 277 white diamonds for a complete gem weight of 5.28 carats, restricted to 25 in gold and 10 in platinum.
  • UR-103.07: case in rose gold or white gold, with case engraving sample just like UR-103.05 in quantity and positioning.
  • UR-103.08: metal case with shiny TiALN (Titanium Aluminum Nitride) remedy, 10 units of double grooves. Restricted version, manufacturing rely unknown, however possible above 100 items primarily based on examples of serial numbers I’ve seen. The UR-103.08 can also be obtainable in a presumably rarer model that options an angular sapphire crystal cutout. Manufacturing rely unknown.
An instance of UR-103.08, with its characterist purple hue
  • UR-103.09: case in rose gold, white gold, 10 units of double grooves, no engravings under the minutes monitor.
  • UR-103.09 AlTiN Black Metal: metal case with matte black AlTiN remedy, restricted version of 5 items.
  • UR-103.10 BPT Hexagon: platinum case PE-CVD handled with shiny black coating, angular sapphire cutout, 2008 restricted version of 10 items.
A uncommon instance of UR-103.10 BPT Hexagon
  • UR-103T Tarantula: case in 18k 5N purple gold, 18k white gold, or metal handled with AlTiN; purple gold and metal restricted to 60 items every, white gold to 33 (because of @detroitwatchguy for the main points on the AlTiN metal variant – learn his interview about his private UR-103 right here)
Detroitwatchguy and his Urwerk UR-103Detroitwatchguy and his Urwerk UR-103
The Urwerk UR-103 Tarantula – picture courtesy of @Detroitwatchguy

To shut out the UR-103 mannequin line, URWERK introduced three particular editions in 2010:

  • UR-103T “Mexican Fireleg”: UR-103 Tarantula with modified color scheme that includes orange luminescent markings, hours indications, and minutes monitor. Restricted version of 60 items in stainless-steel handled with AlTiN (Aluminium, Titanium, Nitride) or 18k gold handled with AlTiN
  • UR-103TS “Shining T”: 18k gold case handled with AlTiN, hour satellites in sapphire, restricted version of 33 items
  • UR-103 Phoenix: piece distinctive for Solely Watch 2011, case in white gold, embellished with a phoenix motive hand-engraved by Jean-Vincent Huguenin
  • The “UR-103 Version Spéciale” comprise plenty of elaborately hand-engraved piece distinctive together with the “Dragon” in 18k purple gold, “Junkers” in platinum, “Artwork Deco” in 18k white gold, “Eagle” in platinum.

Did I miss any? Have something so as to add? Do attain out within the feedback under! 

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