Urwerk can always be counted on to surprise, and its latest UR111C wristwatch is absolutely true to form. Designed by co-founders Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei, the self-winding UR111C does pretty well everything it can to subvert the traditional wristwatch form, including an analog/digital readout that sits to the side of the case rather than on the face.
In recent years, Urwerk has gained a reputation for designing wristwatches that aspire to be exotic Italian hypercars. Whether it's creating watches with "oil-change" displays, mechanical/electronic hybrid movements, air turbines, rotating displays, or timekeeping linear bars, the company really likes to push the envelope.
For the UR-111C, Urwerk selected a case in steel or gunmetal finish that looks like a cross between a futuristic engine block and an antique radio. There isn't a crown, so winding and setting it is a bit of a poser. It turns out there's a roller set on top of the case that has to be thumbed to wind the watch. As for setting the time, there's a lever on the side of the case that engages the mechanism, which is set by turning the roller back and forth.
But the real party piece is the display. Taking a page from the company's previous CC1 King Cobra watch, the UR-111C has a vertical display set in the near side of the case, allowing the wearer to read the time without having to turn their wrist. Altering the horizontal watch movement to operate the vertical display required an angled transmission with miniature bevel gears, but that's just the start.
The display actually comes in two versions at the same time. The hours and minutes are shown on the corner windows as conical jumping mechanical/digital readouts, but in the middle the minutes are also shown in a retrograde linear display. In other words, there's a rotating cylinder with a colored line marking off the minutes until they reach 60, then springs back to zero and the hour indicator jumps to advance. More than that, the line is slanted as it follows a helix, requiring a very complex mechanism to keep it on track.
As to the seconds, these are visible on the top of the case in a mechanical/digital display using two wheels in 5 and 10 second increments. If the readout seems surprisingly large, that's because it's transmitted to the window using fiber optics, which have a magnifying effect. According to Urwerk, this is an industry first.
Making all of this work is the 4 Hz, 17-jewel UR-111C automatic caliber with a Swiss-lever escapement and a 48-hour power reserve. The cylinder is made of anodized aluminum and the seconds wheels of LIGA-processed nickel. The surfaces are finished with circular graining, sanding, côtes de Genève, and polished screw heads.
This is all sealed inside the metal case measuring 42mm wide and 15 mm thick with sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating. It's water resistant to 3 ATM (100 ft, 30 m).
The UR-111C is available in a limited edition of 25 in polished steel and 25 in gunmetal finish at CHF130,000 (US$134,000).
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