Saturday, March 17, 2012

The coolest thing ever? Urwerk UR-1001

Perhaps it is unwise to start this blog with a post about something like the Urwerk UR-1001. Something this cool is not going to come around again for a long while, so one can only conclude things must go down from here. However, let's not think about matters of watch-blogging strategy. Instead let's focus on what is arguably the nicest thing to come from the Urwerk factory in - well - ever, really.

So, what do we have here? Well, first of all, it's a pocket watch. The modern pocket watch market can only be described as 'niche'. Maybe this is because the wrist watch is such a practical tool, or because walking around with a pocket watch these days will make you look like a Victorian dandy. At the very least, it will get you labelled as 'that guy with the pocket watch' if you wear it outside more than twice. Regardless, from a watchmaker's perspective, the pocket watch is a great platform. You have a lot more room to play with, without having to worry about things like the bearer's comfort. Now, looking through Urwerk's other models, I don't get the feeling things like ergonomics or practicality rank particularly high on their list of important features anyway, but nevertheless, the UR-1001 allowed them to disregard those things completely. The results are amazing.

The watch uses Urwerk's satellite system, something we've already seen on some of their wristwatches like the UR-110. Three pointers rotate around a carousel; the hours are indicated on the satellites themselves and the minutes can be read from a scale at the bottom of the watch.

You also get a Day/Night indicator, that through clever use of Super LumiNova and ruthenium has been optimized for legibility in any lighting conditions. Now that's attention to detail. There's also a power reserve indicator, that according to Urwerk tells the owner when the watch "needs refueling". I'm assuming this means means 'winding', but with a timepiece like this it is just as likely it runs on something exotic like moonstone. Or baby seals.

In addition to the hour satellite, there's also a satellite system displaying the date. It's an annual calendar (meaning it automatically adjusts for short months), although it will require adjustment at the end of February.

On the back you'll find the 'control panel'. Apart from a dial that will advise you when the watch needs to be sent in for service, there are two dials measuring time on 100 and 1000 year scales, respectively. So at least Urwerk are feeling confident about the watch's durability. An interesting thought is that, because the '1000 year'-marker only moves with 100 year increments, the original owner will likely never see it move. In other words, you'll need to pass it on to a second generation to see if it works properly. Make sure you pass along the receipt as well, just in case.

All of this is housed in a case that holds the middle between a PDA and a futuristic hand grenade. Note to the self-conscious Urwerk customer: accidentally trying to answer your UR-1001 when you have an incoming call does not make you look cool. Please take care to keep this in a different pocket from your Blackberry. The case is made from specially coated stainless steel. The coating called AlTin - or aluminum titanium nitrate - has a hardness of around 3000 HV depending on the exact composition (translation: it is very tough). Perhaps just as important, it looks great, too.

Then there's the obvious question of price. Urwerk isn't synonymous with 'bargain'. Or 'reasonably priced'. Or 'potentially-affordable-if-I-save-up-for-it-my-entire-life', for that matter. Of course this has to do with their limited production numbers (for example, there will only by eight UR-1001's), the choice of materials (take the counterweight for the minute hand pointers: it's platinum) and the time it takes to develop and build one of these timepieces. Although I don't have any numbers for the UR-1001, expect a price of over a quarter of a million dollars. To be fair, that price also includes a rather fancy looking chain and a walnut display case annex watch winder.

I don't expect Urwerk are very worried about potential clients loosing sleep, though; pondering over whether to get this or maybe a new Lamborghini. If you're the kind of person that can walk around with a watch like the UR-1001 in your pocket, you can get both.

No comments:

Post a Comment