Niche Factor Magazine | 20 Years of Urwerk: The UR-T8 | Gray International

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20 Years of Urwerk: The UR-T8

January 24, 2017

For watch aficionados who began their horological journey in the early 21st century, the Urwerk brand has become synonymous with avant-garde designs, crazy complications and spectacular indications. We grew up celebrating the work of Felix and Thomas Baumgartner, as well as artist Martin Frei, true independents who disrupted the industry by shattering both technological and design boundaries.

It is therefore a special occasion, in 2017, that we celebrate the 20th anniversary of Urwerk. The first Urwerk models, the UR-101 and UR-102 were launched at the stand of the Horological Academy of Independent Creators in Baselworld 1997. True to Felix Baumgartner’s vision of interpreting time differently, the 101 and 102 featured a ‘satellite’ indication, with the hour indicator making an arch across the dial, reminiscent of the sun's path over the horizon. Novel as it must have been to visitors of the booth, the satellite design was actually inspired by the ‘night watch’ made by the Campanus brothers for Pope Alexander XII in 1656. The team bridged the gap between the ancient and the modern, by bringing the unique indication onto a wristwatch case inspired by Hans Solo’s iconic Millennium Falcon and the Russian Sputnik. 

Twenty years on, Urwerk has continued to stay true to its initial promise. From the 103, to the CC1 and onwards to the EMC Time Hunter, the brand has been at the forefront of technological innovation and design creativity, constantly seeking to model time from a different perspective with its pieces. Not only are they stunning on the wrist, the work of Felix and Martin challenges the owner’s perception of time, forcing the individual to view each passing second from a different perspective. The hours indicators, for instance, on the 103, swing with a purpose upon the strike of the clock, signalling a finality of time that the traditional dial cannot express.

It is therefore fitting that the brand celebrates its anniversary with yet another game changer- this time in the form of the UR-T8. The brands first transformable watch, the T8 requires the employment of a set of precise actions by the user, which unlocks the case from its cradle, rotating it to showcase the time display that has been hidden beneath a titanium shield. The concept behind the watch is that of the mystery object on the wrist, where nothing is displayed until the user calls for the time. While such a concept has been attempted by luminaries such as Laurent Ferrier in his Galet Secret, this is a futuristic, almost Bond-esque version of the hidden time display. As Martin Frei explains, the T8 recalls the reverso watches as well, pushing the reverso concept to new frontiers. 

Upon rotating the case, one discovers another interpretation of the brand’s iconic wandering-hour indication. The 12 hours are grouped in fours on a carousel that sweeps across the minute indicators to show time both digitally and analogically. This can only be achieved through high-precision planetary gearing, and Urwerk calls it their most elaborate carousel configuration to date, befitting of an anniversary piece.

Measuring 60.23mm x 48.35mm x 20.02mm , the UT-8 features the huge crown symbolic of Urwerk pieces, with the case coming in Grade 5 Titanium and offering 3 ATM of water resistance. Within, the UR 8.01 movement has 39 hours of power reserve and a single turbine winding system. Coming in a limited first run of 60 pieces, the T8 would set you back 100.000CHF. More directly from