Geneva Watch Days takes place in the Swiss cultural capital from Monday, August 29, to Thursday, September 1, 2022, so stay tuned to HODINKEE in the days ahead for detailed coverage of all the top releases, from brands such as Bulgari, MB&F, Oris, Urwerk, and many more.
Apioneer of modern, independent watchmaking since the late 1990s, Urwerk founders Martin Frei and Felix Baumgartner have long used their unique, creative sensibilities to rebel against traditional conservative Swiss watchmaking norms. The result? Larger-than-life timepieces influenced by science fiction that can be easily recognized across a room and are typically priced over six figures.
Those brand-defining elements, however, were streamlined and overhauled in the fall of 2019, when Urwerk unveiled the first UR-100, a less technically complicated model that balanced its visual complexity with what most consider to be the brand’s most wearable case design to date. More importantly, its price tag of under $60,000 opened up a new entry point to the Urwerk universe. A solid dozen or so iterations down the road and close to three years later, we now have yet another version of the UR-100 to ponder.
The new UR-100V “UltraViolet” – announced today at the Geneva Watch Days exhibition in Switzerland – carries the same satellite-disc time display system Urwerk is known for inside the wearable UR-100 profile, but it’s now executed in a rich, royal shade of purple that provides an immediate visual impact.
Frei, Urwerk’s chief designer, says he was inspired to use this specific shade of purple on the UR-100V because violet is considered to be the color with the highest frequency of all those that make up the visual spectrum (being one step away from invisible ultraviolet, of course). “I am fascinated by the idea of creating a watch that celebrates this boundary, this tipping point, this transition from perceptible to imperceptible,” he said, in a release. “The UR-100V UltraViolet is about this exploration of the limits. Our UltraViolet conveys something mystical, it’s a hue that sits on the border of a dimension we call color.”
Another notable development inside this latest version of the UR-100V is a reworked movement. The new caliber 12.02 replaces the previous-gen caliber 12.01. The update, Urwerk explains, is mainly concerned with aesthetics. The hour markers on the central aluminum carousel have been adjusted to a slightly closer position to the minutes scale, to improve at-a-glance legibility. The carousel has also received a different decoration than most previous UR-100V editions, matching the case finish with an anodized, sanded, and shot-blasted exterior. Identical to the caliber 12.01, the new movement utilizes the same extra-efficient winding system that is controlled through a unique Windfänger airscrew placed on the bidirectional oscillating weight.
Despite the new hue and tweaked movement, the UR-100V “UltraViolet” maintains a similar price point to previous UR-100V references, arriving at precisely CHF 55,000. However, unlike previous UR-100 watches, the UR-100V “UltraViolet” will not be limited to a fixed number; it’s instead restricted solely by Urwerk’s production limitations.
Urwerk is incapable of doing anything in moderation – that’s one reason I like the brand so much. So it should be no surprise that when Urwerk hopped on the purple bandwagon, the result was anything but a simple color swap. Nearly every aspect of the UR-100V is now fully decked out in purple, highlighted by the violet DLC-coated titanium case that has been sand-blasted to achieve a matte, textured surface. The aluminum carousel is, of course, also newly rendered in a matte shade of purple, as are the three pyramids and multiple bridges that make up the time display.
Timekeeping on the UR-100V is indicated by the three numerical pyramids that gradually pass one-by-one over the minute track, visible in the lower portion of the dial (the time reads approximately 8:23 in the above image). But it’s what happens after each hand finishes indicating the time that makes the UR-100 so horologically – and astronomically – compelling. After an hour has passed, the hand that was actively displaying the time disappears under a large shield and a new hand starts at the zero marker to indicate the beginning of yet another hour.
The original hand reappears after a few moments in a small opening to indicate the first of two celestial complications: the distance the Earth rotates on its axis. Located between where nine and 11 o’clock would be on a traditional watch dial, this 20-minute scale highlights the 555 kilometers its wearer would travel in rotation if they were standing on the equator. While at the same time the original hand is undergoing this measurement, a third hand is also at work on the opposite side, near what would traditionally be the two o’clock position on the dial. This third hand calculates the distance the Earth has traveled along its orbit around the Sun, approximately 35,740 kilometers every 20 minutes.
I’ll admit to being a big fan of Urwerk’s creations, but the UR-100V series has never been my personal favorite. I think the use-case of the celestial complication here involves a certain level of fascination with space and astronomy that I personally do not have. The good thing is that I believe I’m relatively alone on that horological hill; my understanding is that pretty much all previous examples of Urwerk’s UR-100 series have sold out in minutes.