The Urwerk UR-105 TTH ‘Tantalum Hull’ is the last iteration of the brand’s highly acclaimed UR-105 series. Partially housed in tantalum, a rare metal that is very difficult to machine and polish, the appearance of the material and its various attributes made it a worthy choice for Urwerk, a brand that is not afraid of tackling technical challenges.
Founded in 1997, Urwerk’s models stand out from the congested watch market thanks to the brand’s distinctive design language, playful use of materials and high-end finishing. A few years ago, the Swiss brand lent me a UR-210 model and I wore it for an extended period lasting several weeks. The horological behemoth proved comfortable to wear and its wandering hours display was highly intuitive to read.
Having marvelled at the UR-210 and noting its various attributes, I was somewhat surprised to hear the brand call a halt to production. Thereafter, it was not long before the firm released the UR-220 Falcon Project. At first glance, the watch appeared similar to the UR-210 and certainly some of its genetic code had been carried over to the newer model. However, the UR-220 Falcon Project was hand-wound, slimmer and its curving case bestowed a superior ergonomic fit.
At the heart of the company’s paradigm is an overriding desire to deliver advancement. The firm has made several different models over the years and has never been afraid to slay an existing reference in order to make way for a new addition to the Urwerk family. Furthermore, the marque has always strived to keep its model range limited in size, a trait that was recently touched upon by Felix Baumgartner. The Maison’s genius watchmaker remarked, “to continue staying true to ourselves, to remain URWERK, we make less than 150 pieces per year. This means that we reluctantly have to ‘kill’ a collection to bring a new creation to life. And time for the UR-105 CT is now running out.”
Once a model has joined the current line-up, the firm invariably releases a number of animations throughout its life. Colour, textures and materials are all subject to co-founder Martin Frei’s penchant for creative expression. Martin Frei and Felix Baumgartner have employed materials from a variety of sources, some ordinarily used for aerospace or medical applications. With many large watch brands, an animation is a comparatively inexpensive step, however, for a brand like Urwerk, making approximately 150 watches per annum, selecting a different case material is incredibly expensive. Put simply, when producing small quantities of components, Urwerk won’t benefit from the same economies of scale enjoyed by a big brand that has an annual production figure running into six figures.
Now, the time has come to say goodbye to the Urwerk UR-105 TTH ‘Tantalum Hull’, a popular model that has sired many offspring. The Maison has played with a variety of materials and finishes, ingeniously creating a new look each time. Indeed, if one contrasts the UR-105TA Clockwork Orange, the UR-105CT Streamliner and the UR-105CT Maverick, they all share the same jawline but look markedly different.
The UR-105’s swansong is the Urwerk UR-105 TTH ‘Tantalum Hull’. The case combines titanium and tanatalum. This latter metal is rare, corrosion-resistant, hypoallergenic, robust and exhibits a blue-grey appearance. Certain grades of titanium are highly problematic to machine, causing tools to wear out more readily. Moreover, milling speeds have to be reduced to prevent heat damage, thereby heightening production times and inevitably costs. According to the brand, tantalum also presents many challenges to the CNC machine operator. Nevertheless, Urwerk has repeatedly demonstrated over the years that it is not afraid to confront technical obstacles in order to achieve the look or performance it seeks. The wandering hours display features a new skeleton carousel and the brand has made the seconds disc using LIGA technology.
As I look at the Urwerk UR-105 TTH ‘Tantalum Hull’, I lament its passing and I perfectly understand the reason why many horophiles will crave one of the 12 pieces available. However, based on experience, I predict there will be many more delights to come from this progressive brand.