With the UR-112 Aggregat “Bicolore” that debuted last year, Urwerk reinvented itself from the trademark satellite cube displays with the novel satellite prism hours and minutes display. Now the watchmaker has taken the “Bicolore” and given it a sleek, all-black makeover with the UR-112 Aggregat “Back to Black”.
The UR-112 Aggregat “Back to Black” has the same mechanics as its predecessor, but boasts a refined case design and all-black palette that enhances the watch’s futuristic look.
At first glance, the construction of the case and the complexity of the displays may seem difficult to read, but upon closer examination, you’ll find the time-telling of the UR-112 to be intuitive. The hours and minutes are made of digital discs contained within the glass cylinders, with only the discs carrying the current reading facing outward.
The hours are displayed on the left, where four prisms, each with three faces of hour numerals, take turns cycling through the axis, forming a satellite system. Similar to the satellite cubes display, the satellite prisms have a jumping hours mechanism where the three-dimensional solid rotates instantaneously at the top of the hour and stays in place until the end of the hour.
On the right are the minutes, which are also made of four prisms forming a satellite system, albeit with a simplified mechanism. The prisms rotate continuously instead of jumping, and the printing on the prisms are in five-minute intervals, though a precise reading down to the minute is made possible with a tiny scale and pointer.
By triggering the pushers on the case sides, the lid pops up and reveals more displays of less important information, namely a power reserve indicator on the left, and a seconds disc on the right.
Interestingly, the UR-112 was inspired by a vintage Bugatti sports car, the Type 57 Atlantic SC, which can be seen in the central spine of the watch. Co-founder of Urwerk, Martin Frei, was struck by the car’s design during a visit to Ralph Lauren’s car collection. In Frei’s words, “This Bugatti is a true wonder! It was the muse that inspired my first drawings of the UR-112.”
Overall, the Urwerk UR-112 Aggregat “Back to Black” is a visually striking and innovative watch that showcases the brand’s dedication to pushing the limits of avant-garde time displays. Perhaps because of the proliferation of exotic displays, the satellite prisms arguably feel less intriguing than the brand’s original satellite cube displays, which made a true statement when it debuted in 2005 with the Harry Winson Opus V.
However, this does not take away from the fact that it is a highly complicated and original take on satellite displays that comprises various gears working in multiple axes to facilitate the displays. It’s different enough from earlier Urwerk watches to be interesting, making it a worthwhile addition for even for owners of wristwatches with the satellite cube displays.
While the latest version appears to be a darker version of the “Bicolore” debuted last year, the “Back to Black” incorporates several subtle upgrades that work together to create a more fitting futuristic look. Among the improvements include a skeletonized lid that allows a glimpse into the inside of the case. Though it doesn’t add anything to the legibility, the openworking gives it extra airiness and visual depth. And of course, the all-black look is a major improvement over the two-tone grey palette from last year, though the CHF 30,000 extra cost may be a consideration for some.
For those who’ve been around the realm of watches for some time, even on a cursory level, you’ll know that Urwerk has a knack for interesting and innovative, if not memorable timepieces.
Previously known mostly for its wandering hours models, the Swiss brand launched the UR-112 Aggregat in 2021 as part of its Special Projects collection. Inspired by the Bugatti Atlantic, the UR-112 takes after the Computron-esque driving watches popular in the ‘70s, where the driver could read the time without taking his hand off the steering wheel. This means that, unlike a traditional watch, the case material on the UR-112 is important because it’s the part of the watch that gets the most exposure.
For its third edition, Urwerk has released a “Back to Black” iteration, which simply gives the watch a new case material. While the original uses PVD-coated titanium, the new model sports DLC-treated titanium and steel, giving the timepiece a stealthier look while retaining the same 42mm x 51mm case dimensions. Like the previous two versions, the “Back to Black” features an entirely unique display of the time. While the jumping hours and rolling minutes are on the edge of the watch closest to the body, the seconds (also rolling) and power reserve meter must be read by lifting the grooved case cover on top.