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Revolutionary hands of time
Middle age stealthily creeps up on the unsuspecting. In my mind I am twenty one years of age, then cruel reality rears its head as I see my reflection in the bathroom mirror. My hair has receded and lines have formed adjacent my eyes. A harsh realisation dawns, as I see a facsimile of the father I knew as a child.
Time has advanced and snatched my youth. I have morphed into a somewhat grumpy and cynical individual. Once I listened to chart-topping music on the radio, then without any defined change of mood, I migrated to political debate programmes.
I rant to my children about inane muzak molesting my tympanic membranes as we sit to enjoy a meal. I will often place my I-Pod on a table in a restaurant, with decibel meter app enabled a diatribe ensues about noise levels in excess of 85 dB being harmful to my hearing and that of my fellow diners.
The world appears to have gone mad.
I will often lament about the good old days and how life felt more virtuous in my youth. I don’t accept change and modernity in many aspects of my life. However, there is one exception to this mindset, horology.
Haute horology has not changed in many respects and has remained untainted by modernity. Craftsmanship remains in demand. Adroit artisans still populate Swiss cantons where the pursuit of horological excellence remains manifest. However, there is a bracing change which has taken the world of watchmaking by storm in recent times, Urwerk.
The young maison was formed in 1995 by two brothers, Felix and Thomas Baumgartner and their good friend Martin Frei. The company has not eschewed traditional craftsmanship but retained high quality finissage typical of the old, established names in the industry. Yet, they have embraced neoteric design, employing ingenious methods to express time in an inspired and exciting manner.
The latest contemporary timepiece to originate from the Genevan atelier is the UR-210. It is unlike any other watch I have seen or handled. It proffers delightful cutting-edge design.
Minutes are conveyed using a three-dimensional retrograde hand. It arcs 120° from right to left along a scale framing the southern aspect of the dial.
The minute hand features an open aspect at its centre, revealing the applicable hour. The hour is presented on one of three satellites which share the responsibility of conveying time. Each satellite has four values, one on each of its four sides, and rotates to disclose the current hour.
As the minute hand reaches 60 on the minute scale, the minute hand leaves its former displayed satellite and joins the right hand satellite, located at 0, and frames this, i.e. the newly applicable hourly value.
It may sound complicated, but once it was demonstrated by the Urwerk personnel, it seemed eminently logical and simple to interpret.
The construction and execution of the display is incredibly complex. However, the finest things in life often necessitate elaborate execution. Moreover, rather than convey information with perfunctory expedience, the finest timepieces place precious value on the time conveyed. Time should be respected. It is scarce and sadly its rate of evaporation increases with age.
At one o’clock, a power reserve indicator conveys the amount of stored energy within the spring barrel.
On the opposite side of the dial, at 11 o’clock, a winding efficiency indicator is located. This innovative function shows the winding efficiency of the rotor. If the wearer is highly active this will impart more energy to the mainspring than if they were inactive. This should not be confused with mainspring torque. The indicator on the UR-210 effectively shows the difference between the energy consumed and generated. The wearer can then configure the timepiece, courtesy of the winding function selector on the caseback, dependent on their lifestyle.
This is a behemoth of a timepiece, measuring 43.8mm x 53.6mm, with a height of 17.8mm.
Presented in titanium and stainless steel, it resembles a space ship in profile. Its appearance is out of this world and I love it. However, I accept that its brave and bold styling may not have ubiquitous appeal.
The winding crown is located at noon, nestling between the case and strap.
On the rear of the watch is the winding function selector. The wearer can select one of three options; “STOP”, where the rotor does not move, “REDUCED” where an air turbine creates resistance to slow down the rotor, or “FULL” where the rotor is allowed uninhibited movement generating maximum winding energy.
The rationale for not over-winding or imparting too much energy to the mainspring is that undue wear would occur. This may happen when the owner embarks on a particularly energetic activity e.g. running or playing golf.
It is this obsessive attention to the minutiae which distinguishes this timepiece as a towering exemplar of engineering excellence.
Sometimes, modernity and style are delivered whilst dispensing with craftsmanship and integrity. Thankfully, the leading-edge allure of the UR-210 is reinforced with profound horological prowess.
Close examination of components reveals circular graining, sandblasted parts, bevelled and polished screw heads and a satin-finished mainplate employing circular graining and straight satin brushing.
The UR-7.10 embraces both the finest of Swiss watchmaking tradition and synergistically blends this with blue-sky thinking to realise a breathtaking horological heart.
The revolving hour satellites and retrograde minute hand deliver time in a futuristic, exciting ensemble. There is no hint of annoying muzak but a delightful concert of harmonious aesthetics. This is a positive example of 21st century life.
Peerless micromechanics and thoughtful engineering enhance the ownership proposition, distinguishing the UR-210 as a potential icon for future generations. Moreover, this watch harnesses Swiss watchmaking craftsmanship and distills it into a user-friendly format.
Time never ceases to advance. Each moment should be savoured. There is much merit in wearing a watch which respects the importance of time.
I am increasingly annoyed by modernity, but in the case of the Urwerk UR-210, an exception is justified. I admire its revolutionary hands of time.
- Model: Urwerk UR-210
- Case: Titanium and steel; dimensions 43.8mm x 53.6mm; height 17.80 mm; water resistant to 3 bar (30 metres); sapphire crystals to front and caseback.
- Functions: Hours; minutes; power-reserve indicator; winding efficiency indicator.
- Movement: UR-7.10, self-winding; frequency 28,800vph (4Hz); 51 jewels; power reserve 39 hours.
- Strap: Black leather strap on a steel pin buckle.