I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, being an independent brand in the fiercely competitive luxury watch industry is hard. Really hard. Especially when you have built your reputation on the back of pioneering a unique approach to time-telling, purposefully setting yourself apart from your peers by seeking to create something truly different.
This is the unconventional path that URWERK co-founders Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei have chosen to follow for more than ten years now, risking everything to create timepieces that only a few people in the world will truly appreciate. With great risk however comes great reward and the brand has prospered despite the many challenges faced, slowly becoming one of the best known independent watch brands in the world (amongst select circles of course.)
URWERK has come a long way in that time and now boasts an impressive selection of timepieces from which connoisseurs can choose their favorite. Up until very recently though the brand did have not a solid ‘entry-level’ piece for those who were perhaps new to the world of independent watchmaking and wanted to dip their toes in the water before diving right in with a six figure purchase.
This role used to be filled by the famed UR-103, arguably one of URWERK’s best loved timepieces of all time, however it has remained vacant since the decision was made to retire that collection back in 2010. Many other successes have followed since of course, such as the launch of the highly popular UR-110 collection and more recently the unveiling of the EMC, however neither offer what could even be remotely described as a starting point for an aspiring URWERK collector.
That all changed a few months ago however with the introduction of the new UR-105, an “entry-level” watch that puts many other brands’ top of the range offerings to shame.
The Urwerk UR-105 Collection
Depending on how familiar you are with URWERK’s work, your first thought when you saw the new UR-105 collection was probably something like “Hmmm that looks very similar to the original UR-103. Maybe a little too similar…” I must admit I was guilty of thinking the same thing too. At first glance there are a lot of familiar features that inevitably invite comparison with arguably one of the brand’s most beloved series ever. Look a little closer however and you will see that this is a completely new timepiece with its own little idiosyncrasies to discover.
Let’s start with the case. URWERK made lots of references to knights in shining armour and the like in its marketing material when officially presenting the UR-105 to the world, even going so far as to shoot it on location with actual armour. However, it’s not until you actually hold the watch in your hands that you truly appreciate how much it looks and feels like a miniature, extremely high quality shield. It may not protect you in battle in the traditional sense per se but it definitely feels like it will protect the delicate movement inside from any outside assaults.
What I really love though is the attention to detail in the finishing. This is the type of case you want to touch, there are lots of fun angles for your fingers to discover and there’s a nice contrast between the case and the bezel. On the wrist it is very comfortable, not to mention light and sits a lot flatter than I was expecting, which is definitely a big plus. Too often these days it seems that in their quest to fit more into a watch brands are happy to compromise on thickness, which results in a watch that look great in the case but is extremely bulky on the wrist.
Thankfully that is not the case here, although the dial of the UR-105 (if you can call it a dial?) still has very much of a three-dimensional feel thanks to the use of URWERK’s trademark satellite complication to indicate the time. In many ways similar to the original UR-103, the UR-105 uses rotating discs and a fixed 60-minute scale to indicate the time in a clear and concise manner. Unlike the UR-103 however this new model is far more subdued, with the focus more on the specific time display than the complex mechanism itself.
Don’t think this somehow makes it less impressive technically however. In fact it is the exact opposite thanks to the inclusion of the circular PEEK (PolyEtherEthercetone) canopy over the top of the satellite complication. Whilst the openings enhances the current hour making it even easier to read the time, this canopy has to rotate precisely in time with the movement to ensure accuracy is maintained, which means it must weigh next to nothing whilst still maintaining its structural integrity.
On the back of watch you will find URWERK’s signature ‘Control Board’, which houses additional displays and functions: an ‘Oil Change’ indicator alerting when it is time for a service; a 42-hour power reserve indicator; plus the fine-tuning screw allowing adjustment of the rate. What I really like though is that the brand has cleverly included two additional windows into the caseband, one for displaying the small seconds and the other to allow you to quickly see the remaining power without having to take the watch off. They’re small touches to be sure but it just gives the UR-105 that something extra you wouldn’t normally expect to find in an “entry-level” watch.
There are two versions of the new UR-105 available, the Iron Knight with a titanium case and steel bezel, and the Dark Knight, also with a titanium case but with an AlTin treated steel bezel. Pricing for the Iron Knight is 57’000 CHF (approx. US$64,500), whilst the Dark Knight will run you 63’000 CHF (approx. US$71,500).