Urwerk: Very high mechanical interactivity

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March 2013

(A continuation of the article “Surrounding the SIHH...”) We will also be able to discover another new and remarkable creation at BaselWorld, from those who are opening new avenues in watchmaking or, we might say, even opening a new chapter. This would be the work of Urwerk, which has already laboured for three years in the greatest secrecy. For the moment, all that we can see is a kind of small box with a bundle of wires leading to a mechanically activated generator that charges a condenser, and that will ultimately generate a very precise light wave: a sort of electronic surveillance eye. Named EMC for Electronic Mechanical Control, this ensemble is, in fact, an optical tool for controlling the balance, a sort of wrist Witschi that is infinitely more precise. Because where the Witschi control instrument is based on the sound—the tick-tock—of the balance to measure its accuracy, here the control is integrated into the watch, with a duration of three seconds on demand, and is based on optics. We will know much more at BaselWorld, but we are now seeing the start of an original fusion between mechanical haute horlogerie and high-end electronics (but without a battery). (See more information on this technology and the new movement, in our news article released after BaselWorld here.)

This remarkable development follows the famous “Control Board” developed by Urwerk, and which is found in a new application in the brand’s most recent model, the UR-210. The central piece of this new highly mechanical spaceship is a “cage with an instantaneous jumping minute hand.” It is an enormous minute hand in 3D that clamps on to the hour cube and accompanies it through its travel along the minute rail. Upon its arrival at the 59th minute, the carriage-hand returns to its starting point in less than a 10th of a second and clamps on to the next rotating hour cube.

UR-210 by Urwerk
UR-210 by Urwerk

UR-210 by Urwerk
UR-210 by Urwerk

This veritable “fairing” of aluminium, balanced by a counterweight in brass and whose cut is extremely precise (a tolerance of one micron), is driven by a cylindrical spring similar to those used in marine chronometers. But it is with the patented TMC mechanism (Time Motion Control) that we find the interactivity between the watch’s wearer and its movement that Urwerk wants to develop.

The classic power reserve is located at 1 o’clock and a new type of indicator is found at 11 o’clock. This new indication shows the winding efficiency over the past two hours. If the hand points towards the red, it means that the winding is insufficient—the wearer is probably sitting comfortably in his chair. If, on the contrary, the needle points to the green, it means that winding is taking place—the wearer is probably involved in some kind of physical activity. By turning the watch over, the wearer can correct the ratio between winding and energy expenditure. A “Control Board” with a toothed wheel allows the wearer to position the winding regulator to FULL (winding is then optimised by a small turbine coupled to the oscillating weight) or to REDUCED (a turbine equipped with paddles creates resistance from the friction of air and thus slows down the oscillating weight). In the STOP mode, the automatic winding is deactivated and the watch is placed in manual winding mode. Surprisingly complex, yet easy to use and read, the UR-210, of which all the visible pieces are made in-house, bears witness to the rise in strength of the brand created by Martin Frei and Félix Baumgartner.

Surrounding the SIHH: space stations and satellites

Hautlence / Moser: Baptism of fire for a family holding company Vogard: An independent under pressure
Heritage: Towards chronometric perfection Hublot’s aircraft carrier
Zenith at cruising speed TAG Heuer: Towards the future, via the 1960s
Urwerk: Very high mechanical interactivity De Bethune: The emotion… finally

Source: Europa Star February - March 2013 Magazine Issue