As if you needed another reason to be completely enthralled by Swiss watch-maker Urwerk. Be careful though, this one bites! Officially announced yesterday the mind-blowing UR-CC1 has shed its grey gold skin to unveil a lethal black cobra beneath. As dark as it is mesmerizing, the UR-CC1 in black AlTiN will entrance you with its aggressive style and baffling mechanical complexity. Not for the faint hearted, this is one timepiece that must be approached with respect and caution.
The Black Cobra
The stealth-like styling and relatively simple display of this truly sensational piece from Urwerk, codename Black Cobra, mask just how superbly complex the mechanism actually is. Holding the piece face on you confronted with two very unusual but nonetheless simplistic looking indications: jumping hours and retrograde minutes. You see, on the UR-CC1 Black Cobra the hours and minutes count down the time by moving linearly.
To the uninformed that sounds like a rather unremarkable statement. Right now you’re probably looking at the clean, yellow dials and thinking “sure, it looks cool, but should I really be that impressed?” The answer is a resounding yes because the mechanism you see in front of you is so deceptively complex that it took the brilliant team at Urwerk more than three years of research and development and ten prototypes to overcome the technical challenges involved in indicating the hours and minutes in a linear fashion.
We’re glad you asked!
There were three main engineering challenges standing in the way:
- The movement could develop enough energy to operate the imposing minute cylinder, which is much heavier than a traditional hand, but where to find the additional energy to function the jumping hour cylinder?
- A toothed rack moves vertically to rotate the minutes, but how to ensure that it operates smoothly in all positions, despite the varying effects of the immutable laws of gravity?
- Having solved the power issues related to operating the jumping hours, how to ensure that there is enough energy available for the world-premiere digital seconds?
Still, these seemingly insurmountable challenges were not enough to deter the team from achieving their goal, and here’s how they did it.
Let’s Get Technical
A toothed rack/lever, visible through a display panel on the side of the Black Cobra transfers energy from the movement to the minute cylinder. The honeycomb structure of the lever offers the two seemingly contradictory properties of lightness and rigidity. Rigidity to accurately convey the profile of the triple cam to the minute cylinder, and extremely light/low mass so as to consume as little energy as possible and so that position, gravity and shocks have minimal effect.
The mechanism used is reminiscent of those seen in automata. A toothed segment at the end of a rack exactly moves up and down following the path drawn by the triple cam – a path that has been plotted from 104 reference points. Each of the three cams drives the rack for exactly 60 minutes. At precisely 60 minutes the rack drops on the cam provoking the opposite tooth-end of the rack to fall, which triggers the retrograde mechanism and rotates the minute cylinder. And all of this happens in just 1/10th of a second!
The energy released by the retrograde mechanism is recovered and used to power the rotation of the jumping hour cylinder. Visible through a display panel in the side of the case, a 12 pointed star and positioning spring are the only distinguishable components of this innovative mechanism for recycling energy.
Two essential elements, the disk for the digital seconds and the honeycombed rack, anchor the Black Cobra in cutting-edge technology. Photolithography was the only method able to provide the degree of accuracy and low mass required by these two critical components – the seconds’ disk weighs just 0.09 of a gram!
Felix Baumgartner, Urwerk’s ingenious Master watch-maker sums it up by saying; “We have created a monster that is hungry (for energy) so we have ensured that all forces can be recycled and reused. It is a very delicate balance as we work within fixed constraints, i.e. available force, mass, and current production technology, and then we go beyond our capabilities.”