Several tantalizing months after unveiling their new movement at Baselworld earlier this year, independent watchmaker URWERK has finally given us the first glimpse of the timepiece that will house it, the URWERK EMC. And as you can see from the pictures this is unlike anything we’ve seen from the brand before. Excited? You should be.
The URWERK EMC
To recap for those who haven’t been following the story that closely (and also for those of you who are too lazy to simply go back and read our first article here) URWERK first introduced the world to its groundbreaking new movement during Baselworld 2013. At the time it was just housed in a non-descript plastic display box and the brand was not giving away any details about what the final product might look like.
Inspired in large part by co-founder and master watchmaker Felix Baumgartner’s fascination with the highly personal interaction between man and watch, the URWERK EMC movement is described by the brand as “the first high-end mechanical watch with ‘artificial intelligence’.” But what does that actually mean?
Well, essentially it means the URWERK EMC is capable of both monitoring and displaying the timing regularity of the movement in real time. You see just before a mechanical watch – any mechanical watch – leaves the workshop it was made in it is regulated and tested extensively by the watchmaker to ensure it meets certain quality standards relating to accuracy. For URWERk those standards are quite exacting; the movement should maintain accuracy in 5 positions between -4 seconds and +6 seconds over a period of 24 hours.
Now that is all fine and dandy within the relatively safe confines of a watchmaker’s workshop, however, once the watch gets out here in the real world it’s a different story altogether. You see there are any number of factors that could potentially upset the delicate balance between accuracy and anarchy – forgive my dramatic exaggeration for effect – and the large majority of them stem from the behavior of the individual owner themselves.
Maybe you live an active life, always on the go with your trusted watch strapped faithfully to your wrist. Maybe you like to dance (twerking optional) or go hiking, or maybe you just like to wear your watch loose on your wrist and so it jumps around a lot as you go about your daily life, each time sending minor shockwaves through the movement. Or maybe you just really, really like being punctual. Whatever your poison is you can bet more often than not that it is having some impact, however minor, on the long-term accuracy of your mechanical wristwatch.
This was the challenge accepted by URWERK; to develop a mechanical watch that could be regulated by its owner at will to obtain the finest chronometric performance. The result is of course the URWERK EMC, the first precision mechanical watch that enables timing to be both easily monitored and easily adjusted by its owner.
Of course it was not possible to achieve this sort of precise monitoring and feedback using only mechanical components, after all even watchmakers use electronic tools to measure the accuracy of their mechanical creations. And so too the URWERK solution is a mix of the mechanical and the electronic, on the one hand staying true to the centuries old art of watchmaking whilst at the same time incorporating modern day advancements to great effect.
To be clear the watch is in and of itself mechanical. The electrical component in no way contributes to the watch running or functioning; rather it is a bolt-on addition if you will that serves entirely its own purpose. To understand how it works better I recommend reading this article here and also visiting the official URWERK website.
A Style All Its Own
What is perhaps most exciting for aficionados of the brand however is that the new URWERK EMC is unlike anything we have seen from URWERK before. Gone are the futuristic telescopic hands that extend and retract as the move through their unusual dance across the spaceship like displays of the UR-110 and UR-210. Instead they have been replaced by a far more, dare I say, conventional layout.
As you can see the URWERK EMC dial has been deconstructed into four separate indications: clockwise from top left we have the on demand, precision indicator (instantaneous rate delta δ) ranging from -20 to + 20 seconds per day; followed by the seconds dial with counter-balanced seconds hand; then the essential hours and minutes; and finally the 80-hour power reserve indicator. On the reverse the fully in-house movement with the integrated circuit board is on fully display through what I believe is the first ever full-sapphire exhibition case-back on an URWERK timepiece.
Tucked into the side of the 43mm x 51mm titanium and steel case is also a winding handle that can be pulled out when needed to serve as a crank. Why, you ask? Well, the monitoring unit on the URWERK EMC (the optical sensor and the computer) is powered by a micro-generator made by the Swiss company Maxon, which is well known for developing motors for NASA’s Mars rovers. This generator in turn is powered by manual winding, hence the cleverly designed crank.
Pricing is said to be around US$120,000 and whilst the URWERK EMC won’t be a limited edition it’s not clear yet how many pieces the brand expects to produce a year.
There’s no doubt the new look is a bold move for the brand and a clear statement that they are ready to write the next chapter in the URWERK story. Whether it will take with collectors and aficionados alike in the same way that previous models have remains to be seen but one thing is for sure, it’s certain to get chins wagging!