The focus is on a different aspect of horology, like the age old quest for precision.”
Do you remember your first ever watch? (Martin Frei, Co-founder and Chief Designer at URWERK) I do remember very well how the watch looked. I must have gotten it as a birthday present or for my first school day. It was a steel divers watch with a black divers bezel and a black rubber strap with big racing-style holes in it.
How did you get into watchmaking? (MF) I studied Fine Arts at the HSLU (Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts) where I met my co-student Christoph Draeger. He is the cousin of Felix Baumgartner (Co-founder of URWERK). Christoph and I lived together during our student years; at some point Felix the watchmaker showed up at one of our party’s and we began talking about time and watches, etc.
What was Felix doing before creating URWERK with you? (MF) Felix is the son of an antique clock restorer; his grandfather and great-grandfather, were watchmakers. He studied watchmaking at the watchmaking school in Solothurn Switzerland and began working at Svend Andersen, Independent Watchmaker and founder of AHCI. When we met each other, he was still studying in Solothurn.
“It is its history, that goes together with the history of science and navigation.”
What makes you so fascinated by horology? (MF) It is its history, that goes together with the history of science and navigation. It is its philosophical aspects regarding the puzzling questions of what is space and time, and of course it is also the artistic task to design a small object that has the qualities of a sculpture and the function of the interface between man and machine.
Who or where do you get influenced most? (MF) It is the world surrounding us originally, and this is nature and what humans made out of nature trying to understand it, interfering and creating trough out our human history. In this sense it is also a culture that inspires me in all its facets. I try to grasp as much of these two realms as I am able to at any given moment and use it to create my own take on it.
And How does living in Zurich shape your creativity? (MF) Zürich is called “downtown Switzerland” by a local tourist guide and I have to say that expresses the ideal situation here pretty well. The city is small but still the biggest in our tiny, save and peaceful democracy. It is beautiful in summertime, very green and we have our blue and clean lake of Zürich for sailing and swimming. Certainly, for a more dramatic and exciting scenery one has to travel! However, it is always great to come back home.
“We use a different way to indicate time, where the hours indicate the minutes.”
URWERK has a very uniquely appealing aesthetic, what was the first motif? (MF) We use a different way to indicate time, where the hours indicate the minutes and that was the crucial motif that allowed me to redefine the whole geometry of the watch.
“As soon as the full hour is reached, the disc disappears while the next disc appears in the opening to continue indicating the new born hour.”
Please explain this new way of indicating time, how it is different to traditional way? (MF) We had seen this different time indication in a clock created by the Campanus Brothers. This particular clock was created by Petrus Thomas Campanus, Inventor in Rome 1683′, and its case is typical of late seventeenth century Italian work. The odd numbers are on one disc and the even numbers on the other. You have all 12 hours on the two discs. One disc indicates the given hour appearing in a semi circle-shaped opening and wandering along the minute scale indicating the minutes from 0 until 60. As soon as the full hour is reached, the disc disappears while the next disc appears in the opening to continue indicating the new born hour. In our first 2 watches the UR101 and UR102 we have used exactly what we saw on the clock for our time display.
And how did you first discovered this? (MF) It is existing as a part of the long and rich history of watchmaking. Felix’s father was restoring clocks like this in his workshop at the time, and we began to use the time-telling principle for our very first watch. Since then we have further elaborated, creating many new renditions of this concept. We also work with yet different time indications like the linear or digital principle and we have created watches that use hands as well, where the focus is on a different aspect of horology, like the age old quest for precision.
What was the mission of URWERK? (MF) We are an avant-garde watchmaking brand and this too is at the same time our mission.
“A URWERK watch is a very exclusive object that tests conventions in many ways.”
Who are URWERK’s clientele? (MF) We create and produce a very small amount of watches; it is ca. 175 pieces a year in total. A URWERK watch is a very exclusive object that tests conventions in many ways. A person wearing a URWERK watch has to appreciate exactly that. I am proud to say that legends like Michael Jordan or mythical characters like Ironman’s Tony Stark or Jackie Chan are among our URWERK fans.
What are your goals for the next 5 years? (MF) To create some new, cool and extraordinary watches that will surprise you and that continue to be an experiment for us.