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Urwerk - It's Pointy Ears Time

Urwerk It's Pointy Ears Time

Urwerk opens up to a new evolution: in order to spin, the time-telling satellites in the UR-120 split open in the shape of a V...like the salute of a famous Starfleet officer

It's had pride of place, on a wall of Urwerk's Geneva offices, for years. A large poster featuring Dr Spock on the deck of the USS Enterprise. No need to have seen it to know how profoundly Urwerk has linked itself to the world of sci-fi and its most famous figures. So the new UR-120 Spock should come as no surprise. And if there's one, it's this : why did it take those guys so long to pay tribute to that paradoxical hero of pop culture ? A tribute that is not in name only, because it has everything to do with actual watchmaking. 

It's Pointy Ears Time

Urwerk UR-120 Spock on the side © David Chokron/WorldTempus

A tribute. A statement of admiration even. In private, Martin Frei, the brand's designer and co-founder, like to tell the story of how he went on vacation in the US in his early teens, and chose a Star Trek action figure that wasn't Captain Kirk or some Klingon warrior, but the science officer on board the Enterprise. 

If Spock is so central in the minds of people born before...let's say 1990, and also in that of many born after that, the character is none the less very enigmatic. It took a recent wave of spin-offs, such as as the J.J. Abrams feature films or the Discovery and Strange New Worlds series, for the public to learn more about his fictional life. Turns out he has a half-sister, a loving mother, a fiancée, a sex life even (now, that was heavy stuff right there), even though he remains too deeply entrenched in sheer reality for his own good. But since with Spock, logic always comes first (even if it doesn't always prevail), there is a rational explanation to the late appearance of an explicitly Star Trek-related Urwerk timepiece. 

Urwerk needed a hook, a link, some meaning, an actual technical requirement. Yes, Urwerk's creations may seem a little bit out there, but they're profoundly pragmatic, both from a design and watchmaking stand point. These people don't do something just because they feel like it. 

The UR-120 Spock is born from a design logic, which is the brand's latest style evolution. This is how Martin Frei puts it : «I just loved the 110, but there were so many other ways to go about it, to keep it evolving. The idea was to go in a thinner, smoother, more elegant direction. To do that, we redesigned the entire satellite system. » The UR-120 Spock is the result of a design journey that's entered a new dimension : thinness.

It's Pointy Ears Time

Urwerk UR-120 Spock on the wrist © David Chokron/WorldTempus

Admittedly, compared to others, to almost all of the other Urwerks really, UR-120 is thin. Or rather, ergonomic, because one can hardly argue that a 47 x 44 x 15.8 mm timepiece is compact. The thing is, its maximum height is reached at the top of a curve that's right above a large void. And its flanks are indeed slim. So dimensions don't tell the whole story here. And as they wanted this piece to be thin, they had to get to work where the bulk usually is : the hour-telling satellites. The aim was to work on their volume and reduce it. 

Usually, an Urwerk features three cubes with four hour digits, one on each face. They spin to display a new hour once the current one has elapsed. In this case, the cubes are larger, but they split open. The two sub-parts then rotate, thereby taking up way less space. Then they join back together as one to display the next digit. When opening up, these cubes have two effects. One is to challenge and stimulate Urwerk's minds. The other is to take on a V shape, which looks like the Vulcan salute Spock has made famous.

It's Pointy Ears Time

The components of the satellites in the Urwerk UR-120 Spock © David Chokron/WorldTempus

This stimulation, almost a mechanical pleasure, is intrinsically linked to everything Urwerk does, as Felix Baumgartner, Urwerk's master watchmaker and co-founder put it: “In truth, when we realized we were going to have to open the satellite, I was over the moon.” In creating this V, the brand aligned its story-telling with mechanics, personal animus and its very identity, while being effortless, absolutely genuine and of course, just a little crazy.

 

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