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Urwerk - One Year, One Watch

Urwerk One Year, One Watch

2014 : UR-105*


To review 2014, I headed over to Google Search, where you can find the search engine’s most-searched-for words, names, and events for each year. The list is as interesting as it’s bizarre. Top of the search list was Robin Williams, who tragically passed away in August. There was nothing surprising about number 2, either: the football World Cup. After that came Ebola and Malaysian Airlines – one of the greatest aviation mysteries of all time. There were moments of fun, too, ranging from the Ice Bucket Challenge (surely you had a bucket of cold water poured over your head in 2014?) to the Flappy Bird video game. Conchita Wurst and his Eurovision performance was another landmark event of the year. Weirdly enough, these two search items somehow managed to rank higher than ISIS, despite the latter’s growing notoriety – although Ebola, ISIS, Malaysia Airlines, and Ukraine did come in as the top four searches in the Global News category. Among the top three star searches was Julie Gayet, whose name swamped Google when her affair with French President François Hollande emerged.

Meanwhile a footballer came top of sports-related searches. James Rodriguez dazzled at the World Cup with his talent and attacking prowess. Next-placed was Michael Schumacher, who had sustained serious injuries in a skiing accident in late 2013, leaving him disabled. The third sportsman was NFL player Ray Rice, hitting the headlines with a domestic violence case. And three violent deaths – Robin Williams, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Peaches Geldof – ruled the roost on the ‘deceased persons’ list. In terms of Google Doodles, the amazing 40-year-old Rubik’s Cube scooped third position, just ahead of the other-worldly Philae robotic lander. Lastly, the most-seen YouTube video was the hilarious ‘Mutant Giant Spider Dog’, notching up almost 180 million views. With slapstick humour, it depicts a cute little dog disguised as a spider – thus scaring the wits out of unsuspecting passers-by. So we have an obsessive game, a mutant, an off-the-wall artist, a challenge, and a mystery. Our watch for 2014 needs to be right at home on a weird list like that. Hence the choice of the Urwerk UR-105.

One Year, One Watch

UR-105 © Urwerk

Why Urwerk?

The Urwerk adventure began in 1997. What I love about the brand is that it doesn’t make watches, instead creating watchmaking toys. That’s why the word ‘weird’ is such a good match here. On a flight from Singapore to LA, I remember chatting with someone wearing an Urwerk. She was telling me how weird it was to have so many people stopping her just to ask ‘What on earth’s that?’ As well they might.

Urwerk makes amazing objects featuring a whole new way of displaying the time. Pulling off a feat like that involves having a different approach to movement design – and that’s where the magic of its inventors comes into play. Rather than dutifully following canonical instructions written centuries ago, they started again from scratch, devising workings that transform the process of ‘telling the time’ – and do so in style.

One Year, One Watch

UR-105 © Urwerk

The Urwerk UR-105 – Carpe Diem

In Dead Poets Society, Robin Williams encouraged his students to break away from conformism. The UR-105 is part of the same quest for independence and originality. The piece includes all the ingredients of Urwerk’s success since 1997, more especially so since the 2003 UR-103, the Mother Of All Urwerks. Its exceptional movement displays a rotating, ‘digital’ hour, while the case brings to mind a 1950s jukebox – or a Yoko Tsuno spaceship. Together, these two aspects make up the distinctive DNA of this fine watchmaking toy. Indeed, the Urwerk UR-105 shouldn’t be seen as a watch, but rather as a outstandingly fun mechanical gadget, helping us loose the bonds of time.

The Take from The Devil's Advocate

It would appear that absolutely nobody Googled the name of this rather-too-highbrow watch in 2014. Ignoramuses. The Urwerk UR-105 is very definitely one of those ‘love-itor- hate-it’ watches; therein lies its strength. Its uncompromising design may be unsettling for some, but personally, I love the whole thing. Apart from the strap clasp: it just isn’t weird enough for an object of this kind. Otherwise, well done; it’s playtime!

*On the occasion of GMT Magazine and WorldTempus' 20th anniversary, we have embarked on the ambitious project of summarising the last 20 years in watchmaking in The Millennium Watch Book, a big, beautifully laid out coffee table book. This article is an extract. The Millennium Watch Book is available on www.the-watch-book.com, in French and English, with a 10% discount if you use the following code: WT2021.

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