Breaking the Mould
Urwerk is one-part classical watchmaking, one-part fine artistry. These parts have names: Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei. “Our work is a collaboration. It always starts with a dialogue about time, about watches," says the latter. Two decades of making timepieces together has meant that Baumgartner and Frei have had many such conversations.
One of their most recent talking points arrived at this year’s haute horlogerie curtain raiser, the Salon de la Haute Horlogerie, where Urwerk introduced its UR-106 Flower Power. Limited to 11 pieces, each piece is natural poetry in a mechanical jewellery timepiece, featuring diamond-set flowers cast in white gold, and mounted on the famed Urwerk-patented carousel. A total of 239 Top Wesselton diamonds making up 2.53 carats in all, are present on the case and crown, with the addition of a moon phase complication presented on the dial.
For men, Urwerk proposes the 30-piece self-winding UR-T8 Transformer. Its reversible case protects the time display beneath a highly textured titanium shield. “When you design a case, it is supposed to protect what’s inside. We then drew inspiration from the concept of an armour or a shield, which does exactly this," Frei says.
“We’re interested in exploring, to be avant garde. We don’t study the market to see what is needed, we just make what we want to make. However, tradition will always have its place," says Baumgartner, who was raised on a constant stream of old clocks passing through his childhood home – to be restored by his father.
Frei, on the other hand, provides a balance with his completely artistic background — in sculpting and painting to name some trades. “When I look at all the aspects that come together in a watch, the theme, I do it with the eyes of an artist. Looking beyond the function. A watch to me is a philosophical machine, a strange one which we can rethink and reconfigure as we please. Of course it still has to tell the time.
“We had to change something, this is what we decided over 20 years ago. Contemporary watchmaking is in demand, and that was all the comfort we needed to get to work," he concludes.