Is Urwerk Switzerland’s Next Big Brand?

The on-the-rise brand makes super-high-quality watches designed to offend its rivals.

The brothers Felix and Thomas Baumgartner represent the third generation of Baumgartner watchmakers, but they seem almost entirely uninterested in tradition. Along with the artist Martin Frei, they are the founders of Urwerk (it means “original craft”), a brand that makes watches that look like race car dashboards and Transformers’ pacemakers. 

The company’s calling card, the Ur-202, uses a novel revolving satellite complication with sharp, telescoping hands in place of a traditional static face. The Ur-202’s winding system is regulated by compressing air circulated by the twin-turbines that spin lazily on the back of the body. The space-age looks, though, aren’t for show: Urwerk’s precision regulators keep near perfect time.

Photo Courtesy of Urwerk

Even beyond radical faces, Urwerk has included a feature in its watches that in the words of its founder, “remains a taboo in fine watchmaking.” That feature? Electricity. Though no batteries are involved, the mechanical complication at the heart of the EMC, an even bolder model featuring four separate faces, has an electronic optical sensor that alerts the owner if the watch slows down. Having read the sensor, an owner can then adjust the rate via a screw in the watch’s case. Basically, it has the same sort of warning light you have in your Jag.

And the brand is not done innovating. The new UR –105M model is so complicated owners will need a tutorial before they can read it. But if these watches are complicated for the sake of being complicated, they’re also complicated for the sake of being memorable. They are.

Photos by Urwerk