How One Guy Made A Shockingly Good Urwerk UR-202 Watch Homage

How One Guy Made A Shockingly Good Urwerk UR-202 Watch Homage

How One Guy Made A Shockingly Good Urwerk UR-202 Watch Homage Feature Articles

Meet Karel, a young engineering student from San Ramon, California. Fueled by his love for horology and the more unusual timepieces of the 21st century, he quickly grew fond of Urwerk and their unique ways of displaying time. In fact, he liked them so much, that he set out to harness his studies as an engineering student and design and craft his very own homage to his favorite high-end watch brand – and today, he shares his experience and achievement with us...

It all started roughly 2 years ago, when I first set my eyes on a few of Urwerk’s timepieces. Their watches were unlike anything I had ever seen: to me, they were modern day pioneers of the watchmaking industry. One thing that really fascinated me about these pieces was that they feature incredible advancements in horology, while seamlessly meshing these mechanisms in a very aesthetically pleasing way. It is not uncommon to see a watch that is packed full of incredible engineering feats, while the rest of the design seems to be an afterthought. What makes watchmaking so unique is its ability to bring together engineering and art, and in my opinion, Urwerk has executed this exceptionally well.

How One Guy Made A Shockingly Good Urwerk UR-202 Watch Homage Feature Articles

Watchmaking is one of the last forms of engineering with a large amount of freedom due to the nearly non-existent design constraints – other than size limitations, of course. In that sense, it is still very much an art; people are encouraged to come up with new features, complications and escapements, not necessarily to try and surpass quartz and atomic clocks as a scientific instrument, but to show that there is so much more to watchmaking than being able to keep time.

I found the Urwerk UR-202 to be absolutely incredible. However, they came at a hefty price, and still being a college student, it was not necessarily something that fit into my budget. Nonetheless, as opposed to deterring me from one day owning this great timepiece, it motivated me to try myself in getting as close to it as possible. Being a mechanical engineer, I thought there was no better way to learn from these great watchmakers, than to rebuild the watch on my computer using 3D CAD software. Now, I knew this would be no easy task, but my passion for watchmaking and engineering overcame any second thought, and I immediately began work on what would soon become a new found love for the world of horology.

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A Year-Long Look Under The Hood Of The Urwerk UR-202

Finding the proper dimensions was one of the most difficult parts about this project because, quite simply, there weren’t any available (for obvious reasons). I began by compiling hundreds of pictures of the Urwerk UR-202 from various angles as well as getting the overall dimensions of the watch (case height, width and length). With this information, I was able to develop sketches of the outer case with proper dimensioning by using the overall dimensions to scale, and create a conversion ratio for the rest of the angles/measurements. Once the outer case had been dimensioned, I moved on to the case back, crown, rotor assembly, and any other component that could be seen externally.

How One Guy Made A Shockingly Good Urwerk UR-202 Watch Homage Feature Articles

Once all the external components had been properly dimensioned, I began working on converting these sketches into Solidworks CAD software. The internals and mechanical functions of the piece, however, were far more difficult to recreate in the software. That being said, with every struggle there is an opportunity to learn something new. Since there were no pictures or references to how the movement functioned, it was up to me to learn and develop ways they could be implemented without aesthetically affecting the watch.

How One Guy Made A Shockingly Good Urwerk UR-202 Watch Homage Feature Articles

The baseplate, to me, was one of the most complex components to recreate in this watch. There are so many features and very tight tolerances, that even the smallest imperfection will render the movement completely useless. After watching the Urwerk UR-202 promotional video dozens of times and analyzing it frame by frame, I was able to better understand the exact workings of this complex barrel assembly. As one of the hour barrels revolves towards the crown, it is greeted by a peg. The peg catches a small opening in the barrel allowing it to revolve 90 degrees.

Once the barrel is level on the surface again, it will repeat this process two more times, a total of 270 degrees, thus being rotated to the new proper hour. This does not seem overly complicated, until you understand just how small these components are and how precise each measurement must be in order to get smooth and consistent functionality of the movement. The tolerances on these kinds of watches must be perfect; any slight deviation will increase the friction significantly and be detrimental, not only to the power reserve, but the overall longevity of the movement.

How One Guy Made A Shockingly Good Urwerk UR-202 Watch Homage Feature Articles

Another difficult aspect to the baseplate was the cam paths (highlighted green), which allow the minute needle to extend or retract based on where it is along the minute dial. Under each wing of the rotor dial is a small guide rod, which fits into the cam path and is connected to the telescopic minute hand. As the rotor turns, the cam path will adjust the length of the hand accordingly. This complex curvature was something that needed to be calculated, which gave me an even greater reason to pay attention in my calculus courses. The path curvature took some time to perfect, but after adjusting a few dimensions, it was working beautifully in the motion analysis of Solidworks.

However, just because something works well in CAD software does not necessarily mean it will function in real life. A year had passed since the beginning sketches of this project, and I had finally designed and assembled all the components (to the best of my knowledge) in Solidworks. As I played around with the movement on the computer, my admiration for this watch and the watchmakers behind it only grew. I had put in so much time and research to design it on the computer, that I decided it would be a shame not to take it a step further and machine all the components myself. I knew this would be no easy task, and the more people that told me it couldn’t be done or that it would be too difficult to machine, only made me more determined to build it.

Bringing The Project To Another Level: Materialization

I began looking around for places to machine these pieces, and was quickly met by the harsh reality that manufacturing such small and complex components would be extremely costly. It was certainly discouraging, but I had not given up, as I knew that with time I would find my solution. This is when I stumbled into the world of 3D printing. I had used 3D printing in the past for relatively simple components; however, making complex assemblies is a different task entirely. I started printing out some of the larger components, the outer case, baseplate, rotor dial, etc. Still, the print resolution was nowhere close to what I needed. You could see the print layers very easily, and all of the finer details were lost in the process as well. This is common with most standard 3D printers, so I continued searching for an alternative.

How One Guy Made A Shockingly Good Urwerk UR-202 Watch Homage Feature Articles

I imagined it would take multiple iterations of prototypes before everything worked properly, so machining all the components out of the specified materials in every case was out of the question due to my budget limitations. As I continued to do research in the world of 3D printing, I stumbled across a relatively new technology known as Multijet modeling process or MJM. This method will create a thin sheet of material using multiple print nozzles, and then polymerize each layer using a UV lamp. Not only is this UV-cured acrylic very durable, but it can be printed at a resolution of 0.01mm as opposed to 0.1mm for most standard 3D printers. This meant that I could now have print resolution roughly 1/10th the thickness of a sheet of paper. This increased the accuracy and precision of my components significantly; and so I was finally back on track to recreating the Urwerk UR-202 in honor of the great watchmakers and designers behind it.

After nearly 7 prototypes of fine tuning dimensions for proper fitment and functionality, I was ready to begin machining the final components. First, it was the turn of the outer case and crown. These components took a fair amount of time to get the proper finishing, although they did turn out beautifully. Every detail from the screw points to the micro engravings inside the case were accounted for, as I wanted to get everything as close as possible.

How One Guy Made A Shockingly Good Urwerk UR-202 Watch Homage Feature Articles How One Guy Made A Shockingly Good Urwerk UR-202 Watch Homage Feature Articles How One Guy Made A Shockingly Good Urwerk UR-202 Watch Homage Feature Articles

Next up was the baseplate. There were roughly 8 iterations of this component made, each of which represented minor improvements and involved a lot of fine tuning. This baseplate is largely responsible for the overall workings of the revolving satellite complication, so making sure that everything was functioning properly was crucial before machining the final piece. Once I was satisfied with the baseplate, I machined it out of aluminum 6061. Perlage was then applied to the specified areas and the center portion of the plate was anodized and, finally, it was fitted to a base Miyota movement with which it is able to function and display time like the original – although I do wish to be able to upgrade to an ETA base in the future.

How One Guy Made A Shockingly Good Urwerk UR-202 Watch Homage Feature Articles

Once the baseplate was finished, I began work on the crystal which covers the face of the Urwerk UR-202. This was by far the most difficult single component to design. Urwerk’s case designs are very unique, so in turn, a unique crystal must also be designed to fit the case properly. This piece is not just a generic circle but a whole array of complex splines and cutaways that are not easily designed – let alone manufactured. When creating this piece in Solidworks, I realized just how tight the clearance was between itself and the rotating barrels beneath it. There was about 0.3 millimeters (0.0118 inches) of play between the two, so making sure it all lined up perfectly was absolutely crucial.

After nearly an entire month of work redesigning and fine tuning this piece, it was finally time to get it machined. Urwerk, like most companies, uses a sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating, so I contacted a few companies to get quotes for machining this piece. Now keep in mind, if it had been a simple circle cut out of a sapphire crystal the price may have been manageable. In this case, however, when I received the quote my jaw dropped to the floor. Due to the complex curvatures of the piece they would need to carve out an entire block of sapphire crystal which is already a very difficult material to machine.

I continued searching for alternatives, and once again, I found myself returning to the wonderful world of 3D printing. A company I had used in the past had begun 3D printing a new material known as "Watershed XC." This is an engineering grade ABS-like photopolymer which is optically clear and produces very strong and relatively scratch resistant parts. Another feature of this material is that it has a low refractive index; meaning that the image perceived through the glass will not appear magnified or skewed. The piece came out of the machine with a very rough finish which required nearly 10 hours of hand polishing to achieve the desired optical clarity.

How One Guy Made A Shockingly Good Urwerk UR-202 Watch Homage Feature Articles How One Guy Made A Shockingly Good Urwerk UR-202 Watch Homage Feature Articles

Now that the front glass piece had been finished, the time came to complete the rotor assembly that sits beneath it. The rotor assembly (note that in this case the term "rotor" refers not to the piece winding an automatic movement but the triple-armed, satellite system used to indicate the hours and minutes) on the Urwerk UR-202 is an incredible piece of engineering and is just as beautiful at night as it is during the day. The Urwerk UR-202 has Super-luminova applied to the hour markers on all 4 sides of each barrel, thus, when lit up properly the lume radiates in all directions, and it is quite a sight to see in person.

That being said, I am not an expert at applying lume, especially on the small components of the Urwerk UR-202. Once the moon phase, minute dial, and all the barrels were machined with the proper engravings, they were sent off to my good friend Bolun Du who does some fantastic luminescent work. We worked together to find the best match to the lume on the Urwerk UR-202, both as it appears during the day, and when it is glowing at night.

How One Guy Made A Shockingly Good Urwerk UR-202 Watch Homage Feature Articles How One Guy Made A Shockingly Good Urwerk UR-202 Watch Homage Feature Articles

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  • DangerussArt

    BRAVO!!

  • joshgraves

    Amazing!  Hopefully Urwerk will see his work.

  • 5803822

    Karel Bachand – an ingenious, single minded problem solver – a really interesting read – hope we  hear of more success in the future – could be I’ve been too critical of pricing policies !.

  • WimadS

    Wow, that is an amzing project! I hope he enjoys his watch and can ultimately afford the real deal. Really amzaing.

  • Ulysses31

    I’m very impressed that one guy could do all this.  I’m tempted to start some sort of watch-related 3D project after reading this.  Stupid question but this isn’t actually powered by any sort of movement, is it?

  • Utterly epic.

  • mgennone

    He states miyota movement and move to an eta in future.

  • Amazing, really. Very cool to see that he actually carried it across the goal line like this. I don’t want to be a negative Nancy, but doesn’t this have the potential to irk URWERK? Design and intellectual property rights and all that?

  • thornwood36

    Quite an achievement. Not my favorite brand though and would be a bit miffed if someone copied my design.

  • kevinwcs

    His name probably appears somewhere in the dictionary as the definition of commitment. Urwerk should totally met up with this guy.

  • rwag1

    This whole process is just so great to read about, the epitome of boot-strapping.  I look forward to learn what this young man does in the future with horology.

  • Jimxxx

    Next stop Patek or Lange…

  • CG

    What would be very cool PR is Urwerk sends him a real 202… that would be something nice for an industry steeped in specious celebrity endorsements.

  • PhilR

    From one mechanical engineer to another: much respect. Personally, I’m blown away that you made it in 2 years…2 years as an ME student. Not a lot of downtime in that curriculum. I absolutely look forward to seeing what you can do with a lab-full of badass machines and more hours of the day at your disposal.

  • I have been following this progression on Instagram for a while now, and I am very happy that he is getting this kind of recognition on ABTW.  Good job.

  • MarcTravis

    Now THAT is passion, with a healthy dose of brains and patience.

  • Fraser Petrick

    Normally I’m pretty conservative when it comes to watch design from a visual presentation point of view. (Watch innards are all smoke and mirrors to me.) But, full marks to this watch designer’s opus. “Amusing” isn’t the right word, but , if nothing else, it’s cleverness and honest originality make it very attractive. If it were on the market and if I had the….what do you call it? oh yeah, money, I’d buy it. (I might have the money, but someone in my household puts food, water and shelter ahead of watches.)

  • BIGCHRONO

    I praise your efforts, ardor, passion, & lack of greed right now. When you forge ahead & succeed as a watchmaker/horologist, please don’t allow your moral & ethical compasses to be compromised.

  • Evitzee

    Well done. It is always good to see people do something that most people wouldn’t think possible, or have the drive and desire to achieve it even if they did think it possible.  I admire your commitment.

  • mark maftei

    You know, I don’t think a company would look at this fellow’s project and feel like they have been ripped off. It’s not like he made a crate of shitty knock-offs to sell on the street. he literally devoted two years his life to creating what is very accurately described as an hommage. Frankly, I would think Urwerk more likely to reach out and see if this guy would be interested in working for them than anything else! If nothing else, it underscores the point he makes about these high end watches actually representing good value (even if they are still wildly unaffordable). 
    Very impressive and very illuminating as far as highlighting just how specialized these boutique watches can be in terms of design and material.
    -Mark

  • Frauss

    Holy cow! I got tired just from reading the description of what he did! Way to go!

  • Shawnnny

    Wow, that’s very impressive! There is no doubt that you will own the real thing and someday much more! I look forward to seeing what you create in the future.

  • Time2Go

    Outstanding! Your commitment to this project is really inspiring, to say nothing of the impressive engineering talent you posess in order to pull this off. Much respect!  And I have to echo prior comments: Urwerk should make you a brand ambassador!

  • ArthurJen

    My man…

  • spiceballs

    I second all the superlatives that have already been used  – – wow – – fascinating and well done.

  • Humanloop

    Very impressive. Your research, follow through, and perseverance are inspiring. I look forward to seeing what original pieces you create down the road!

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  • Lesthepom

    Fantastic job Karel just glad you did not see the Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime 5175 I guess we now know why it costs $2.6million 3D printers are getting good but not that good yet. Ariel may be next time you get hands on for a review of an URWERK you could as Karel along to give his opinion on it as an engineer and I am sure Karel would love to get hands on with a genuine URWERK and meet the man himself (Ariel) good look in the future Karel and keep up the good work

  • bigsam2035

    Thanks Sir Bachand. World class achievement. Great homage to URWERK. No doubt we will hear more from you.
    I now have the perfect way to introduce horology to my son who is a research student in 3D printing.

  • notech47

    Wouldn’t it be great if a watch industry developed in the San Francisco Bay area? There should be more than enough technology, talent and money for this to happen!

  • ParsonsArcher

    GREAT ARTICLE! very inspiring!!!

  • MSampuel

    You sir are awesome!! Nice job!! 🙂

  • MikeAdams2

    Lesthepom Spoilers!
    They’ve already met.

  • RaefWyatt

    The effort by this individual should be admired. He invested two years of his time and limited funds into this wonderful Homage piece. Then he did all of us in the watch community a favor by decribing the challenges and struggles he made in creating his aspirational watch. Often times with watches of this type we as a community know it is tough, but reading about the tight tolerences of manufacture, the prototyping and the challenges of figuring out the movement put an entirely different light on the effort and design that goes into these wonderful pieces of work.
    Hat’s off and enjoy as it is truly a feat to design such an incredible watch but even more of a feat to describe and capture the attention of so many who read your story. I hope Urweck looks you up for a job!

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  • Jef_in

    CG agree!  or a newer model that he can co-design at URWERK.

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  • Absolutely astounding!  What an undertaking.  And in this context defined by real life R + D–how illuminating (pardon the pun!) to have recreated such a technically advanced horological marvel.  Well done indeed.  I do hope Urwerk has noticed your sacrifice and homage and perhaps invited you into their hallowed circle to see hands on (sorry, another pun!) just what’s entailed in their own workshop.

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  • Chrippa

    impressive work and dedication. you should try uwerks pocket watch

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  • gregge

    Urwerk should take you on as an apprentice.