The indices on the minute dial were also no easy task, some of the engraving being only .2mm wide, requiring the plate to be designed with the engravings going all the way through. This allowed the luminescent paint to be filled from the back, which prevented overflow and gave a little bit of depth to the indices.
The watch was finally starting to come together. However, now, I needed a strap for it to sit on. Due to the unique lug ends of the Urwerk UR-202, a custom strap had to be made. After completing the sketches and dimensioning, the measurements were sent off to Serge Drabbot, who makes beautiful handmade straps. Custom lug inserts were also made to prevent wear and tear on the leather when it sits on the lugs.
Instead of the lugs being part of the case, the Urwerk UR-202 has its lugs built into the caseback, which itself is an horological work of art. The caseback has a unique winding efficiency regulator which prevents over-winding or damaging the movement. This is done through two micro turbines, which are geared directly to the rotor. The turbines are regulated by the air flow that passes through a closed system. By moving the selector switch to “free,” the vents in the system open up and allow for maximum efficiency.
On the other end is the “stop” function, which seals off the vents to the system, creating large amounts of air friction on the turbines, thus preventing them from spinning. This setup is extremely useful for users that wish to wear the watch for more rigorous activities such as golf or tennis, where high G-forces are exerted onto the watch and movement. This feature works perfectly in the CAD files I created but, as I stated before, implementing them into functioning parts is a whole other story. I simply did not have the funds or resources to create this entire pressurized system, thus I had to do without it, and it is purely an aesthetic feature on the watch.
Urwerk has an incredible attention to detail, and this entire turbine control system they implemented into the Urwerk UR-202 is yet another reason these watches sit at a much more elevated price range. Many people often gawk at the prices of the high end watch market, stating that they are not worth what they sell them for and could be manufactured for 100th of the price; I am here to say from personal experience that this is simply not true – especially when it comes to such highly complicated and extremely unique constructions. Working on this project has made me appreciate the value of these timepieces far more than I could have ever imagined.
There are no off the shelf components for watches such as these; everything must be designed from scratch, which accounts for many years of research and development. We cannot treat these timepieces like most consumer products, as there is much more value to the final piece than what is displayed up front. Each piece must be handcrafted by some of the most seasoned watchmakers; there are no machines precise enough to do the work that some of these amazing watchmakers do on a daily basis. I never imagined how difficult it was to implement the complications in some of these timepieces, and I feel as though the manufacturing and prototyping phase of developing a watch such as this often goes unnoticed. Even smaller features of the timepiece, such as the rear winding turbines, require vast amounts of research and development, as well as state of the art machines to manufacture them.
Sure, I might have understood the basic theory behind it and was able to develop the components to function on the computer; but making the ideas come to life was a whole other challenge which Urwerk has been achieving on a daily basis. I spent months double-checking tolerances, running motion analysis and interference detection programs between components, and even when I thought I had everything perfect, it still took a multitude of prototypes to fine tune.
The work I have done on this project is an infinitesimally small fraction of the work Urwerk has done developing these incredible timepieces. It has taken me 2 years to simply get the rotor assembly working. Items such as the telescopic minute hands and case back turbines are incredible feats of engineering themselves, and although I was able to have them function in the CAD software, I did not have access to the unique machines and tools required to manufacture such small and precise components.
Even with the proper equipment, there would still be countless amounts of prototyping before ever reaching the level of precision Urwerk achieves on each of their timepieces. I have admired Urwerk’s watchmaking ever since I first laid eyes on them; they are truly remarkable pieces of horology, art, and engineering. This project has allowed me to learn from some of the greatest watchmakers and has given me a new-found appreciation on the amount of work that goes into each of their timepieces.
I feel extremely privileged to grow up in the age of 3D printing. Just a decade ago, none of this project may have been possible. As 3D printing technology has advanced, we have gained new materials and new levels of precision at a cost which allows everyone to bring their ideas to life. This new era of 3D printing gives enthusiasts with limited resources like myself an opportunity to create and explore the world of horology.
This piece I have created will serve as a place holder and as motivation to one day own a piece of Urwerk’s fantastic collection. It should also go without saying that there is no intent of profit from this project; its sole purpose was to be able to honor and learn from these incredible watchmakers. Although the project has been very time consuming and costly, the skills and knowledge I have acquired from it have made it all worthwhile, and have set me on a path to further study watchmaking and one day create timepieces of my very own.