Never thought I’d say this but here goes: I found an Urwerk that needed time to grow on me. Having drooled over their creations since the earliest days of my, ehm, watch enthusiasm, I think I reasonably expected to be never wanting to take the Urwerk UR-105 CT Kryptonite off my wrist – or, one upping that, even my eyes off it. But this, of all things, is a laid-back, grown-up Urwerk – and I realized one can’t expect it to have the same effect as the brand’s other creations that earned it the recognition it enjoys and deserves today. More on that later. I’ll perform this review like I always do and aim at those fortunate few, who are actually considering buying a watch in this price segment – and I’m sure us mortals will have our fun with it in the meantime too.
For starters, I’ll try to explain what took me a while to figure out. Where I often mock big brands for not stepping out of their own shadow and stop making and re-making the same “iconic” stuff over and over again, here I have an unusual Urwerk that makes me want to wish for the definitive, “iconic” Urwerk stuff. Call me a hypocrite if you want, but that’s how I felt the first few days into wearing the Urwerk UR-105 CT Kryptonite. Here’s what’s going on.
The UR-105 CT Kryptonite is a weird Urwerk. Yeah, it has Kryptonite in its name and it’s still more bonkers than a good 99% of other luxury watches out there, but 25 years into designing drool-worthy pieces of extraterrestrial horology, Urwerk has, it seems to me, gotten to a point where it felt like it should make a watch for the matured collector of the brand and/or other crazy watches. Don’t get me wrong, I agree that in images the UR-105 Kryptonite looks as awesome as an SR-71 Blackbird, but in reality – and yet more so on the wrist on an average day running errands in the city – it is as stealthy as a black slab with some slats on it can be (pretty discreet, that is). And that, to me, at first is sort of like missing the point. It’s like a quiet Ferrari.
First of all, most of the time only the wearer can see the time indication that is dark grey on black. From most other angles, the watch is a big, black wedge that appears to be more like some sort of an obscure wrist-ornament, or the forebearer of a new accessories craze. As such, the UR-105 CT is absolutely discreet about the mind-bending satellite time indication system that is, and here’s the cause for all this, hidden behind a swiveling shield plate. This titanium plate (or “hood”) can be opened with the neatly integrated and beautifully clicky button in the center of the top of the watch. Add to that wearing a black watch on a pair of dark black straps, and the entire watch looks almost too dark, too shy to my eyes. If I were to get this watch, I thought to myself, the first thing I’d do is put it on a neon green or vibrant orange or yellow strap, something that Urwerk actually supplies on other watches, and I’d revel in the way the strap would help highlight the super-duper green lume of the time display – specifically the 0-60 minute arch and the lumed numeral in the hour hand’s block, as well as the indications behind… But more on those later.
However, doing so (putting on a brash colored strap) would mean missing the point of the Urwerk UR-105 CT Kryptonite; because it’s precisely not supposed to be a flashy, in-your-face luxury watch. Having worn it out and about as much as I could, I can report that out there, in the real world, nobody looked at it twice – or even once, for that matter. Whether or not that’s a good thing is on everyone to make their minds up about, but I, personally, have not missed any of the attention some other watches – especially those in gold – receive. The only reason I was missing colors is for the sole purpose of my own good entertainment and definitely not to make this watch any more noticeable to others. And what would be a stronger indicator of the maturity of the brand and collectors alike, than an Urwerk that does not, at all, turn heads?
Long-Term Impressions – Looks & Wearability
If this is the first time you are learning about a watch brand called Urwerk, you’ll probably be tempted to do a fair bit of research anyway, so I’ll save all of us the trouble of a detailed run-down on company history. As such, suffice to say that Urwerk specializes in the design and production of ultra-high-end (about $50k and up) watches that all could work as a perfect prop on the Starship Enterprise. The company was founded in 1995 by watchmaker brothers Felix and Thomas Baumgartner and artist Martin Frei (Thomas Baumgartner left in 2004) and their first timepiece, the humbly titled UR-101 was introduced in 1997. Twenty years later the satellite display of time is a trademark of Urwerk watches, but they have also produced some other immensely cool pieces, such as this weird self-monitoring, half-electric EMC that looked like a tank, this stupendously over-the-top pocket watch, or my personal favorite, the UR-CC1 Cobra that I’m yet to photograph out in the wild. Long story short, Urwerk needs no introduction to anyone – if for no other reason, then because their pieces tell you all the basics regarding their approach to luxury watch design.
Out of the box as much as over time, the Urwerk UR-105 CT Kryptonite impresses with the exceptional quality of execution and surprises with its “well, that ain’t too bad!” size. Coming in at just 53mm in length and the straps on both ends being able to swivel downwards at a 90° angle, it’s only the 17.30mm thickness that will make this watch look weird on a petite wrist – but at least it won’t reach beyond the edges and look all kinds of wrong from afar. It actually looks a lot more restrained than one would expect from a watch that has Urwerk and Kryptonite in its name – and, as I said, this is many times true in the real world when compared to how the watch appears in photography. Usually watches are understated by still imagery – now it’s the other way around.
The relatively compact, livable proportions are matched with considerable heft – rather unfortunately, I should add. So much so that it actually made me double check if it was indeed crafted from titanium; and although the case is in fact carved out of this lightweight material, I presume the satellite system and the complex automatic winding system, as well as having both a front crystal and a front cover add a lot of weight to the overall package. In steel I wouldn’t be surprised if this was unwearable – so it’s a good thing it’s titanium. That said, this among first impressions is also a lasting one in the sense that the Urwerk UR-105 CT Kryptonite kept me aware of it being on my wrist a bit more than I’d ideally prefer. Balancing sheer heft out is, well, the watch’s balance itself: although not up there with the best, the UR-105 CT sat securely and comfortably on my wrist, without any of the hideous wobble that often renders heavy watches entirely unwearable and deeply unbearable. As such, although I could, at times, forget I had this watch on, with its notable weight and thick girth that just did not happen quite as often as I’d like in the long run. I like watches that can shock me when I look at them; but that’s less likely to happen if I’m aware of wearing them so much of the time that I have them on.
The weird, woven strap reminded me of some rugged military equipment more than the straps I usually find factory fitted on other luxury watches – and that’s all very well. It’s top tier quality, as it should be, and so is the regular tang buckle that’s also been coated. The padding on the strap near the case rendered it a bit stiffer than I’d prefer, though I imagine that was a trade-off made in favor of a more secure, wobble-free fit – and that I can appreciate. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d love to see this watch on vibrant colored straps – or some dark brown croc with a strong, deep pattern, even. This black strap is just too obvious of a choice on a watch that otherwise has no “obvious choices” on it anywhere else.
Thickness is over 17mm – that’s at its tallest points in the middle where the top shield is at its highest, but also by the far end of the watch where you find the crown and the shield’s joints – which is noticeable, although not entirely outrageous. My only fear was having the watch get caught on something – door handles, camera and other gear in bags, or everyday objects like a lamp post and damaging the black coating (read about my ceramic-watch-wearing-lamp-post-encounter here). Given that the Urwerk UR-105 CT Kryptonite was designed to be discreet, I figure it was also designed to be worn a lot – and a watch that is to be worn, I think, shouldn’t ideally have anything coated on it. The UR-105 CT Streamliner is the same watch, albeit in mirror polished steel – which, although it might weigh a full ton and do away entirely with the low-flying looks, I think I’d still prefer it for all those aforementioned reasons. To be fair, I should add that the black case of the Urwerk UR-105 CT Kryptonite is AlTiN (Aluminium Titanium Nitride) that, based on information I found online, has a remarkably high hardness rating of 4,500 Vickers. However, applying this onto the sharp edges of the case and bezel might still create sensitive areas. It’s a super high-tech coating and the brand going for this says all about Urwerk’s greatly admirable approach… but I’d always be slightly uneasy about having a watch with so many intricate details and a coating on them.
Craftsmanship & Quality Of Execution
Speaking of intricate details, let’s start looking at those – because it is here where the Urwerk really shines. It is also here where: a) Urwerk can set itself apart from some of the other ambitiously designed watches, but less painstakingly detailed watches, and b) where people who think they know watches are separated from those who actually handle and appreciate a watch made to such specifications. Quite frankly, it happened a number of times and I was shocked by the reactions that I encountered, which must have been sudden lapses in horological appreciation, where some watch loving people couldn’t appreciate this watch for what it was.