Not everyone can (or wants to) pull off an Urwerk watch. Almost all of its timepieces look like machines from the future powered by the ingenuity of a distant past, but it is this dichotomy that makes them so interesting.
For 25 years, watchmaker Felix Baumgartner and designer Martin Frei have used their now-signature wandering hours style to captivate collectors with spaceship-like watches that look just as likely to propel you through time as well as tell it, but one of their latest releases proves they are far from becoming predictable.
Launched in 2021, the UR-112 Aggregat hails from the experimental Special Projects collection. According to the brand, it was designed to gleam like Padme Amidala’s J-type 327, have windows like the owl ship from Watchmen, shaped like a Klingon Bird of Prey and grooved like the hull of the Battlestar Galactica.
Whether or not you get the references isn’t relevant because from a purely horological standpoint, this retro-but-futuristic style of jumping displays is still a fun departure from Urwerk’s familiar satellite indicators.
Jumping triangular prisms for the hours and minutes are placed within sapphire crystal cylinders and separated by a central seam, allowing the wearer to view the time from the side, much like a driver’s watch. The hours can be found on the left, while the minutes on the right advance in five-minute increments with an additional trailing indicator on the side to help point to the exact minute.
Hitting the two pushers on the sides of the case will open its grooved, hunter-style case to reveal the seconds on the left. Etched onto silicon discs and framed by a bright red anodised aluminium bridge, you can see the seconds jump – five seconds at a time – through a small magnifying lens. On the left is the power reserve indicator, which also happens to be the only analogue display on the watch.
Impressively, all this jumping action comes from a single power source, transmitted through a long thin rod called a cardan shaft that is hidden beneath the central seam. It’s a lot of mechanical wizardry that goes inside this hefty 42mm by 52mm machine, but it weights only 25.2g thanks to its black and grey titanium case.
There is also a version in titanium and steel, known as the Aggregat Odyssey, that was unveiled earlier this year. Its design is identical, complete with the protective cover that was actually inspired by the Bugatti Atlantique grille, but the contrast of two metals is enhanced by multiple different finishes. The steel cover is mirror-polished on the top and bead-blasted along the edges, while the titanium body is satin-brushed, sand-blasted and bead-blasted for textural complexity.
Both the Odyssey and the original Aggregat are powered by the automatic UR 13.01 movement with 48 hours of power reserve, and are presented with fabric straps.
Even by Urwerk standards, the Aggregat is a little more unusual than most, but it fits right in with its Special Projects siblings like the UR-1001 Zeit Device pocket/wristwatch with its 100- and 1000-year indicators, or the UR-CC1, which shows the time in a linear format.
“Once again we have let our guts speak for us in making a spaceship, a UFO that is a technical challenge,” said Baumgartner, calling the Aggregat “pure madness”. Only 25 pieces of the Aggregat have been made, but the Odyssey will likely be rarer. “There may be just five of them, but this is sheer, unadulterated watchmaking pleasure!”