Exceptional interview with Urwerk’s co-founders

But not only…

This article is for all watchmaking enthusiasts.

It is intended to help you understand and perhaps discover what drives Urwerk. Whether you are familiar with the brand or not, a fan of their watches or not, it doesn’t matter. Let’s go beyond our preconceived notions and dive in to discover what drives their creativity. Isn’t that an exciting program? 

This mission was a success thanks to the collaboration of Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei, the co-founders of the brand, but also of Yacine Sar, the marketing director. They opened their hearts to us to touch what fuels their creative flame. A sign of confidence for which I am very grateful.

Let’s start our adventure!

Yacine Sar Urwerk
Yacine Sar
Felix Baumgartner & Martin Frei Urwerk
Felix Baumgartner & Martin Frei

It all started with the clocks

Urwerk Felix Baumgartner

Indeed, clocks have a special place in the brand’s history. They are both the bridge that brought Felix to watchmaking and a source of inspiration.

A clock does not just tell the time and is not just a decorative object. A clock is a learning tool. Its size allows us to see its mechanism and to understand how it works.

Looking at the clocks around us during our interview, I asked Felix what he liked about them: “As a child, I was attracted by clocks. This is because on the one hand my father restored them at home and on the other hand, they allow us to understand and see their mechanism very easily.”

So fascinated that the 1st Urwerk that was presented in 1997, the UR-101 was directly inspired by a clock found in their offices. But that’s not the only effect the clocks had. The satellite display and the different layers that give depth to its display are also direct effects of the influence of clocks. With a little more than 300 years of existence, many watchmakers were able to take turns to express their creativity before it moved to watches.

Urwerk UR-101

This is all well and good, but it still doesn’t allow us to understand the brand. There is a gap between being inspired by a clock and then presenting a watch as futuristic as the UR-112 Aggregat Odyssey.

Rest assured, Felix gave us the beginning of the answer when I asked him what he wants to achieve with Urwerk. “We want to build on the past and create what is possible with today’s materials and possibilities. I see Urwerk as a small laboratory that looks at the research of today’s artisanal watch.”

Take that information and combine it with Martin Frei’s creative vision and abracadabra, you have a UR-112 Aggregat Odyssey.

Urwerk UR-112 Aggregat Odyssée
UR-112 Aggregat Odyssée

Urwerk is not a brand, it’s an experience

Urwerk Martin Frei
© Fred Merz

By designating Urwerk as a laboratory and subsequently discovering Martin’s definition of it, we take a further step.

We are fortunate enough to be able to chat with Martin on a regular basis and when the opportunity for this article arose, I took the opportunity to ask him several questions. 

The first question was: Could you describe Urwerk in 3 words? To this basic question, here is his answer. “I would say that it is an experiment. Urwerk exists to allow us to discover and answer questions about time, about what a watch is in relation to the human being.”

We can see the depth of his answer and above all how pioneering they are. The watches they create are answers to questions they have asked themselves. Felix added: “I see each Urwerk watch as a piece of a puzzle that must be looked at as a whole.”

The fruits of these experiences, which must be viewed as a whole, have themselves been shaped by the 25 years of the brand’s existence. I thought it was important to ask Felix about this. So here is his answer to my question: what have been the major milestones of Urwerk?

In 25 years, Urwerk has gone through three important stages. The first, from 1997 to 2003, was the testing and research phase. We were learning who we were in the watch business.

After this phase, we have the one that extends from 2003 to 2010. The first 6-7 years of research lead to a production that increases as we go along. It is during this period that we expressed what we had learned during the first years.

It is at this period that the UR-103 was born. It is like a result of the first 7 years.

And finally, we have the period we are living in right now, which started in 2010. Our curiosity pushed us to start a project called UMC. We want to come into Haute Horlogerie with a look on handcrafted electronics. This idea came to us during a visit to the Musée des Arts et Métiers in Paris. We saw the first motors and the first electronic functions. The UR-AMC, the Urwerk Sympathy of today, is in line with this idea.”

These few lines and information allow us to understand the absence of the classic style in Urwerk watches, but also the stages through which the brand has passed and which have shaped it. We can note that curiosity and the thirst for understanding are the heart of the brand.

20 people serving this quest

This quest cannot be carried out alone. You have to know how to surround yourself with people and create the ideal atmosphere for everyone to achieve their potential. About that, Felix told us “For the balance of Urwerk, it is necessary the balance of each one. So you can work for Urwerk even if you have other personal projects on the side. I don’t require everyone to work only 100% for Urwerk. It’s that balance that allows us to realize these crazy ideas.

Urwerk Tourbillon Watch UR-101
Urwerk UR-101 Tourbillon Watch

In addition to this balance, Yacine revealed to us that “there is a family spirit within the company. We let people be independent and take initiatives. It is this atmosphere and this bond that allowed us, in the early years, to offer something unheard of at a time when the watchmaking world was quite smooth.

This article ends with these beautiful words. Its purpose was to pay tribute to the creativity of the Urwerk teams by letting you discover what drives them. With these few lines I hope to have transmitted my passion for this brand or at least to have allowed you to understand it. Each of their new products should be an opportunity for us to look for the question they asked themselves. Let’s be explorers in our turn.

According to you, if Einstein was still alive, would he wear an Urwerk?

We’re waiting for your answer in comments.