I have long said that the UR-100 is URWERK’s most “traditional” watch. In terms of sizing and wearability, it definitely is — or was. Now, 26 years after first debuting at Baselworld in 1997, URWERK has revisited the zeitgeist with the new UR-102 Reloaded. A round watch from a brand that is, these days, not known for watches resembling anything close to round.

Notice I say “revisited” rather than “reissued.” The UR-102 Reloaded is a modern interpretation of last century’s watch. It’s definitely a UR-102 when you look at it, but it’s also very 2023. But let’s start with some context.

URWERK UR-102 Reloaded

Where it all began

Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei started URWERK in 1997. That same year, they revealed the UR-101 and UR-102 watches at Baselworld. These watches were the pair’s first steps in their mission to innovate alternative methods of displaying time not seen in modern-day watchmaking. The wandering-hours concept was inspired by a 17th-century clock that Felix discovered in his father’s workshop. The Campani brothers, clockmakers for the Pope, made the clock in question. They developed a special type of escapement that was silent in operation, thus allowing the Pope to sleep undisturbed by the regular “ticking” of a regular clock.

Though now known for futuristic sculptured watch designs, the UR-102 was incredibly minimalistic by comparison. The UR-102 Reloaded has a unique appearance, unlike that of any other wristwatch, despite its round case. Round and pebble-like with four dainty lugs attached to the strap, the focus of the original UR-102’s design was the satellite wandering-hour display. Fast forward to today’s UR-102 Reloaded, and much of the original design language remains, albeit brought up to date in URWERK’s current style.

UR-102: Reloaded by name, reloaded by nature

The UR-102 Reloaded still has a unique look, despite its round case. In the two decades since its first appearance, the UR-102 Reloaded has grown in size from 38mm to a more modern 41mm diameter. Other notable construction changes are the retractable crown, now at 4 o’clock (or at least where 4 o’clock would be a traditional watch), and the lugs. The lugs are larger and more aggressive, unlike the almost Bauhaus-esque lugs of its predecessor. According to Martin Frei, the new lugs are inspired by attachments from the old Sputnik space satellite. They’re solid, angular, and designed to ideally position the watch on the wearer’s wrist. I think you’ll agree that they are visually a tremendous improvement and certainly more “URWERK” by their current standards. The original lugs were perhaps of their time, but the new iterations are lightyears ahead.

The UR-102 concept featured a time indicator designed to invoke visions of a celestial body’s path across the skyline. The satellite trajectory of the hour indicator follows a semi-circular path from minute 0 (the ascension) to minute 30 (the firmament) and disappears at minute 60 (the descent) — the concept remains for the new Reloaded editions. The dial window for the time display is no longer a perfect semi-circle. Now it is wider with sloping edges, giving it a fresher and more dynamic look — something which is evident right across the entire Reloaded concept.

Is this a tool watch?

The simplicity sets the UR-102 apart from URWERK’s other horological sculptures (and let’s be honest, that’s what they are). The UR-102’s case was always more of a “vessel” for the movement and time display. Almost a tool, if you will. However, the brand’s other watches are entire works of artistic expression encompassing the case as a part of the overall experience. Martin Frei said of the UR-102, “Right from the very beginning, we had the deep and intimate conviction that focusing on the wandering hour was our path.” Does that make the UR-102 Reloaded the brand’s interpretation of a tool watch? Perhaps so, even though it’s far from what many collectors would classify as a tool watch. But, with a brand like URWERK, whose watches are art and expression, surely interpretation of the horological status quo is precisely what the brand is all about?

URWERK UR-102 Reloaded

The URWERK UR-102 Reloaded price and availability

Looking at the UR-102 Reloaded, I could easily argue that the UR-102 is the “real” URWERK. While the brand developed its design language a long way from its early days over 25 years ago, the UR-102 Reloaded is more than a nod to its roots. It’s an evolution of the brand’s beginnings and a celebration of its roots. It is also perhaps an exciting hint at things to come!

The UR-102 Reloaded is initially presented in a boxed set containing two versions — one in titanium with a white Baltimora strap, the other in signature URWERK black with a matching black Baltimora strap. At CHF 56,000 (excluding taxes) for the set of two watches, this actually represents the “most affordable” way to get on board the URWERK ownership train. So grab a friend and draw straws to see who gets which watch. Either way, neither of you will be disappointed. A further 75 pieces of each color will be released “at a later date,” with no word on pricing. If you’re not one for waiting around, it might be worth going halves with a mate…

Find out more on the official URWERK website.

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