What connects the ancient city Ur, 17th-century Campanus Night clock and Urwerk company? The answer is simple: a unique approach to the concept of time.
To shape the timeMartha Taylor-Brown ▼ Saturday July 18, 2009 6:01PM ET
Urwerk was born from a meeting in 1995 between two brothers, Felix and Thomas Baumgartner, both gifted watchmakers, and friend Martin Frei, a talented artist and designer. These young men were united by their common passion for measuring and portraying time. A long discussion, a sharing of philosophies and dreams, culminated in a decision to create their own vision of time.
Marin Frei sketched and honed the design of the timepiece while the Baumgartners spent the next two years developing the technical aspects of the movement and complication. Inspired by the 17 century Campanus Night clock, the team aimed to distil timekeeping to its very essence, to calm the perception of time by removing all extraneous indications and distractions.
While searching for a name to formalise their new collaboration, two principle references soon became apparent: UR. The city of Ur was the very place where our perception of time was moulded over 6000 years ago by the moving shadows cast by the obelisks of Ur. These giant sundials unveiled the mysteries of the earth's movement through space. The Sumerians, the people of Ur, declared that the passage of these shadows through the course of one year should be partitioned into12 units, thus laying the foundation for a system of timekeeping which has endured to this day. WERK. In the German language, 'werk' means to work, create, evolve, shape, forge and to arouse emotions.
Urwerk SA was launched in 1997 with one overriding aim: to follow nobody but to create their own path in pushing the boundaries of haute horlogerie ever further. Martin Frei, Urwerk founding partner and Chief Designer, explains: "When the world of horology opened its doors to me, I entered with all my artistic luggage in tow. I did not find having an art background limiting, instead, my art opened new horizons to watch design. Technique, concept and aesthetic are, above all, acts of creation." ■