Urwerk UR-100V P.02 For Collective: Collaboration And Exclusivity Dock In Space
If I’ve been struck by one phenomenon of late, it’s the emergence of collaboration as a central feature of how we live and work. The shift has been ongoing for quite a while now, but to me it seems we’ve hit a tipping point at which decades-old practices of rigid structures and hoarding of ideas have given way to fluid relationships and shifting coalitions working to envision, and then realize, a vast landscape of creative ideas.
While behind-the-scenes collaboration on watch production has been a longtime feature of our beloved industry, it was Max Büsser of MB&F who brought the idea of working with “friends” very much into the popular consciousness. And in recent times, we’ve seen a flood of joint efforts between watchmakers at Only Watch and on production pieces as well as a raft of manufacturer-retailer and manufacturer-publication co-branding initiatives.
Some of the latter is just clever marketing: for reasons I’ll have to ponder later at greater length, it seems that making an otherwise available production piece as a limited edition with a different-colored dial or hands and labeling it with a website’s name seems a sure way to sell a batch of watches quickly and at full price.
For me it’s one example of combining two concepts that at first glance seem contradictory: collaboration and exclusivity.
Perhaps at the top of the exclusivity-collaboration scale, we find single-piece commissions done by manufacturers for a few favored clients, with collaboration defined by the solicitation of preferences from the buyer.
A bit lower, there is a territory inhabited by watch clubs of various sorts, from my own “NorCal Gang” of close friends to groups like ChronotempVs, who have worked with makers to develop members-only watches that are not only cosmetically different from production references but sometimes mechanically unique as well.
One of the latest entries into the club-watch fray is Collective, a self-described “community of curious, engaged, and diverse watch collectors” started in Silicon Valley in 2018. Membership is both closed and open: it’s by application only, but you or I are perfectly free to click on www.collectivehorology.com and fill out a fairly straightforward form asking for membership.
Be aware, though: one membership requirement is the commitment to buy one of the club’s collaboration watches during each two-year period, which brings us directly to the Urwerk piece we see here.
Collaboration three ways
In reality, the new UR-100V P.02 brings together three parties: in addition to Urwerk and Collective, the project will benefit New York’s Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum, home of an impressive collection of aircraft as well as of Enterprise, the first prototype space shuttle built by the United States.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the two main collaborators chose as their basis the Urwerk UR-100, a watch that bears two intriguing astronomical complications: the distance that a point on the equator spins around the earth’s axis in a 20-minute period and the distance that the planet itself transits on its orbit around the sun during the same time. These are displayed on two slots at the upper left and right of the dial and indicated by the minute pointers not occupied with the main time display.
For this watch, Urwerk and Collective used the same slot-and-pointer arrangement but have changed the scales. As shown in the photo below, the upper left slot is labeled to show the final minutes of a countdown before shuttle launch and the eight-minute period after blastoff to travel the 1,300 statute miles downrange to achieve low earth orbit (indicated as LEO). The upper right slot bears indices and colored bars showing the 20 minutes and 5,000 miles needed to re-enter, glide, and touch down.
By the way, if you’ve been staring at the photos so far on a big screen and scratching your head a bit about some of the cosmetics, don’t worry. The watch that I had the chance to handle and shoot was very much a prototype, and we should expect several changes prior to the final production version. Among others, these include the removal of the word “SPACE” appearing in two places at the top of the dial and possibly a change from the luminous materials used for the launch and landing indicators to painted non-luminous stripes.
In space, no one can hear your watch winding (with apologies to Ridley Scott)
Inside the Urwerk UR-100V we find the brand’s UR 12.02 self-winding movement. This does lead to the question of whether an automatic watch like the UR-100V will self-wind in zero gravity.
For whatever reason, until I thought about it, I’d pretty much accepted the old story that one reason NASA chose the Omega Speedmaster for its missions was its manually winding movement, with the folklore further extending to the idea that winding rotors simply wouldn’t function beyond the reach of earth’s gravity.
It’s been a while since I took high school physics, but once I started to ponder the topic it became obvious that as long as the wearer’s wrist accelerates and decelerates in the plane of the winding rotor with sufficient force and frequency, an automatic winder should work just fine in space.
Yes, there’s the loss of the gravity-driven positional winding that takes place when one shifts one’s wrist into and out of the direction of gravitational force, but it seems to me that a fairly vigorous space traveler would not have to worry too much about this watch grinding to a halt.
All that exaggerated wrist snapping could place significant force on the parts of the winding mechanism, though, so it’s good that the UR-100V features a small turbine governor to control the spinning of the rotor – as long as there’s some air inside of the case, of course.
Sticking to the theme
This is a space watch, and in particular a space shuttle watch, so it’s only fitting that the color scheme used is faithful to the one used on the aircraft-meets-rocket gauges and drab, matte cockpit interior surfaces of Enterprise.
The same can be said for the strap, which reportedly will be slightly tweaked in its production version but should retain the military-style webbed look we see in the picture below.
As shown above, the works for the hour satellites and related launch and landing indications are housed under the domed crystal, allowing the body of the case itself to be fairly thin. The rear bezel surrounding the winding rotor does stick out somewhat, but as it sits against the wrist the visual impression is of the thin case band rather than of a bulky watch.
The same general impression carries over when you strap this watch on. I found it quite comfortable on the wrist, and while there’s a bit of inevitable light reflection from the curved crystal at pretty much every angle, a slight tilt of the wrist one way or the other is easily sufficient to provide a clear view of whichever indication suits your fancy
Glare from the crystal isn’t an issue in the dark, where the P.02 puts on quite a luminous show. We’ll have to see whether the colored stripes indicating the sectors of the liftoff and landing arcs remain luminous in the final piece, but for me the vivid appearance of the hour and minute markers is entirely sufficient to make a strong impression.
I’ll say it straight out: this watch has a significant digits problem.
No, its fingers aren’t too big. I’m talking about the nautical mile figures used on the upper scales, which are clearly conversions of the approximate distances of 1,300 and 5,000 miles to and from orbit done with a calculator and way too much false precision to yield 1,129 nm and 4,344 nm respectively. It makes the numbers on the dial look a bit more interesting, but as an engineer by training I feel compelled to call shenanigans.
I’d also take exception to the practicality of the launch and landing complications, but as someone who rarely does anything more involved with his chronographs than play with the pushers and watch the chrono minute hand jump, I’m in no position to be too critical.
I did however notice that the orange points of the off-duty minute hands don’t project far enough into the takeoff and landing slots to be easily visible. If you truly were in a spaceship and wanted to use either indication, you would have to advance the satellite assembly to a point at which an orange pointer was aimed at the right number of minutes remaining in the countdown, and by doing so render the main time-telling functions of the watch meaningless.
This watch, of course, is much more about dreams of travel than it is about such functional niceties. While I come from the era of John Glenn the Mercury astronaut rather than that of John Glenn the shuttle passenger, I absolutely get that and have no doubt that the 20 Collective members who take delivery of these pieces will spend many hours musing about the vast reaches of space.
In the introductory video for this watch, Urwerk co-founder Martin Frei observed that because of the vast distances of space and the time required for light to travel, every point of light we see in the sky represents a different moment in the past. It’s that kind of thinking that makes me appreciate both this watch and the standard versions of the UR-110.
I also find Collective’s private/public model of maintaining a secret roster and selective membership process but allowing self-nomination and building the club’s activities around the purchase of commissioned timepieces from makers such as Zenith, Moser, and Joshua Shapiro very interesting. At this point it’s not for me as I strongly prefer to join in “buddy watch” purchases completely at my own option, but I do know a few members and they seem quite happy with how it all works.
I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts on this watch, the concept behind it, maker-club collaborations, and the Collective model in the comments section.
In the meantime, fasten your seat belts!
For more information on Collective, please visit www.collectivehorology.com.
Quick Facts Urwerk UR-100V P.02 for Collective
Case: 41 x 49.7 x 14 mm, titanium and stainless steel case, gun-metal PVD finish; engraved “P.02” plaque on case side; domed sapphire crystal; pressure tested to 3 ATM
Dial: satellite hours on beryllium-bronze Geneva crosses; aluminum carousel; base plates in ARCAP alloy (German silver); hours and minutes painted in Super-LumiNova
Movement: automatic Caliber UR 12.02 with rotor governed by Windfänger airscrew; 48-hour power reserve
Functions: satellite hours and minutes; space shuttle launch and landing indications
Accessories: khaki green strap available in small, medium, and large sizes; optional orange strap available separately; watch purchases include custom mission patch and cap; patch and cap available separately
Limitation: 20 pieces available only to new and existing Collective members and retailed exclusively by Goldsmith & Complications
Price: $62,500; cap $25; mission patch $15