Urwerk UR-220 Rides Into A Golden Sunset With Its Final Edition
by Martin Green
Earlier this year, Jan Hammer’s “Miami Vice Theme” immediately started playing in my head as co-founder of Urwerk Martin Frei handed me the final edition of the UR-220 to inspect. Red gold on a white rubber strap: an insane combination that works insanely well. It is one of those watches that I am not “supposed to” love as it is so contrary to my own, British-inspired style. But like a Shelby Mustang, Dodge Viper, or a Miami Vice-white Ferrari Testarossa, I want to indulge in it.
A bold statement
The UR-220 has always been a statement piece, serving up technical excellence in a bold package. Compared to previous Urwerk timepieces it has a sleeker profile, in part thanks to its movement, which is now manually wound instead of automatic.
While the UR-220 C81 and the UR-220 SL Asimov editions combined this movement with ultra-light cases, the latest and last in the UR-220 series delights to the contrary as its red gold case offers a pleasant heft. This precious metal gives the watch a sense of old-school luxury: with the increasing popularity of titanium, carbon fiber, ceramic, and sapphire crystal in the world of haute horlogerie this is almost becoming a rare treat.
One of the things that I always loved in Miami Vice was when Detective Sonny Crockett (played by Don Johnson) drove his Testarossa, shifting gears through the gated gear selector that was once the hallmark of every Ferrari.
The equivalent for Urwerk is the revolving satellite complication, which picks up the minute indicator anew every hour. That minute arrow has to make quite a jump back to the start as the retrograde minute display is among the widest I have ever seen. It measures 120 degrees, which adds significantly to its legibility but also to its cool factor.
Like changing gears in a vintage Ferrari, getting this just right is a rare combination of power, precision, and a delicate touch. A retrograde display is by nature particularly volatile as it requires quite a bit of energy just to operate. This energy must be built up, released all at once, and then the device must stop in just the right position and start the cycle all over again.
Durability is also an important topic with watches with a retrograde display. The UR-220 RG goes through this volatile cycle 24 times a day, so Urwerk took special care in creating it. Weight is the enemy, so the minute hand, which also houses the hour satellites, is milled from titanium with 1/100th of a millimeter tolerance.
Ensuring stability, the central axis is mounted on ruby bearings. Around it runs a cylindrical spring of the type usually found in marine chronometers, which supplies the energy for the lightning-fast retrograde motion. To control this movement, Urwerk relies on a double coaxial star-shaped cam that regulates the mechanism and ensures the precision of motion.
While I am game to binge watch Miami Vice anytime, so is the UR-220 RG. It has a power reserve of 48 hours, though in today’s watch world many will not find this so special. However, retrograde complications, particularly those with satellite hours, are as energy-consuming as a 1980s supercar.
Urwerk utilizes two power reserve indicators for this single-barrel movement. The right one indicates the first 24 hours, while the left one displays the state of the mainspring for the second 24-hour segment. The beauty of this way of displaying the power reserve is that it is both precise and maintains the symmetry of the UR-220 RG, which I consider one of its prime attractions.
The watch is also equipped with a digital “oil change” counter, aka a when-does-your-watch-need-to-go-in-for-service indicator. Two mechanical rollers placed next to each other count the 39 months of the recommended service period.
It is a feature that we have already seen in previous Urwerk models, and while it has a practical sense Urwerk co-founder Felix Baumgartner explains that it also has a more poetic side: “It is a digital counter, which could imply just an alignment of units, a coldly calculated measurement, yet it actually testifies to personal attachment. The Oil Change counts the hours the UR-220 has been on your wrist. It gives visibility to all the energy you’ve put into it by conscientiously winding it.”
As the UR-220 RG concludes yet another chapter in the exciting history of Urwerk, all I can think of is how much I would like to drive off with it into the sunset in a white Ferrari Testarossa with Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight” playing on the radio . . .
For more information, please visit www.urwerk.com/collections/ur-satellite/ur-220.
Quick Facts Urwerk UR-220 RG
Case: 43.8 x 53.6 x 14.8 mm, red gold
Movement: manual-winding Caliber UR-7.20, 48-hour power reserve, 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency, base plate in ARCAP
Functions: satellite hours, retrograde minutes; dual power reserve, oil change indicator
Price: 149,000 Swiss francs
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