Urwerk UR-120 ‘Spock’: It’s Great To Be A Nerd
Live long and may the force be ever in your favor, Frodo.
– Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore
Now that I have a lot of my fellow nerds’ attention or perhaps even a touch of rage, let’s talk about fandom for just a second. In my lifetime there has been an absolute blossoming of nerd fandoms into mainstream popular culture, so much so that even the uninterested will likely understand why my opening statement was incendiary. In many ways this is a very good thing. It means that the creative properties, the universes, that we all love are getting attention and oodles of money thrown at them to give the fans even more of what we want: original content.
It also means that it is widely accepted to be openly nerdy about such things in public because hardly anyone will give you a hard time about being such a big fan. Putting on a bunch of makeup and special clothes to cosplay as your favorite comic book character is not that different from putting on a bunch of makeup and special clothes to cosplay as your favorite athlete at a sporting event – different nerd cultures, same nerd rituals.
With this proliferation we also see universe crossovers where one fandom interacts with or bleeds into another, and not just at conventions. New content is being created every day that smashes stuff we love together, and that makes some people uncomfortable.
There is a phenomenon called gatekeeping in which passionate people are very protective over their chosen fandoms and try to limit encroachment by people deemed insufficiently knowledgeable or who may have bad intentions. Even new artists and directors can be lambasted for not playing directly into what some fans believe should be the direction of new media.
But for every gatekeeper there are a thousand fans that love to mix and match their fandoms, so we end up with a variety of awesome references to fill our lives with as well as more than a few good quotes and plenty of memes. These crossover events aren’t restricted to “like” media and that creates opportunities for official and unofficial mashups that are every bit as perfect as one would hope. The latest example of this is the Urwerk UR-120, which is dubbed the “Spock.”
For a watch brand that builds spaceships for the wrist the connection already makes sense, but once you see how it works the reference is – *chef’s kiss* – absolutely perfect.
Urwerk UR-120 “Spock”
The UR-120 is a thematic update for the UR-110 using what appears to be a very similar mechanism and dial layout. Even the case is generally the same. But while at first glance it shares much with the UR-110 in essence, when you start to compare the two this is a dramatically different watch that could almost be considered a reboot with a new cast of characters playing familiar roles.
That concept will not be lost on Star Trek fans who have seen multiple iterations of Star Command and character reinterpretations. The UR-120 channels this idea unintentionally when it was dubbed the “Spock” for a very unique feature of the movement.
The display operates similarly to the UR-110 with a triple-arm carriage that rotates once every three hours as each arm passes by the 60-minute scale with the corresponding hour numeral. So far nothing new there.
But the numerals were previously displayed on three rotating cubes that were progressively numbered in a series on each of their four sides, and that is no more. The UR-120 doubles the number of rotating cubes (which are now definitively rectangular) and splits the numbering between two parallel blocks that display half of the numeral.
Whereas before the blocks would simply rotate 90 degrees when they passed by the point opposite the minute scale, the new carriage design is rather different. The two parallel blocks are mounted to a unique system that (thanks to the planetary gearing) still maintains their orientation when rotating around but now splits apart into a V shape once it reaches 60 degrees past the end of the minute scale. The small blocks then rotate one at a time, the lower block first followed by the upper block, before pivoting back together to form a new numeral and then proceed to track the next hour.
This small change represents a major shift in the mechanics of the display as well as a significant reduction in the thickness of the mechanism. Since the blocks are half as large because they only need to contain half of the numeral, the space needed to rotate is much less so the movement and case could be slimmed down for better proportion on the wrist. This change also allowed Urwerk to rethink how the case is constructed as well as how it wears on the wrist, providing an aesthetic and functional upgrade for the UR-120.
Small details are huge
Now the strap attaches to articulating lugs, something seen on the other “spaceship-for-the-wrist” watchmaker, MB&F, and provides more flexibility – figuratively and literally – for various wrist sizes. The case is a bit more streamlined in design and removes the top-side screws, relocating them to the side of the case. It also shrinks in height thanks to the lugs no longer being integrated under the case profile. The edges of the case are a bit more rounded, which makes it feel like an evolution of the starship after a century of voyages.
The smoother surface free of assembly screws transforms back into the old-school Urwerk textures on the rear thanks to the construction of the two-part interlocking clamshellesque case. The rear case, which supports the movement, has two vertical wings that are seen from the front of the watch, each sporting vertical ribbing like a grip surface. These wings have threaded holes that receive the case screws from the top section, but parallel to the movement entering from recesses facing each strap.
Those wings bring the eye around the case edge and onto the rear, where the entire area beneath the winding rotor is ribbed like a floor grate on a space station bridge (one with artificial gravity). There is an arced window into the movement so the wearer can watch the rotor with the Urwerk staple winding turbine pass by. The seven-spoked turbine is dubbed the Windfänger, which means “windcatcher” in German, the mother tongue of both founders, and helps keep the rotor from spinning too aggressively like an air brake.
A seemingly innocuous detail is a cover plate that, as far as I can tell, seals an access hole that is likely only used during assembly and disassembly to remove the crown. It borders said crown and sits opposite the flip-up protective crown guard that is screwed to the bottom case and covered by the top lug cover extensions. The articulating lugs (the one at 6 o’clock is actually sprung like a De Bethune articulating lug) also mount to the bottom case, which acts like a unibody hull for the UR-120.
Being perfectly smooth on the top, the case definitely is a change from the previous models although all the features are still perfectly in line with Urwerk “DNA.” The mechanics are as well, which is to say that the incredibly awesomazing Vulcan-like triple carriage shows the constant efforts of Urwerk founders Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei to develop ever more insane displays. The numeral assemblies on the end of each arm of the carriage are a truly impressive example of ingenious engineering.
The pair of numeral blocks are mounted on two geared pivot arms engaged with the other to move as a unit and held under tension by a legitimately beautiful “lyre-shaped” spring. The springs were machined from ARCAP (a copper-nickel alloy) in-house because of the need to create so many shapes and thicknesses for testing, resulting is a delicate yet strong and anti-magnetic spring for the Spock salute. The arms have precisely machined contours that pass over a finger on the numeral assembly plate, which triggers the V-split of the two blocks as the carriage rotates around the dial.
Next, each block passes over a pin that engages with a four-position Geneva wheel in the block base to advance the block by 90 degrees, exactly how the original UR-110 advanced the larger square number cubes. This visual dance adds complexity to the triple-arm carriage, but the result is totally worth it.
Since there is more to watch on that side of the display, the UR-120 ditches the small seconds, day/night indicator, and the “oil change” service interval display. Now the area underneath the rotating carriage is clean and much more refined, almost like the bridge in Star Trek The Next Generation.
Okay, that might be a stretch of the analogy but the lack of indications cluttering up the area beneath the carriage really opens up the “dial” and makes the UR-120 lighter and more streamlined visually. Given the goals for the UR-120 were to turn the 110 into a “thinner, smoother, and more elegant” piece, I’d say this was a success.
Without departing from the space brutalism aesthetic, Urwerk was able to elevate the design with a few key changes and a really clever mechanism, making the UR-120 one of my favorite Urwerk pieces in recent years.
The piece is also a great example of how a nerdy passion can overlap with another nerdy passion that may not be related but fits so well together. Watches inspired by science fiction and space travel are one of my favorite genres, and to have Urwerk acknowledge just how linked what they create is to well-known properties is such an awesome thing to see.
The UR-120 Spock could also inspire the next crop of imaginative engineers and daydreaming writers, becoming a spark for another mechanical renaissance within watchmaking. So to Frei, Baumgartner, and Urwerk as a whole I say (correctly this time): live long and prosper!
At the risk of disabling the warp drive let’s try to break this down!
- Wowza Factor * 9.7 The original model was already showstopping, but updating the aesthetic and creating such an amazing mechanical upgrade is marvelous!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 97 » 951.245m/s2 Being able to simply watch the dance of the new mechanics is enough to keep me up until earthrise!
- M.G.R. * 68.8 Most Urwerk movements are high scorers but this one is so incredibly geeky it’s a stunner!
- Added-Functionitis * N/A There are no added functions on this watch and Urwerk should be proud! It already stands as an awesomely capable movement so everyone can skip the Gotta-HAVE-That cream and just imagine a ship to the stars with this on the wrist!
- Ouch Outline * 12.1 Stubbing the same toe three days in a row! Stubbing your toe once is pretty annoying but stubbing the same one again brings real pain. A third time becomes something akin to cruel and unusual punishment. If I was able to still walk afterwards, though, I would gladly stub that toe if it meant getting a UR-120 on my wrist!
- Mermaid Moment * It splits! There is nothing more you would need to learn beyond the fact that the numerals split into a V before rotating to get you to commit to a ceremony on the beach!
- Awesome Total * 858.4 Start off with the power reserve in hours (48) and multiply by the thickness of the case in millimeters (15.8) and then add the water resistance in feet (100) for an interstellar awesome total!
For more information, please visit www.urwerk.com/collections/ur-satellite/ur-120.
Quick Facts Urwerk UR-120 “Spock”
Case: 47 x 44 x 15.8 mm, stainless steel and titanium
Movement: automatic Caliber UR-20.01, 48-hour power reserve, 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency
Functions: satellite hours, minutes
Price: CHF 100,000
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