Urwerk Introduces the UR-220 “Falcon Project”

Now hand-wound and in carbon composite.

Urwerk has just revealed the next generation of its flagship wristwatch – the UR-220 “Falcon Project”. Retaining the same case shape and signature satellite-cube hour display as its predecessor, the UR-210, the “Falcon Project” is nonetheless an entirely different watch.

The UR-220 is powered by a newly-developed movement that hand-wound, instead of automatic as before, and in a first for the brand, the case is made of carbon composite, matched with a rubber-carbon composite strap.

Initial thoughts

A landmark in avant-garde independent watchmaking for its three-dimensional wandering hours, the UR-201 evolved into the UR-203 and then the UR-210. The new UR-220 is an incremental improvement in the same vein, though a substantial one. I had hoped for a brand-new time display to succeed the satellite-cube indicator, but that is perhaps something for the distant future.

Even though the UR-220 retains the same general aesthetic on the front, it is fundamentally different mechanically. The movement has been substantially reengineered – the base remains the Zenith Elite calibre in the UR-210 but now minus automatic mechanism – and now incorporates new functions like the cylindrical service indicator.

It also sees the addition of a split power-reserve display, which Urwerk says was a complex mechanism requiring 83 parts. While that may be true, it feels unnecessary, except to give the face a symmetrical layout.

But one of the most significant changes is the case material. Urwerk watches have always been heavy, even in titanium. Combined with the large and angular cases, that made for so-so ergonomics at best.

Carbon composite is no longer novel, being very common, but its use for the UR-220 case makes sense. The lightweight case, along with the stiff and snug-fitting strap, should make the UR-220 the most comfortable Urwerk to date.

Return of the “instrument panel”

The dial retains the familiar layout of the earlier generation. Hours are indicated by three rotating cubes, and minutes a retrograde hand tipped in a large, luminous arrow.

An important, but subtle tweak, in the time display lies in the typography – Urwerk cofounder Martin Frei created a new stencil-like font with a sci-fi-military style that matches the look of the watch perfectly.

A new feature introduced on the UR-220 is the split power-reserve indicator. The power reserve indicator at one o’clock measures the last 24 hours of power reserve – meaning it starts moving when the watch is first wound – while the second indicator at 11 o’clock is for the next 24 hours. Once a watch is fully wound, the second indicator starts falling as the watch runs. And when the second indicator hits zero, the first indicator starts its journey backwards.

The UR-220 revives the “instrument panel” case back found on the brand’s earlier watches. Here it is essentially a single display – an oversized service indicator that counts the total running time of the watch on two rollers. At 39 months, or three-and-quarter years, the rollers halt, indicating a service is recommend (although probably not critical).

The service indicator only functions when the watch is running, and not when the movement is stopped. It has activated by the owner by first removing a long “security pin” on the back, and then sliding a button upwards, starting the count of the rollers. It is a non-reversible procedure that can only be reset by a watchmaker.

With the security pin in place

Pulling out the security pin

Carbon composite

The case is machine from a carbon composite comprised of 81 thin sheets of carbon arranged concentrically, giving it a radiating pattern on the front, and numerous parallel layers on the side.

And the strap is rubber with a carbon fabric inlay of sorts, and more importantly, a Velcro fastener, which will probably give it an excellent fit on the wrist.

Key facts and price

Urwerk UR-220 “Falcon Project” Carbon Edition

Case diameter: 43.8 mm by 53.6 mm
Case height: 14.8 mm
Material: Carbon composite CTP with titanium case back
Water resistance: 30 m

Movement: UR-7.20
Features: Satellite cube hours and retrograde minutes; double power-reserve displays; and “oil change” indicator
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Winding: Hand-wind
Power reserve: 48 hours

Strap: Rubber with Velcro fastener

Availability: At Urwerk retailers from mid September 2020
Price: 145,000 Swiss francs; or 223,200 Singapore dollars

For more, visit Urwerk.com.

Correction September 15, 2020: The base movement is still the Zenith Elite, and not another calibre as stated in an earlier version of the article.

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Auction Watch: Sotheby’s to Sell Legendary, Royal Breguet Pocket Watches

Including the Prince Regent’s Resonance.

Sotheby’s watch auction at the end of October will be headlined by a trio of historically important and highly complicated Breguet pocket watches that were all once owned by royalty, and then part of the David Salomons Breguet collection.

The top lot will unquestionably be Breguet no. 2788, nicknamed “The Prince Regent’s Resonance”, an experimental 1818 watch with twin balance wheels operating on the principle of resonance.

[Update October 27, 2020: The sale of watches from The Museum for Islamic Art will be postponed until sometime in November 2020, due to the museum having decided to rethink the deaccessioning of part of its collection.]

The twin balance wheels of Breguet no. 2788

Given their hallowed provenance, the trio of Breguet watches being offered for sale is surprising, but perhaps in keeping with the times. Despite the golden age of pocket watch collecting having seemingly come to an end – or perhaps because of it – several important pocket watches have sold well in the last two years. Amongst the recent highlights is one of the oldest watches known, the 369-year old Cremsdorff preserved in mint condition, and the 20th century masterpiece by George Daniels.

The majority of those came from the massive collection put together by the late Erivan Haub, a supermarket tycoon who was perhaps the most important collector of pocket watches in his day. Sotheby’s upcoming London auction, however, has a handful of exceptionally important pocket watches from a more illustrious collection, The Museum for Islamic Art, an institution in Jerusalem better known as the L.A. Mayer Museum for Islamic Art.

Salomons’ Breguets

Because the museum was established by Sir David Lionel Salomons (1851-1925), a British inventor and businessman who put together the world’s largest collection of Breguet timepieces, its collection includes a magnificent selection of watches, including the legendary Marie Antoinette pocket watch no. 160 (which was famously stolen and then recovered).

Some of its collection, ranging from Islamic art to watches, will be sold at Sotheby’s in London, with the timepieces going under the hammer on October 28, 2020.

“We have been careful to select for sale works which, for the most part, are either duplicated in the collection or were held in storage,” says museum chairman Herbert Winter. “Their sale will not only secure the future of the museum, but will allow us to maintain and display our wonderful collection in an appropriate manner, and – importantly – it will allow us to expand on the educational community projects which align so closely both with our founding mission and with our future vision.”

The museum’s future will certainly be helped by the sale of Breguet no. 2788 “Prince Regent’s Resonance” because it was acquired by the Prince Regent as a gift to his father, King George III, in 1818. Estimated at £400,000-600,000, or about US$500,000-800,000, the watch was one of the most expensive Breguet watches at the time.

The inner case back of no. 2788 featuring an equation of time chart

Equipped with two balance wheels mounted so close they almost touch – bringing to mind the modern-day F.P. Journe Resonance that no doubt took inspiration from this – the movement was conceived to keep better time as a result of resonance occurring between the two balance wheels.

The movement of no. 2788

The twin, symmetrically-arranged balance wheels

The application of the idea was likely unsuccessful, as Breguet only produced a tiny number of such watches, with just three known today.

Another notable Breguet in the sale is the Breguet no. 148 “Duc de Praslin”, the Perpétuelle once owned by the French nobleman who owned several Breguet watches. Incorporating both Breguet’s automatic-winding mechanism – hence perpétuelle – as well as a minute repeater, the watch also features a chronometer escapement. It has an estimate of £250,000-350,000, or about US$320,000-450,000.

And the third highlight in the sale is Breguet no. 1806 “Princess Murat”, a pocket watch equipped with a thermometer once owned by Princess Murat, better known as Caroline Bonaparte, which is estimated at £200,000-300,000, or US$250,000-400,000.

One of the most enthusiastic clients of Breguet, the Princess bought some three dozen timepieces from the watchmaker, including an early jewellery watch designed to be worn on the wrist. That long-lost wristwatch is the inspiration for the modern day Reine de Naples, named after the princess, whose husband was Joachim Murat, King of Naples.

The watches will be sold at the Watches auction taking place in London on October 28, 2020 at Sotheby’s located at 34-35 New Bond Street.

Correction September 16, 2020: The inside case back of the no. 2788 is an equation of time chart, and not an annual calendar.

Update October 27, 2020: The sale of watches from The Museum for Islamic Art will be postponed until sometime in November 2020, due to the museum having decided to rethink the deaccessioning of part of its collection.

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Franck Muller Introduces the Cintrée Curvex Master Banker Asia Exclusive

The OG triple time zone.

A pioneer in independent watchmaking, Franck Muller was most famous for its graceful tonneau-shaped case but the brand was also particularly productive with complications in the 1990s and early 2000s. Amongst its most notable inventions were the double-face chronograph and whimsical Crazy Hours.

But the brand’s technical creativity was present at the other end of utility spectrum as well – something exemplified by the Master Banker, a wristwatch unveiled in 1993 that boasted three separate time zones, each with independent hours and minutes.

Now the watch has been given a new lease of life as the Cintrée Curvex Master Banker Asia Exclusive, that’s available in two case sizes, seven distinct colours, and various case materials, including steel, rose gold, and diamond-set rose gold.

Initial thoughts

Although powered by a humble ETA base movement, the Master Banker is a surprisingly accomplished complication, yet smartly constructed to be simple and robust.

The time zone complication is practical for tracking times in multiple countries, but it is rarely instantly legible, especially when multiple time zones are displayed. With two largish sub-dials – each with their own hour and minute hands – the Master Banker solves the problem instantly.

Not only is it legible, each of its sub-dials can be set to time zones with unconventional offsets – like 45 minutes for Kathmandu – allowing the watch to track any time zone in the world. The only downside of the display is a lack of day and night indicator for the time zones.

Utility aside, the watch is beautifully designed. The visual appeal of Franck Muller’s styling is often forgotten because its newer designs are over the top, but the brand’s older models are usually classical with flair. Here it’s a made a little more modern with the use of bright colours for the sub-dials, which have an appealing contrast against the black dial.

And something specific to these two watches – in the 8880 or 7880 sizes – is that the cases might be a little too large. They still wear well because of the shape, but lose some of the elegance of the smaller sizes.

Though it is a smart and appealing watch, the Master Banker is expensive. With the steel version priced at about about 24,000 Singapore dollars, or about US$17,000, it is too pricey for a relatively simple – albeit clever – complication on a economical base movement.

Technical and aesthetic genius

Now the iconic case of the brand, the Cintree Curvex case was actually a successful reinterpretation of 1930s tonneau-shaped watches – the Cartier tonneau in particular since Mr Muller restored early in his career. The case is curved on three axes, creating an inimitable shape that is both fluid and ergonomic – and yet to be duplicated successfully by rivals.

Within is the ETA-based movement – which relies on a notably simple yet clever construction – with the gears for second and third time zone meshed with the gear train for the local, or primary, time. As such, the crown adjusts all of the time zones simultaneously, or each sub-dial individually, without the need for buttons or pushpins.

Key Facts and Price

Franck Muller Cintrée Curvex Master Banker Asia Exclusive
Ref. 8880 MB SCDT (Extra large)
Ref. 7880 MB SCDT (large)

Case diameter: Ref. 8880 – 55.4 mm x 39.6 mm; Ref. 7880 – 50.4 mm x 36 mm
Case height: Ref. 8880 – 11.8 mm; Ref. 7880 – 11.6 mm
Material: steel, blackened steel, or 18k rose gold
Water resistance: 30 m

Movement: Cal. MVD 2800-MBSC
Features: Hours, minutes, seconds, and date; second and third time zone display
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve: 42 hours

Strap: Leather strap

Limited edition: 700 pieces 
 Franck Muller boutiques and retailers in Asia
23,947 Singapore dollars in steel, large (approximately US$17,600)
27,157 Singapore dollars in steel, extra large (approximately US$20,000)
36,894 Singapore dollars in rose gold, large (approximately US$27,000)
40,104 Singapore dollars in rose gold, extra large (approximately US$29,500)

For more, visit franckmuller.com


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