While several of the watchmakers taking part in Only Watch 2021 have turned to historical timepieces for inspiration, all have created new watches for the biennial charity auction, except for Urwerk. An intriguing blend of new and vintage, the UR-102 “Gaïa” is actually one of the brand’s earliest watches that’s been given a new case back decor.
Launched in 1997, the UR-102 had a low-cost aluminium case contrasted with a platinum case back, along with a wandering hours display. Urwerk retrieved an original example of the UR-102 to create the Gaïa, which is named after the watchmaking industry prize Urwerk’s twin founders received in 2020. The Gaïa preserves the aluminium case and movement, but its platinum back has been finished with a speckled, blue-lacquer motif inspired by the Gaïa Prize trophy.
While the complexity and materials of the UR-102 “Gaïa” pale in comparison to the brand’s modern-day creations, the Gaïa is significant for the brand both intrinsically and philosophically. The watch itself is historically important, being one of the brand’s first watches, while the reference to the Gaïa Prize is a symbol of Urwerk’s success since the difficult early days when the UR-102 was introduced.
In fact, the watch encapsulates Urwerk’s progress over the past 25 years in a tangible sense, with the aluminium case of its early days now bearing the Gaïa Prize motif that exemplifies its success.
The Gaïa retains much of the original UR-102, a model that was designed by Martin Frei, with its movement built by Felix Baumgartner. And the case was machined and finished by Felix’s brother, Thomas, who departed Urwerk not long after its founding.
Still the original aluminium, the case has been sandblasted and then anodised to give it a pale grey colour. Inside is an ETA automatic movement modified to accommodate a wandering hours display.
The platinum case back has been milled out to create a circular emblem resembling the trophy awarded to winners of the Gaïa Prize, a crystal sphere with an inclined column extending out from its centre. The emblem is lacquered in dark blue with tiny speckles that call to mind the night sky, “symbolising Urwerk’s unswerving resolve to reach for the stars”.
Key facts and price
Urwerk UR-102 “Gaïa”
Diameter: 38 mm
Height: 12 mm
Material: Anodised aluminium with lacquered, platinum case back
Water resistance: 50 m
Functions: Wandering hours and minutes
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 42 hours
Strap: Alligator with pin buckle, additional strap in black fabric
Limited edition: Piece unique
Availability: To be sold at Only Watch on November 6, 2021
Estimate: 32,000-75,000 Swiss francs
For more, visit Onlywatch.com.
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