Watches: Urwerk EMC Collection (+live pics & video)

By Thierry Ané on November 19, 2014

The prestigious “Mechanical Exception Watch Prize” and “Innovation Watch Prize” that Urwerk rightfully won at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève 2014 (GPHG) as well as the presence of the EMC Black DLC Titanium and Steel at Salon QP last week] give us the opportunity to come back on the two renditions of one of the most surprising timepieces unveiled this year by the watch community, the “Electro Mechanical Control” or in short Urwerk’s EMC marvel of technology!

The first thing unsettling for a watch that has won not one, but two prizes at the very conservative GPHG is the “Electro” in the name , short for “electronics”, meaning the presence of what Haute Horlogerie is all against in a high-end mechanical timepiece. It really takes a lot of courage and all the visionary thinking of this small independent brand to embark upon such a risky venture…

In a nutshell, the EMC is the world’s first 100% mechanical timepiece not only enabling the owner to monitor the movement’s timing rate but also allowing simple adjustments of the timing to suit the daily rhythm and lifestyle of its owner. It is entirely conceived, developed and created by Urwerk with all the patents to prove it, and uses electronic components only for the timing rate monitoring unit that remains powered by manual winding.

On the 43.00 x 51.00 mm case that fits comfortably on the wrist with a thickness of just 15.80 mm two circular sapphire crystals on the right-hand side provide the usual seconds (upper window) and hours and minutes (lower window) information. A small sectorial aperture on the bottom-left corner tells you how much of the 80 hours of power reserve is left before you have to re-wind this manual movement. The large crescent-shaped crystal on the top-left corner is dedicated to the completely original performance indicator display.

When activated on demand by a push button it reveals the precision of the watch by indicating the rate’s delay/lead on a scale ranging from -20 to +20 seconds per day. Basically, the watchmakers have introduced an optical sensor that captures the timing rate of a specially designed balance wheel in a few seconds (3-4 to be exact). Then, a micro-computer compares the observed rate against an ultra-fast (16,000,000 Hz!) reference oscillator to calculate the isochronism of the movement. The timing irregularities (in microseconds) are than expressed as a daily loss or gain in seconds on the dial. An adjustment screw on the back then allows you to fine-tune the rate if necessary by changing the active length of the balance spring.

This innovative complication requires its own source of energy to operate, hence the presence of a handle on the right-side of the case. Before any measurement can be made, the owner needs to manually wind the generator charging the performance indicator. It is really ultra-fun to wind this micro-generator made for Urwerk by the Swiss company Maxon, which is well-known for developing motors for NASA’s Mars rovers and only takes a dozen of spins.

There are two versions of the “Electro Mechanical Control” watch. The first model introduced at the beginning of the year features a titanium and steel case and the second iteration plays on the all-black trend with a black DLC titanium and steel frame. Both are mounted on a finely crafted black alligator strap secured by a titanium pin buckle with or without black DLC coating depending on the version. On both models a large sapphire window on the back lets you admire the mechanical movement and its superlative finish together as the electronic components of the rate performance module just slightly less obviously display thanks to a very clever grid.

Côtes de Genève, snailing, micro-bead blasting, polished bevels on screws… everything screams traditional Haute Horlogerie on this impressive calibre that also shows its inclination towards the future with the use and display of a high-tech integrated circuit board. No wonder that with all these attributes the brand was so deservedly awarded this year at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève 2014!

For more information please visit the Urwerk web site.

For a technical description of the timepieces and additional pictures: