By: DANIEL NOVELA
When an innovative Swiss watch maker set out to pay homage to an ancient civilization, it delivered big on a timeless treasure.
“Every company should have a laboratory where it’s doing the crazy stuff,” says Martin Frei, the chief designer and co-founder of Urwerk, one of the most innovative and design-forward watch companies in Switzerland.
Case in point: the new UR100V, aka the first watch from Urwerk’s new Time and Culture Line. And it’s crazy stuff, indeed. As the name implies, the watch takes inspiration from the expression of time as envisioned by various cultures. In this case, the muse is Aztec Empire and its Sun Stone. The Sun Stone, carved in the late 15th century, was lost and buried, presumably by the Spanish conquistadors, only to be rediscovered in 18th century Mexico. It is now proudly displayed in the National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City. The vestige is a carved representation of the Aztec calendar that interestingly conisists of 18 months, 20 days and five nemontemi (none days). Though the Aztecs did not account for leap years, their calendar system was impressive nonetheless. To echo that ingenuity, the Sun Stone was reinterpreted by Urwerk in a most innovative way.
In its signature fashion, Urwerk time display appears magically from under the dome cover. Once the 60th minute passes, the minute’s indicator disappears. Instead of just rotating around a central axis, the display reappears on the side of the case, but this time as a kilometer counter. This measures the kilometers covered every 20 minutes by those located in Mexico as well as the planetary rotation computed in Mexico City. On the other side of the case, another indicator shows the earth’s revolution around the sun every 20 minutes, offering three measures of time, all based on the movement of our planet. These indicators pay homage to the Sun Stone’s unique 20-day calendar system.
The UR-100V is presented in an antique copper finish. The Sun Stone is carved onto its alloy dome that covers the movement. The intricate carving requires a magnifying glass for true appreciation, but it’s a bit of a puzzle, too. Hidden in plain sight is a signature; an acronym and Mayan numbering offered to be deciphered. Urwerk’s Time and Culture time is a real treasure hunt, indeed.