Where Richard Mille helped to subtly usher in a new world of horology, URWERK really founded what I now call Contemporary Horology. From the advent of the quartz era until the late 1990’s, watchmakers had been focused on the past – slightly changing the same watches over and over again. The 103 is a true landmark piece. It represents a watchmaker and designer of an entirely new generation (my generation!) creating a piece of horology from their own point of view. The sci-fi references, casual style and rethinking of the entire time-telling device is all decidedly post-quartz. This is the moment where I believe we can start viewing watches as art pieces.
Like most good art, it did not catch on immediately. Richard Mille had drawn on familiar characteristics of a watch to ease people into the modern world. URWERK did away with all of that. I recall an early 103 piece sitting in a lonely showcase seemingly forever. Now collectors salivate over it.
Personally, I must admit that I did not fully “get it” until the 103.03, the first time the case was opened up to reveal more of the mechanism. I bought one of the first pieces to come into the country – my first “super exotic”. If Richard Mille is a Ferrari, now we are talking about a Pagani Zonda. The watch really felt like it was of my generation – I was proud to wear it.
As an aside, my wife, who is much smarter and infinitely more stylish than I am, “got it” immediately. When she had the opportunity to buy herself a really nice watch, she picked a rose gold 103.09 – shown below in a his and hers shot.