URWERK EMC Pistol
Lest year we presented the black DLC coated EMC, a model rewarded with two GPHG prizes and earned Felix Baumgartner the title of Watchmaker of the Year in Hong Kong. The EMC concept does not need any introduction, but just in case, the name stands for Electro Mechanical Control, basically enabling the owner to monitor the movement’s timing rate and make the necessary adjustments to suit the lifestyle of the wearer.
The latest version of the EMC, called Pistol, is limited to only five pieces and it is the result of the collaboration between master-engraver Florian Güllert, Joséphine and Sylviane strapmakers, Martin Frei, URWERK’s artistic director, and master-watchmaker Felix Baumgartner.
In his workshop at Klagenfurt, in Austria, master-engraver Florian Güllert is transforming shotguns and handguns into work of art. He started his career as a gunsmith, but early on he realized that for him, guns are merely a canvas. “You can compare engraving on metal with calligraphy, while hammer peening creates such subtle nuances that they cannot be reproduced exactly. Each mark you make is unique and definitive. That is the beauty of craftsmanship,” he confides.
Four or five years ago, one of his clients mentioned URWERK. Curiosity led him to the website. When the watch company contacted him in 2014, he immediately agreed to accept a commission. His only reservation was time; his order book was full and his agenda overloaded. But the desire remained. He received the blueprints of the EMC case and started his research. “I had to find a pattern that contrasted with the very mechanical and technical aspects of the object. I was looking for scrolls and arabesques that would break up the rectilinear architecture of the EMC. It was a rather unusual job for me, because the surface that you can decorate on a watch is restricted. You have to get it right and find a pattern that can be appreciated with an unaided eye.” There was another difficulty: the steel used in the EMC case turned out to be so hard that special tools had to be found. “But the method doesn’t change,” he concludes. “The actions of my hands are the same as those of all engravers throughout the ages. This is what we have in common with fine watchmaking: tradition is at the centre of our craft.”
I have mixed feelings about guns, but Florian Güllert work is truly fascinating. To see some of the guns he decorated visit his website at www.handgraveur.at.
As artistic director of URWERK, Martin Frei constructs watches on paper, painting them in gouache before they assume their mechanical shape.
“What I enjoy about our working sessions at URWERK is listening to Felix and the R&D team solving the technical problems of a watch that only exists as a rough sketch”
For the EMC Pistol, Martin Frei envisaged a watch that displayed contrasting styles. The minimalist design of the top part of the case dissolves into raised engravings. The smooth and satin-finished surfaces of the upper part highlight the decorative work of the lower section.
“This abrupt change in style illustrates our intentions: we wanted an object that was both solid and fluid. Our EMC, which looks uncluttered, gains new strength from this almost baroque decoration. The engraving is similar to that on collectors’ firearms. It is sparing, it doesn’t dominate, yet it provides the final touch that creates surprise — the wow effect.”
Joséphine Morf and Sylviane
Welcome to the little workshops of the Place Simon-Goulart in Geneva’s old watchmaking district of Saint Gervais. Hidden in an attic you find the Portalès leather company, presided over by its owner, Joséphine Morf, and Sylviane, her nimble-fingered worker.
These two ladies are well known in watchmaking circles for their skill. Their speciality is the high-grade leather strap, the exceptional adjunct to outstanding watches.
“We make each item more or less on an individual basis and for very small series ordered by watchmakers and manufacturers of luxury leather goods,” Joséphine explains. “URWERK’s order at first took us by surprise,” she adds. “They wanted a part of the skin that we very seldom use because it is in relief. The straps we made are truly three dimensional with a series of small ridges.”
For the Pistol collection, they made five unique straps, that they consider to be their finest to date.
Felix Baumgartner, the son and grandson of watchmakers, founded URWERK with Martin Frei and has presided over the fortunes of their company for the past 18 years. The EMC is his Holy Grail, his dream come true and the watch with which he renewed his skills and demonstrated that his commitment to fine watchmaking is as strong as ever.
The EMC that he conceived is first of all based on URWERK’s proprietary movement — a chronometer movement with an original balance wheel and twin barrels. It’s also a crazy idea: an electronic device that oversees the proper operation of the watch by monitoring the sprung balance at its heart. The result is a mechanical timepiece that can be adjusted by its owner to achieve the best possible timekeeping performance. “Our aim was to give each EMC owner the information that hitherto could only be supplied by a watchmaker using sophisticated equipment. To achieve this we had to take a fresh look at the mechanism and redesign it from scratch to provide information that could be seen and analysed,” Felix Baumgartner explains.