Urwerk Takes Control of Time

Urwerk Takes Control of Time

March 6, 2017

Time: it’s by far the most valuable resource we have, so it’s worth measuring accurately. But no matter how well made or how well-regulated a wristwatch is, the unique activities and environments of individual owners can detrimentally affect chronometric performance. The EMC enables its wearer to both monitor the health (amplitude) of the watch and its precision as worn on the wrist. Accuracy can then be easily adjusted for each owner’s lifestyle. Interactivity is at the heart of the EMC concept and is the real added value of the precision watch.

The EMC Time Hunter X-Ray is a fully 100% mechanical watch with electronically enhanced indications.

It features a highly legible time display with central hours and minutes indicated with high-contrast black hands enhanced with bright white Super-LumiNova. A rotating disk displaying seconds at 1 o’clock is visually balanced by the power reserve indicator at its antipode at 7 o’clock. The Super-LumiNova also ensures high legibility at night as it glows in blue and white.

The EMC’s electronic indications for precision and amplitude.

The dial in the top left corner at 10 o’clock displays the two EMC electronic indications: timekeeping precision to +/- 15 seconds per day and the amplitude of the balance. Turning EMC over reveals the fully in-house movement with integrated circuit board (the EMC “brain”), the top of one of the two mainspring barrels near the crown, and the top of the balance wheel and optical sensor on the winding handle side.

What benefit does EMC Time Hunter X-Ray offer to its wearer? When a watch is regulated (its precision tested and adjusted) by the watchmaker before it is sold, it is usually placed on a continually rotating arm in a fairly temperature-stable room. The rotating arm ensures that the watch spends fairly equal time all positions. But the timing of a mechanical watch changes slightly in each position as well as with changes in temperature. So in the real world of a watch on the wrist, how long it spends in each position (on average) will depend on the wearer’s activities: work, leisure, and how long each day it is actually worn. Two different people wearing the same watch for a week will find that its accuracy differs because the watch will have experienced different positions in different activities over the week.

Urwerk will only produce 15 EMC Time Hunter X-Rays.

EMC enables the wearer to note how many seconds the watch gains or loses in a week (or month), to adjust the precision, and then test that precision using the EMC function to confirm that the adjustment is correct. This extra functionality allows the EMC to be fine-tuned to be as precise as possible for a specific wearer’s lifestyle and even to evolve with any changes.

How It Works: The fold-out crank handle is first wound to generate power for the EMC indications – there are no batteries – which is then stored in a super capacitor. After winding, a hand indicates either δ (processing underway) or P (not enough power). The EMC hand will then first indicate the movement’s precision to +/- 15 seconds per day for a few seconds, followed by the amplitude of the balance, the latter being a good indicator of the health of a movement and if it requires servicing. As well as these two indications, a LED on the precision display between -5 and -15 seconds will shine either green for “all okay,” or red if one or both of the EMC indications fall outside acceptable parameters.

The precision of the movement can then be simply adjusted faster or slower by turning the screw on the back of the watch. This allows the user to adjust the time to suit their own lifestyle.

What is amplitude and why does EMC measure amplitude? While the concept of precision (as in how many seconds a day a watch is running fast or slow) is fairly easy to understand, amplitude of the balance is less obvious. The precision of a grandfather clock is regulated by a pendulum swinging back and forth, and the precision of a wristwatch is regulated by a balance wheel with a hairspring inside oscillating back and forth. “Amplitude” is how far in degrees the pendulum or the balance wheel moves through each oscillation.

PVD coats the titanium and steel case.

While in theory both pendulums and balance wheels should be isochronous at all amplitudes, i.e. each oscillation should take exactly the same time whether swinging through a small or large distance, in practice the balance in most wristwatch movements should oscillate with an amplitude between 220° and 280° for maximum efficiency. Because the tiny balance wheel has relatively low mass and oscillates so quickly (back and forth four times each second), the slightest degradation in the lubricating oil of the balance staff (axel) manifests in lower amplitude. So balance amplitude is a good indicator for a movement being “healthy” or needing service.

The balance is the very “heart” of nearly every mechanical watch movement. And as with our own heart, the strength of its beat (amplitude) and the regularity of its beat (precision) are good indicators of health.

“As a watchmaker, I am quite proud of Urwerk developing, manufacturing, and regulating our own balance wheel for EMC as very few brands actually make and regulate their own balances and they really are the heart of mechanical movements,” explains Urwerk’s co-founding master watchmaker Felix Baumgartner.

What’s on the back? Two things to note on the back of the EMC before we delve into the nicely finished movement are the timing precision adjustment screw at the top for fine tuning the precision of the movement and the neat pusher at the bottom between the lugs that cleverly pops the crown out. Looking through the display back into the movement we see the cover over the balance housing the optics that measure the precise rate of oscillation of the balance, with a tiny cable leading to the electronics visible through a grill on the right. The vertically stacked double mainspring barrels are also prominently visible beside the electronic circuit board.

A circuit board is integrated with the mechanical movement.

The audacious idea of incorporating a Witschi-like measuring instrument in a mechanical watch became a veritable quest for Urwerk. “The new EMC allows you to obtain a reliable and accurate piece of data on your timepiece at the touch of a button – information that until now has been the preserve of professional watchmakers,” says Baumgartner. “Using this information, you can fine tune one of the most exciting, most jubilant mechanisms invented – the mechanical watch – all by yourself.”

At its heart, the EMC has a triple objective: to show how external parameters (positional changes, temperature, and pressure) influence the timing of the movement; to enable the wearer to adjust the timing; and to facilitate interactivity between the timepiece and its owner.

EMC is inherently a precision mechanical watch with an in-house movement conceived, developed, and crafted in the Urwerk ateliers in Zurich and calibrated by Urwerk in Geneva. The movement meets the most stringent quality control, with its chronometric performance tested in five positions during a 30-day cycle to ensure that it meets the highest standards for a precision watch.

EMC Time Hunter X-Ray marks the dawn of a new era; that of a fully mechanical watch enhanced by electronics allowing the owner to gauge both the state of the movement and its chronometric performance. EMC also enables the user to fine-tune the timing of the watch to better suit individual daily rhythm and pace of life.