In 1958, the two watchmakers Gilbert Albert (the designer of many ‘odd shaped’ watches for Patek) and Louis Cottier (the inventor of the worldtimer watch) came together to make the world’s first watch with a linear time display. The ambition became nothing less then a technical headache of monumental proportions that would not be solved until 50 years later with the Urwerk UR-CC1!
Cottier applied for a patent in 1959 but after that, no one knows what happened. The linear hour watch displays time on two graduated openings in the case, with the hours and minutes on rollers. The revolutionary design was nicknamed the “Cobra” and was intended to be “Ref. 3414” at Patek Philippe. However, the watch never went in production and instead, the prototype found residence inside the Patek Philippe museum.
The philosophy behind Urwerk UR-CC1
Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei, the creative duo behind Urwerk, wanted to overcome the production issues and create a modern version of the watch.
Time is usually – nearly always – displayed by a circular indication: one dial and two (or three) with the time displayed around a perpetual circle. However, this 360° representation of time goes against everything we have learned: drawing a straight line on a blank page and marking it Past, Present and Future. Why do we think of time as travelling in a straight line yet display it rotating around a circle?
The answer is straightforward: mechanisms that continually rotate are much simpler to produce than those that trace a straight line and then return to zero. In fact, the latter is so difficult that, nobody ever managed to develop a production wristwatch with true retrograde linear displays before Urwerk launched this piece of art.
This is not a watch for the faint hearted with a price tag of approx. $300,000.
Urwerk launched two editions of the UR-CC1 watch; grey gold and black gold named King Cobra and Black Cobra respectively. 50 years after the original patent was filed (1959), the modern time piece pays tribute to the original work of Louis Cottier and Gilbert Albert with a new interpretation of the Cobra.
UR-CC1 Technical Specifications:
- Case: Available in either white gold with titanium case back (limited edition of 25 pieces) or black gold with titanium case back (limited edition of 25 pieces); brushed-satin finish.
- Dimensions: 42.6mm x 53mm x 18mm.
- Movement: Calibre UR-CC1; automatic winding regulated by “fly brake turbine” pneumatic shock absorber.
- Indications: Linear display for hours and minutes with jumping hours and retrograde minutes; second display both digital and linear
- Dial and Bridges: ARCAP P40. Super-LumiNova treatment on hours, minutes displays