SIHH 2016: The Urwerk Geneve EMC Time Hunter
At SIHH 2016 Urwerk Geneve announced the EMC Time Hunter, the only watch in the world that allows the wearer to measure the precision of timekeeping, amplitude of the balance wheel and then adjust the precision of the watch yourself.
When you stop and think about how personal the experience of owning a watch can be, it might seem odd that every five years or so you have to hand over your treasured possession to a complete strange to dismantle. Until a watchmaker is able to solve the problem of lubrication and create a movement resilient enough to withstand daily wear without alteration to the timekeeping servicing will always be part of a watches life. But how do we know whether our watch needs a service? For the most part humans are completely dreadful at analysis based off our own experiences yet we entrust ourselves to judge when our watch needs a service. Your father's manual wind Omega that has been sitting in a drawer for 10 years will probably need some tender loving care but what about your daily wear? No-one is going to keep daily logs of time variations and no-one is able to perceive the changes as they happen. It is only when the time keeping is completely inaccurate that we take out watch in. Thanks to Urwerk Geneve and their new EMC Time Hunter you'll know exactly when the watch needs a service.
I will admit that when I first saw the EMC Time Hunter I dismissed it. Flicking through Instagram I saw the large matte green case with what looked like an antenna reaching out and I thought it was just another adventurers watch like the Breitling Emergency II. How wrong I was.
The EMC Time Hunter (Can we just a round of applause for that name?) is the world's first watch that allows the wearer to measure the precision of the watch and the amplitude of the balance wheel. What is amplitude and why is it important? The amplitude is how many degrees the balance wheel moves with each oscillation with the ideal amount being somewhere between 220 and 280 degrees. As the balance wheel is such a small object yet oscillates so quickly, a change of temperature or variations on the watch's position will affect the frequency and therefore the accuracy of the watch. Don't be fooled into thinking this is some smart-watch fad however as the Time Hunter has a 100% mechanical movement and the optical sensor that 'reads' the balance wheel doesn't need any batteries. Instead it is powered by a small super capacitor that is charged by the crank on the case side.
Back in 2014 Urwerk released the EMC Black which was the first watch with an optical sensor and precision read out. In just two years Urwerk have developed the technology to allow amplitude to be analyzed as well. I find the Time Hunter a much better looking watch with a cleaner dial with a more symmetrical layout as opposed to the small sub-dials as the EMC Black. Working clockwise round the dial you have the small seconds indicator at 1 o'clock with the a traditional dial showing hour and minute beneath taking up most of the space. It might seem odd to reference the existence of a hour/minute dial but when you're talking about Urwerk, anything traditional is worth noting. At 7 o'clock you have the power reserve indicator and then at 10 o'clock you have the EMC indicator which displays both the precision and amplitude.
"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 the mechanical movement" Felix Baumgartner, Watchmaker and Co-Founder of Urwerk Geneve.
The importance of knowing the precision of your watch whilst in use cannot be overstated as it will be a far more accurate representation compared to the testing done before sale. At the manufacture, the watch will be set in a rotating arm whilst the precision is measured and that arm moves the watch to several different positions during testing (Crown up, Crown drown, etc.) The temperature in the testing environment is also changed consistently as well. To use my favorite criticism of psychological experiments whilst at high school, this measurement 'lacks mundane realism' as it doesn't accurately reflect how a watch is worn in real life at different, constantly shifting positions. This is where the EMC comes in.
Urwerk have three objectives with the EMC: To show how external parameters influence the timing of the movement, to enable the wearer to adjust the timing and to facilitate interactivity between the timepiece and it's owner. The crank on the right side of the case directly charges the supercapacitor which powers the optical sensor that measures the balance wheel. It is truly staggering that the engineers and watchmakers at Urwerk were able to miniaturize the optical sensor to fit into a watch and then not have it require a battery. For those old enough (and hipsters like me) to remember using 35mm cameras, the pleasure of using a mechanical crank is a very good one.
Once the capacitor is charged, a press of the button at 7 o'clock will activate the sensor which 'reads' the balance wheel for three seconds using an internal frequency of 16,000,000hz as a reference. The EMC indicator at 10 o'clock spins into life, first stopping it's hand to show the precision of the watch to within +/- 15 seconds and then displaying the amplitude of the balance wheel between 180 to 330 degrees. After this either a green or red LED will shine to confirm that everything is okay or that the watch needs a service. If the wearer is unhappy with the precision of the watch, they can adjust the balance wheel by tightning or loosening a screw on the caseback, recharge the capacitor and see if their change was for the better.
Needless to say that this movement inside the Time Hunter is completely in-house. The balance is made of an alloy called ARCAP (Used before in the EMC Black) which has excellent non-magnetic and anti-correseive properties. The balance has to be near perfect and consistent as possible otherwise the data received by the optical sensor won't be reliable. It is completely wild to me that this isn't a concept watch or a one-of-a-kind bespoke piece. Yes there are only twenty four in the world, twelve in titanium/steel and twelve in green coated titanium/steel costing $150,000 but it's still a watch made. The likes of you or I won't be able to afford it but I believe the Time Hunter is the biggest piece of horological news to come out of SIHH this year. Biggest in terms of technological achievement and also case size as the EMC measures 43mm x 51mm and stands 13.5mm tall. Let's hope your wrist is as big as your wallet.
The movement boasts an impressive 80 hours power reserve and is finished in Cotes de Geneve and whilst not traditionally beautiful like a Lange movement, it does have a certain appeal and I like it . I wagered that as this was the first SIHH to include nine new independents that they would bring their all in terms of watchmaking and Urwerk has definitely done so. For more information on the Urwerk Geneve EMC Time Hunter, click here.