Urwerk TimeHunter X-Ray

The unorthodox EMC TimeHunter is a watch in the subversive URWERK tradition. This unique concept combines a precision mechanical movement with an electronic module that monitors its rate. Simply by pressing a button you discover whether your watch is running fast or slow and the amplitude of its balance. Furthermore, you can adjust it accordingly for optimum timekeeping. The EMC concept, introduced in 2013, has won watchmaking’s most prestigious awards, but how well do you know the EMC TimeHunter? Can you describe its inner workings or the play of wheels and pinions that ensure its chronometric performance? To give you an idea, URWERK presents the TimeHunter X-Ray, a limited edition of 15 watches that delivers a conceptual and stylistic knockout.

The TimeHunter X-Ray comes across as a timepiece that is easy to read with a central dial for black hours and minutes hands coated with white SuperLuminova for enhanced contrast. A rotating disc showing the seconds at 1 o’clock is balanced at 7 o’clock by a power-reserve indicator. The EMC TimeHunter’s performance indicator showing its rate (± 15 seconds a day) and balance amplitude on demand are at 10 o’clock. On the back of the watch the movement can be seen through the sapphire crystal. Also on the back is the rate-adjustment screw, one of the nerve centres of this watch. For Martin Frei, co-founder and artistic director of URWERK “the back of the watch reveals two opposing worlds sharing the same case: electronic circuits and the finest mechanical movement. They invite you to find out more — specifically how this unusual timepiece works. The same goes for the face of the watch, for the TimeHunter X-Ray as its name says it, hides nothing. The mechanism, wheel-train, electronic circuits, indeed all the secret operations of the watch are displayed for its owner.”

How it works

The energy for the electronic rating module is generated by turning a crank. When the button is pressed, a hand points to one of two symbols: δ (the rate is being measured) or P (insufficient energy). If the measurement is possible the hand first points to the rate — ± 15 seconds a day — and then, after a short pause, the amplitude of the balance. In addition, a light emitting diode shows green if the watch is performing correctly and red if the rate is outside acceptable tolerances.

What is amplitude and how is it measured by the EMC TimeHunter?

While the rate of a watch, its daily gain or loss, can be easily understood, the amplitude of its balance is less obvious. This measures in degrees of arc the swing of a pendulum in a clock or of an oscillating balance wheel in a watch.
In theory, each oscillation of a pendulum or a balance must be isochronous. That is to say that it must be of exactly the same duration, irrespective of its amplitude. In most mechanical watches, an amplitude of between 240° and 310° ensures optimal performance. Since the tiny balance wheel of a watch weighs so little and swings so quickly at four oscillations a second, its amplitude can be affected by a variety of factors. For example, if the balance staff is insufficiently lubricated it will lose amplitude. The amplitude is thus a valuable indicator of whether the watch needs servicing. The balance is the beating heart of every mechanical watch. Like a human heart, its rhythm (isochronism) and pulse (amplitude) show the state of its health.

What can be seen at the back of the watch?

Apart from the sophisticated finish of the movement, the key features of the back of the EMC TimeHunter are the adjustment screw and the push-button at the bottom of the dial between the lugs that releases the winding crown. Noticeable in the movement is the cover of the twin barrels that houses the optical sensors measuring the oscillations. The sensors are linked by a tiny cable to the electronic components to its right, which can be seen behind a lattice. Next to the integrated circuit board can be seen the stacked twin barrels.

For URWERK, the crazy idea of incorporating a workbench instrument within a watch represented the ultimate challenge. “Simply by pressing a button you get accurate and reliable information on the timekeeping status of your EMC TimeHunter, hitherto only available from a professional,” Felix Baumgartner explains. “Thanks to this system, you can safely interact with one of the most exhilarating mechanisms invented by man, the mechanical watch.”

The EMC TimeHunter concepts has three aims: to show the effect on the balance of external influences such as the temperature, pressure and the owner’s activity; to allow the owner to adjust the rate of the balance and to encourage the owner to interact with his watch.

The EMC TimeHunter can be described as a precise mechanical watch with a proprietary movement designed, developed and manufactured in URWERK’s workshops and adjusted by URWERK in Geneva. Its movement complies with the highest quality standards. Its timekeeping functions are adjusted in five positions during a 30-day test to reach chronometer standards.

The EMC TimeHunter movement has the following features:

– Its balance wheel is made of ARCAP, an alloy chosen by URWERK for its non-magnetic and anti-corrosive qualities. Its unusual shape has been scientifically calculated to be aerodynamic and minimise the effects of air friction and to achieve an optimal amplitude.

– Its twin mainsprings are housed in two superimposed barrels to ensure a constant power supply and a power reserve of 80 hours.

– Its exterior adjustment screw, connected to the fast/slow index on the balance, enables the rate to be adjusted by changing the effective length of the balance spring.

The EMC TimeHunter’s monitoring device has the following characteristics:

– An optical sensor of the balance wheel, which times each vibration (semi-oscillation) of the 28,800 v/h (4Hz) balance for three seconds. The sensor consists of a light source and a receiver on either side of the balance wheel. Pressing a button on the left of the watchcase activates the measurement.

– A 16 million Hz quartz resonator constitutes the frequency reference of the EMC TimeHunter. The 4 Hz frequency of the mechanical balance is compared to that of the resonator to obtain the most precise measurement possible.

– A smart electronic chip calculates the difference (δ) between the rate of the balance and that of the reference resonator. Each microsecond of difference corresponds to a gain or loss of a second a day in the rate of the movement. Thus a variation of 0.0000014 seconds in each vibration translates into a gain or loss of one second a day.

– A hand-cranked generator. The power for the optical sensor and electronic calculator of the EMC TimeHunter is derived from a generator made by the Swiss Maxon firm, which developed the motors for the Nasa Mars expedition.

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The TimeHunter X-Ray confirms the advent of the mechanical watch enhanced by electronic functions that provide a diagnosis of its timekeeping performance. Such a watch gives its owner the active role of getting the best performance from his timepiece.

Retail Price: $125,000 USD. For more info. on URWERK, Click Here.

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