Building a Replica of an Ultraluxury Watch

In the world of late-stage capitalism, unchecked redistribution of wealth to the upper classes has led to the development of so-called ultraluxury watches. Free from any reasonable constraints on material or R&D cost, manufacturers are free to explore the outer limits of the horological art. [Karel] is an aspiring engineer and watch enthusiast, and has a taste for the creations of Urwerk. They decided to see if they could create a replica of the UR202 watch with nothing more than the marketing materials as a guide.

[Karel]’s first job was to create a model of the watch in CAD. For a regular watch this might be simple enough, but the UR202 is no run-of-the-mill timepiece. It features a highly irregular mechanism, full of things like a turbine regulated winding mechanism, telescoping rods instead of minute hands, and tumbling rotors to indicate the hours. The official product sheet bears some of these features out. Through careful analysis of photos and watching videos frame-by-frame, they managed to recreate what they believe to be a functioning mechanical model within their CAD software.

It was then time to try and build the timepiece for real. It was then that [Karel] started hitting some serious stumbling blocks. As a humble engineering student, it’s not often possible to purchase an entire machine shop capable of turning out the tiny, precision parts necessary to make even a basic watch mechanism. Your basic 3D printer squirting hot plastic isn’t going to cut it here. Farming out machining wasn’t an option as the cost would be astronomical. [Karel] instead decided on combining a Miyota movement with a machined aluminum base plate and parts 3D printed using a process known as “Multijet Modelling” which essentially is an inkjet printhead spitting out UV curable polymer.

In the end, [Karel] was able to get just the tumbling hour indicator working. The telescoping minute hand, compressed air turbine winding system, and other features didn’t make it into the build. However, the process of simulating these features within a CAD package, as well as manufacturing a semi-functional replica of the watch, was clearly a powerful learning experience. [Karel] used their passion to pursue a project that ended up giving them a strong grasp of some valuable skills, and that is something that is incredibly rewarding.

We’ve seen others trying to fabricate parts of a wristwatch at home. Keep your horological tips coming in!

[Thanks to Str Alorman for the tip!]

66 thoughts on “Building a Replica of an Ultraluxury Watch

  1. Very cool, for a design which seems to be less functional and more art than a more traditional watch, but at the end of the day a mechanical watch of any kind is in nearly all cases a choice to wear art rather than in nearly all cases more functional quartz.
    I have played a few hands of watchmaking, nearly all from stock parts, the trick is getting precision at the small sizes or say adding high precision placed odd hour pips.
    I like 24 hour watches with a time zone bezel and would love to build a functional(though not artistic) Glycine Airman style watch. but I will not pay the price they want for an artisans design work of the 60s, albeit no where near as outrageous as say low end luxury brands like Rolex or Patek Philippe.
    The Miyota movements are nice, tough, accurate alternatives to ETA, they can take 100s of Gs and keep ticking, though the free moving regulation bar is a PITA to set to COSC sometimes taking dozens of tries on the timing machine(or oscilloscope with reference beat and amplifier) and it will go out of whack under those 100s of G impact events I also dislike that they do not include hack, though the generally very good Chinese clones often do.

  2. Awesome work, even if they only got the hour portion working, it’s impressive none the less.

    In regard to actual ultraluxury watches, I find most of them to be ugly and boarder line useless as a watch. A good example is the watch Bugatti sold as an accessory to the Veyron. It’s gimm-cough-selling piece was that the time was displayed on the side of the watch so you wouldn’t have to take your hand of the wheel to check the time. The last figure I saw for the premium model was $430,000. While I fully agree with the concept of ‘If you want it and can afford it, why not”, I still feel like I might stab someone that showed one off to me just for the blatant waste of money such a watch represents.

          1. OK, creation of wealth and keeping it. Do you think that wealth creation magically generates an equal amount of altruism?

            More on-subject, that is an eye-opener for modern manufacturing processes, and engineering skill.

          2. You talk of “keeping it”, but have you actually thought that statement through? Suppose that a businessman has just sold lots of product X and has made a large amount of money. In your view, he then “keeps” the money. Where? In cash stuffed under the bed? Of course not – that is of no use to him, because it will devalue over time. So he might put it in the bank, to earn a little bit of interest. One of the functions of banks is to lend money to businesses. This might be for starting a new business, or for purchasing equipment and tooling for an existing business – both of which increase productivity, create jobs, and employ people. Maybe, instead of putting his money in a bank, he invests it in the stock market. He might buy shares in particular companies, or invest in a tracker fund (which, in turn, buys shares). Companies raise money by selling shares, which they can again use to invest in expansion and purchasing. Or, perhaps, instead of the stock market, he re-invests it in his own company – he might buy more machines to make more of product X and hire more workers to manage them. If he chooses, at the end of the day, to treat himself to a fancy watch, yacht, car or any other luxury goods, that is actually, from a financial point of view, a poor investment. They will devalue over time and cost money to run & maintain. He most definitely does not invest his hard-earned money in luxury goods.

            Who does the greater good? A businessman, so described above, or an “altruist” whose sole aim is to sacrifice his own interests for the sake of others?

        1. You must be from Germany, where this way of thinking has spread like a plague. Do something which is found useful by other people and which they are willing to pay decent amounts of money for it. Then you can also be wealthy. It is actually as simple as that.

    1. The western ideal of a republic, as well as most Asian and African formerly socialist states have decided to varying degrees on neoliberal economics where money naturally flows at varying ratios from those with less to those with more until it is lost to the general economy in the hands of a few hundred ultra-rich god-king like beings. Inflation can’t keep up with the money supply they suck out of the economy as they are influential enough to drink directly from the inflationary free money fountains and the minuscule trickle back like these $500K watches or fuel for private jets do not enter the parts of the economy where burger flippers and Walmart employees dwell.
      At this point the system is so distorted I wonder if a peaceful post-Soviet revolution against the wall of capitol as currently defined can even return power and real franchise at the polls to normal people; or if an automated Stasi will freeze social class as is from now on.

      1. I believe that the only way to fight this trend is to own the means of production both in the Marxian sense as well as having physical access to the free(libre) tools to both design and automate the production of the bounty that will mostly enslave the rest of non-maker humanity as automation wipes out the jobwork-paycheck-rent economy and leaves us with a high tech version of an everything-free economy more like what pre-Columbian Natives of the North Americans plains experienced except in our case without direct access to production it was as if those natives had a Hobbs meter charging rent on the use of their own hands. We have to start thinking of everything we consume as if it were a free Linux install disk but where we all own un-distorted access to the supply chain from raw materials to finished products.

          1. You ingrate kids don’t know what you’re talking about. Capitalism has cut the number of people worldwide in abject poverty by half in the last decade or so. The living standard of most of the civilized world– and I’ll include parts of China in that– could not be imagined by our ancestors of 200 years ago.

            Read some books (besides Marx). Get some perspective.

          2. Backwoods Engineer, first be kind and do not assume ignorance, secondly if you study up beyond a polar US vs USSR mindset you will surely agree that our system is not Capitalism once you see the distortion created by the effect of regulatory capture. For a simple illustration of the distortion where our decidedly non-capitalistic system shows its distorted nature which uses the captured power of the state as a substitute for economic incentives in the market.
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tucker:_The_Man_and_His_Dream
            Which is why we want free choice and an effecient market, but to get that we have to be our own makers, we have to start a movement of makers small enough to be too expensive to crush if we want to subvert those who use the purchased might of the state to take.

    2. Keep in mind the $430,000 went to people with off-the-chart design and fabrication skills. A bunch of people got fed, and their skill base might of even increased. And those people, unlike the really rich, paid taxes that some portion then went into the welfare system.

      Hopefully my PSA will prevent a stabbing. Besides, someone with this sort of money may be just as likely to play football for a living, and would most likely hurt you before said stabbing took place. If it was Justin Beaver, kindly disregard my advice.

    1. Not it’s the other way round. Late stage socialism is pre capitalism. After the breakdown of the soviet union capitalism followed in different flavors. Capitalism is not very good, but still much more successful then communism/socialism.

  3. I always a dose of anti-capitalism in the morning. However, until you can find a better system, I’d rather live in it. For those arguing that money flows from those without to those with it, it makes sense to think that those who collect money find ways to spend less than they make. Otherwise they would be just like those people who win the lottery (state or genetic and play sports) who end up bankrupt.

    If Marxism worked, you’d see equality across the board. Or if socialism worked, you’d see everyone in Venezuela in equal footing. Instead, wealth is concentrated with those in power, rather than those who’ve added something to the economy.

    1. Venezuela is constantly being manipulated to fail by the US and their think tanks, it says nothing about socialism – except maybe that socialist leaders aren’t super competent.
      But then. nor are capitalist leaders. I guess capitalism is easier to manage then?

    2. When you remove the layer of “leadership” (that always seems to exempt themselves from the rules no matter what you name your system), places like Cuba are rated very high for economic and gender equality. Because, after all, you can only get so poor.

  4. Impressive work, but like the original watch, it seems like a waste to put all of this work into a machine that at the end of the day, is no better at telling the time than a cheap Casio and is significantly less robust. Even if you feel that you must have a fancy display mechanism, we have all kinds of flat panel displays and tiny motors, there’s no need to build a hyper-complicated Rube Goldberg machine to do it mechanically.

    To be less technical and more political, I find it distasteful to try to even want to replicate one of these watches – they are disgusting symbols of hideous waste and horrific exploitation.

  5. A polite word of advice: leave out snide political remarks in articles like this. If the article is actually about something politics-related, that’s absolutely fine, but not here where the main topic is surely the incredible engineering ingenuity that this guy has shown.

    1. +1. The entire phrase “In the world of late-stage capitalism, unchecked redistribution of wealth to the upper classes” is sickeningly pro-Marxist, entirely unnecessary to the article, and in fact it detracts from the accomplishment of the student who made a replica of the high-end watch.

      1. +1 I think a lot of the dislike is down to both ignorance of the skills involved in making a particular component, and the number of jobs that creates. People are so removed nowadays from the manufacturing process (my parents make jewellery, and some of the inquiries we get from customers are mind-blowing in their ignorance. E.g. “I’ve got a little shell, can you dip it in molten silver for me?”) For example, the Rolex “Cerachrom” ceramic bezel on their GMT watches – this apparently simple-looking part takes nearly 50 hours to make, and involves isostatic pressing of a multicolored zirconia or alumina blank, CNC machining, firing, sputter-coating gold and platinum in a vacuum, and finally diamond polishing. Figures I’ve seen are a replacement cost of nearly $1500 for the bezel!

        1. Luxury items doesn’t create many jobs compared to other non-niche markets.
          Your example of the making of a 100% artificial product just undermines the rest of your argument – yes one can do such complicated constructions but _why_? There are cheaper materials requiring less processing with as good or better mechanical specifications, the only reason they are done are because some dude (mostly dudes) can point at his arm jewelery and brag about how unusual the material is.

          As for your earlier post I’ll just say that creation of wealth isn’t done by the wealthy – it is done by normal people. Don’t believe me? Look it up, it’s not like it’s a secret.

        2. “Yes I could, but…” :-) The temperature of molten solver would destroy the shell and probably it would not even stick to the remains. I would suggest to chemically silver it (silver mirror process) and ev. enhance the coating thickness galvanically.

      2. You realize that late stage capitalism in this context means the post capitalistic stage where regulatory capture sets in and the strong arm of the state determines spending rather than economic incentive to produce the best and cheapest goods and services people actually want. To dislike what is effectively socialism for the wealthiest is not Marxism it is a desire to return to a system where capitalistic theory is again followed. The only alternative might be a grassroots techno-Marxism sharing economy stripped of the state’s power of coercion which so distorted the Soviet era socialism throttling that economy to death. Unfortunately the loss of definition in discourse today means that capitalists are accused of being communists for defending the free market especially if the free market can only be accessed by people owning and having access to the means of production in the Marxian sense due to the distortion of the market and the inefficiencies created by that capture of the power of the state by the ultra wealthy.

    2. As the writer, I’d like to politely provide a rebuttal to your statement. You see, greater redistribution of wealth to the upper classes isn’t a personal political statement on my behalf, so much as it is true objective reality. Data below supports this statement.
      http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SI.POV.GINI

      This skew in personal income thus provides a market for ultra-high-end luxury items.

      At no point did I state any opinion as to whether this is a good or a bad thing – that, I would grant you, would have been a political statement. I disagree that this article is any such thing.

      1. Hi Lewin,

        Thanks for the reply – apologies if my original comment came across as being a bit snarky ;-)

        I know you didn’t actually say whether it’s a good or bad thing, it’s just that the phrasing of the opening sentence came across, at least to me, as being negative. The concept of “unfair redistribution to the wealthy” crops up in left-leaning literature, which regards it as a bad thing, hence my assumptions. (Probably not helped by the fact I’d just been reading a newspaper article by our great fruitcake Labour leader Saint Jeremy Corbyn, ranting on about exactly this!)

        Lindsay

        1. A polite word of advice: leave out snide political remarks on unrelated newspaper articles you just read in comments on HaD articles like this. If the HaD article is actually about something politics-related, that’s absolutely fine, but not here where the main topic is surely the incredible engineering ingenuity that this guy has shown.

      2. “As the writer, I’d like to politely provide a rebuttal to your statement. You see, greater redistribution of wealth to the upper classes isn’t a personal political statement on my behalf, so much as it is true objective reality.”

        However, your opening line wraps this (questionably) objective data in provocative, shock-journalistic prose meant to instill strong emotions, whether for or against, about its inferred meaning.

        You’ve learned from the best of CNN, Bloomberg, and Fox news! Bravo!

    3. +1… we have Wired for stupid pseudo-Marxism by BA graduates pretending to be scientific literate. Hackaday is for people with functional brains, and apply them. Lets leave politics for lesser beings.Our last flame wars on who invented the airplane was for nerds like us, were most people would just roll their eyes..

      Also, most of us have jobs in engineering that pays above average. And we like it that way. Sort of revenge against the jocks in high school that shoved us in lockers, but now run one of those used car dealerships with like 10 cars, and are now married to their hot ex-wife (maybe that got too personal, LOL)

      1. “Sort of revenge against the jocks in high school”

        so some people actually think it _is_ revenge!

        for now most of humanity has been using computers basically as advanced calligraphy machines, but the moment teachers and students and autodidacts automate education itself, what will happen?

        1. There was an article back in ancient times (pre-internet) called “Revenge of the math Club”. The is another article called “Why Nerds are Unpopular” which allowed me to make sense of Jr and Sr High.

          However, “revenge” can have many meanings. In my case it was doing well, so those who peaked in high school can just my arse (side point, the main reason I joined FB was to see which girls from high school got fat).

          All kidding aside, education is going on line. I’m enrolled in a Edx micro-masters program in project management. This might be just the thing to endure everyone has excess. I don’t think I would of like to take Differential Equations or Multivariable calculus “on line” by myself, as asking questions and having study groups ensured I got a “c” in both classes (hint, going to school for an engineer degree part-time with a year between course is less than optimum). And many other technical classes require hand-on work, and having someone nearby is a great help if something is not working. Yes, you can self-instruct, but its hard to convince a potential employers that you have mad technical stills because you play in your basement with a PC and a solder-less breadboard.

          As for the larger questions of where society is going with all these technical issues (automation, etc) is beyond my paygrade. Yes, all of us here are into technology and its advancement (even retro projects are “valuable learning experiences”, but it goes in direction we may not want. I submit FB as exhibit A.

  6. Very cool and impressive to say the least. Shows some serious skills.

    However the UR202 is a ugly watch and probably quite delicate to say the least. I’ll stick with a Timex even if I win the Lottery.

  7. If there’s a market for mechanical wankery like those watches at $100K-odd , there has to be one for something using custom super-miniature nixie tubes – Just sayin’….

  8. I have never seen anyone attempt this before in the open.
    I wonder what Urwerk will think of this when they see it eventually.
    Yes the watches are absurd prices that no human being should ever have to pay.
    But imagine it from the designer side where they literally have a playground of Dreams to make work. I imagine it’s a very satisfying job.

    Did you ever think about it from the perspective of the makers of these?
    Perhaps they feel they are fleecing the rich the only people who can afford such things. In any case the particular watch he picked was extremely complex.
    It was not a grand complication watch, but Urwerk stuff is really technically complex.
    I salute this guy for trying- there are plenty of pics online of the internals of their
    mechanisms in Urwerk- but good luck cnc machining most of it. Tolerances are
    ridiculously low.

    1. “Perhaps they feel they are fleecing the rich the only people who can afford such things.”

      I somehow suspect a few highpriced watches is less of a fleecing compared to open-sourcing (both design and its manufacturing tools/methods) appliances.

      For example home appliance clothes dryers consume prohibitive amounts of energy. In industry vacuum drying is used. Why can a home appliance dryer not use vacuum drying? Consider evacuating a 40 L of air at atmospheric pressure, what is the fundamental lower limit of work necessary? 0.04 m^3 * 101300 Pa = 4kJ.
      Now it wasn’t just air, there was also water, so there is latent heat that needs to be absorbed when converting the unwanted water into vapour, but that same latent heat is released as soon as the vapour is compressed back to liquid water, with heat pipe this energy can be recycled back to the wet clothes. If I look at typical (non vacuum) clothes dryer specifications I see about 1MJ of energy consumption… At least to me it seems there is plenty of room for improvement for vacuum pumps and clothes dryers that would benefit humanity at large, fleece a couple of the rich, etc… but it would involve studying boring science and using boring tools, typically not associated with luxury watches…

  9. That’s very impressive! The UR202 has been my favorite watch for a while, and always one of my “if I won the lottery” items. When I was in college I had thought about mimicking the design as well to make myself a functional wall clock, but never got past the stages of saving a ton of photos and screencaps of the watch. Making a replica of the same size like this would take a lot of time and skill, kudos to you!

    1. Yes, the entire effort in making the replica was a great learning experience. Just the CAD design alone is impressive, but then the transfer from the screen to real hardware is something else. “Everything works on paper” is a saying we have at work. Of course, that is also what separates a “designer” and an engineer. The engineer has to apply physics, and that is what make or breaks a design.

  10. Stunned that people actually spend money on something that useless and ugly. Impressive engineering maybe behind it but clearly it is unnecessary by any measure. Do something useful with the riches.

    1. One of the “separating fools from their money” products.

      Getting people to voluntary give to money to the “working class” is still one step better than the government taking money at gun point and giving it to a non-working class in order to lock-in votes.

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