When 31 year old Felix Baumgartner met Jeweler Harry Winston’s Maximilian Brusser at the launch of his designer URWERK 103 in 2003, he was already on top of the world. His orbital cross movement was already getting a lot of attention. But little did he know that his watch was just a prelude. Fate was plotting and unbeknowst to him, he would soon embark on his most inspiring and challenging assignment yet – The limited edition OPUS V, a watch with the world’s first “satellite hour” display.
Much Recently, fate once again intervened and we got a chance to sit down with Mr. Felix and have a little chat:
Wrist: Congratulations on the OPUS V. How are you handling the reaction to the watch?
Baumgartner: The reaction has been intense, nobody seems to remain indifferent to the Opus 5 and the vast majority of reactions has been extremely positive.
Wrist: Now, when you proposed the satellite watch to Maximilian Brusser for the OPUS V, you had more than one proposal, didn’t you? Are you planning on working on them?
Baumgartner: No, We are not planning on using the abandoned project. We only had one alternative to the present OPUS 5.
UR-103.03 – A prelude to the OPUS V? The orbital cross movement has little hanging satellites that not only tells the time, but, thanks to a much larger open window, also shows the approach of the future and the passage of time long gone.
Wrist: You seem to seek inspiration from everywhere when it comes to designing your watches. For example, one of your pieces takes some of its visual cues from a famous airplane, the JUNKER 52 or another is inspired by the movement of the sun. Is this a hint that you’re interested in design in general and that you might be interested in working with something other than watches or am I reading too much into it and the world is really your muse?
Baumgartner: URWERK’s designer Martin Frei and myself work together on the concept. We share a similar fascination for modern art, space development and architecture. Our goal is to create and invent new concepts for watches and not copy what has been done before.
As far as working with someting else than watchmaking, I am a watchmaker first but we do however have projects to create watch related objects.
Designer Martin Frei and Watchmaker Felix Baumgartner
Wrist: You come from a long line of watchmakers. What was it like growing up? Was there added pressure to follow the same line or were you always fascinated with watchmaking?
Baumgartner: I’ve always been impressed by watches and clocks, ever since I was a little boy because that’s the environment I grew up in.
To grow up in a watchmaker family was for me the opportunity to learn very closely about history and the meaning of watchmaking.
Wrist: What about your experience working for such prestigious names as Vacheron Constantin, Svend Andersen and Patek Philippe? Was setting up Urwerk a reaction to your work experience at places like Patek Philippe and Svend Andersen? Did you seek more freedom and originality in your work?
Baumgartner: Working for these prestigious brands gave me the opportunity to learn about the traditional way of watchmaking. URWERK gives me the possibility to transform what I have learnt there, adding my own style and sensitivity.
Wrist: So are you going to be concentrating on Urwerk now? Or are there going to be more collaborations?
Baumgartner: No collaborations are planned for the moment because the development of URWERK takes up all of our time now. Future collaborations are however possible.
Wrist: Where do you see yourself in the watch industry? Do you think that your generation of new creative independent watchmakers are going to have an impact?
Baumgartner: In our opinion, the creative independant watchmakers have the great opportunity to create and infuse new ideas and ways to see watchmaking. The current state of the Industry is very interesting, because some companies hold on to old values as Tourbillon, minute repeater, and others try to find new ways to create haute horlogerie watches – The future will show us.
*The title, The man behind the OPUS V, is slightly inaccurate. Mr. Felix Baumgartner’s other half is designer Martin Frei. We regret not meeting him.