Experiment ZR012 is the Wankel engine of watches
By C.C. Weiss
October 16, 2012
A simple set of rotating hands or LCD digits may be the most recognizable, but horologists always like to find new ways of displaying the hours, minutes and seconds of the day. Inspired by the Wankel engine, the Experiment ZR012 watch uses a pair of rotating Reuleaux triangles to indicate the time. The larger rotor points to the hour on the outer border, while the smaller rotor points to the minute.
Two pairs of Swiss watchmaking forces combined to create the ZR012. URWERK founders Felix Baumgartner – the horologist, not the skydiver – and Martin Frei teamed up with MB&F partners Maximilian Büsser and Serge Kriknoff to create experimental timepieces that neither watch company could properly market on its own. They call the ongoing experiment C3H5N3O9, after the chemical formula for nitroglycerin.
The Experiment ZR012 watch is the first byproduct of the C3H5N3O9 experiment and, while the rotors would appear to rotate in a circular motion, they remain true to actual Wankel movement by rotating in an eccentric pattern inside individual epitrochoids. The watch's creators say that it is the first watch to display time with this type of movement. For a better understanding of how the rotors move, take a look at this animation.
A power level indicator on the back shows how much power is left, similar to an automobile's fuel gauge. The Experiment ZR012's asymmetrical case is made from zirconium, which was chosen for its corrosion resistance, while the lugs are titanium and designed to fit ergonomically around the wrist. The watch runs for 39 hours on a full wind.
Of course, an experimental watch demanding the utmost of precision does not come cheap. The Experiment ZR012 costs 110,000 Swiss francs (about US$119,500), and an order requires a 33,000-Swiss franc (US$35,500) deposit. It is available directly from the Swiss operation.
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