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September 18, 2012updated Feb 08, 2013

C3H5N3O9’s Exclusively Explosive Zirconium Timepieces

By Chris Boyle

Karlsruhe, Germany – Reported by Elizabeth Doerr for Elite Traveler, the private jet lifestyle magazine

There is a lot more behind the mystifying name ZR012 than the “ZR” standing for zirconium. The numeral “012” does not denote the fact that there will only be 12 pieces of the ZR012 in zirconium, but rather the year in which they were manufactured. The next 12 pieces, which will be housed in red gold, are scheduled for release in 2013.

There is really no resemblance between this piece and any other on the market, so a casual observer would be hard-pressed to guess who has masterminded the project with the fairly unpronounceable name. The molecular formula in the moniker actually stands for “nitroglycerin.” And its makers are just as explosive: This is a joint project of the masterminds behind Urwerk and MB&F.

“A platform on which to conduct horological experiments” is how Manager Ian Skellern describes the boutique brand that does not plan to actively market or sell its timepieces. The idea of throwing together reactive ingredients such as zirconium, 328 mechanical watch parts and epitrochoids was first conceived of in 2008, when Maximilian Büsser (now of MB&F) and Felix Baumgartner (of Urwerk) spent an afternoon brainstorming after having previously joined forces on Harry Winston’s Opus 5.

Baumgartner and Urwerk co-founder Martin Frei devised a complication and display inspired by a Wankel engine—an obvious connection when looking at a photograph of the machine. The displays of the ZR012 do not move in the usual circular way that a wristwatch typically uses to show the time. Büsser, MB&F co-partner Serge Kriknoff and freelance designer Eric Giroud designed and produced the ZR012’s zirconium case, crafted in a hard material derived from the mineral zircon, which resembles titanium.

C3H5N3O9’s “experiment” finds a great deal of its origins in the Wankel engine: The eccentric, rotating triangular elements are a dead giveaway for those in the know. The upper Revleaux polygon displays minutes by zeroing in on a small scale, while the lower Revleaux polygon guides the eye to a larger retrograde-style scale for the hours. The power reserve indicator of the 55 by 44mm hand-wound timepiece is located on the back.

“The aim is not to make a coherent brand, and we have no concrete ideas for the next models after the ZR012—which also means no constraints,” Skellern reveals. “Since we aren’t doing any publicity beyond our own website and Facebook page and not exhibiting at fairs or placing advertisements, if anyone wants to see it, they’ll have to look at my wrist.”

One of only 12 can be yours for $117,000, excluding shipping and taxes.

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