Some remarkable women

Some remarkable women have accompanied us on our journey from hesitant beginnings to our present success - women who have shown determination and goodwill, and whose personalities have been decisive in the life of our brand. These women have been there for us at crucial moments. Now is our opportunity to give them the recognition they deserve.

The URWERK team

Christina Kreyenbühl

Woman’s portrait
Episode 01

Sonia Afsar Shafie

Woman’s portrait
Episode 02

Isabelle Cerboneschi

Woman’s portrait
Episode 03

Elena Ivanova

Woman’s portrait
Episode 04

Yacine Sar

Woman’s portrait
Episode 05

Céleste and Gloria

Woman’s portrait
Episode 06

Christina Kreyenbühl,
known as « Ninin »

She is our godmother – the first to have such faith in our brand that she bought our initial creation on the basis of a drawing. The money enabled us to develop the UR-102 model in steel, which we presented at Baselworld in 1997 at the stand of the AHCI (Academy of Independent Horological Creators). We owe Ninin that moment of elation in our workshops as we celebrated our first success as young entrepreneurs.

« I’ve known Felix since he was a small boy. He used to come to my pharmacy with his mother, went on an inspection around the shop and always left with a chocolate or two. He was a shy, polite lad, quite small. One day, to thank me for yet another treat, he dug into his pocket and came up with a little metal object. It was smooth, gilt and slightly blackened with age. To my puzzled query he explained: "It’s a part of a great treasure that I have in my room." I found out later that it was the hand of one of the antique clocks that his father was restoring. That is when I discovered Felix’s interest in horology. »

« I’m proud to have been URWERK’s first customer. They had this obsession with starting up an original watch brand. Felix and Martin had the ideas and the determination. They also had a real desire. All they needed was a little financial help. I bought the first URWERK watch on the strength of a sketch that caught my fancy. It was the first capital investment in the brand. » - Christina Kreyenbühl



Sonia Afsar Shafie

« Sonia Afsar Shafie is my dear wife. We got married in 2001, just one year before URWERK presented the UR-103 model in Basel. At the time, I was living in New York and I was in Switzerland temporarily to work on an art installation. I met Sonia who had just arrived from Iran to continue her studies in cinematography at the cantonal art school in Lausanne (ECAL). I fell in love. Thanks to Sonia I decided to stay in my homeland Switzerland. She settled me down. She returned me to my roots. She was thus instrumental in the existence of URWERK in Geneva and Zurich. » - Martin Frei

« When I first met Martin in 2001, his openness and his unprejudiced character amazed me. I was very much attracted by his keenness to learn about different cultures, and the way he appreciates diversity.The day we moved in together, Martin brought along 100 boxes filled with countless objects, from unusual looking stones, seeds, carved pieces of wood, distinctive metal objects, cameras, and special toys to numerous pocket knives, his sketch books and beautiful paintings, magazines, films etc. that we had to come up with a master plan to figure out where and how to place them. He always read a lot, and I guess he knows more about history and culture of my country than me. I have met a man who loves books and music from all over the world as I do. »

« I feel privileged to be among the first to watch how Martin transforms the things he sees, detects and collects wherever possible into ideas and concepts for URWERK creations. He makes me look at things through his eyes. I enjoy discovering with him how an idea or a detail is linked with others in his sketches and how finally, URWERK prototypes take shape. » - Sonia Afsar Shafie


Afsar Shafie

Isabelle Cerboneschi

« One of the decisive moments in the life of a brand is the first article published about it. The 30 or so copies you buy of the magazine with a photo of the team are read a hundred times and handed out to retailers, suppliers, friends, family and neighbours, or anyone else you can think of. It marks the beginnings of fame, or at least something very like it. Isabelle Cerboneschi was the first to put the spotlight on us. This handsome woman with her crazy golden curls stopped at our Basel stand to cast a curious and sparkling eye on our endeavours. » - The URWERK team

« Let’s forget the brand’s anniversaries and pretend that we’ve heard the name for the first time. And what a peculiar name it is — harsh, uncompromising and certainly not easy on the ear. Yet the mechanisms that come from its workshops have something poetical about them. Or rather they express a point of view, an attitude to the passing time and the opportunities that are given to us, never to return. When I first came across the brand at Basel in 1998, I was attracted by this attitude. The idea of slowing down time, or at least creating the illusion of slower time, was audacious. There was already the intention of conveying its own vision of passing time — the tranquil hour that proclaims the present moment while the others have yet to exist. You could call it a nomadic hour. »

« I am proud to have been the first journalist to write a story about URWERK. It came out during the 1998 Basel fair. At that time, the academy of independent watchmakers (AHCI), to which Felix Baumgartner belonged, had a tiny stand, inversely proportional to the talent of its members. The big names in watchmaking came to filch ideas, while horological enthusiasts feasted their eyes on the mechanical wonders. The era of the modern concept watch that flourished in the 2000s was yet to come. Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei appeared as visionaries rooted in history. Felix inherited his high regard for the past from his father, who restored antique clocks and watches. That year they presented an avant-garde watch inspired by a 17th-century creation, a night clock commissioned by Pope Leo X. Its wandering hours travelled successively along an illuminated sector of 180 degrees. It was a watch for those who liked slow time, a Carpe Diem watch ahead of its day. » - Isabelle Cerboneschi



Elena Ivanova

« For many years we tried to do business in Russia. Several trips to the country and endless discussions led nowhere. On every occasion we endured the local initiation ceremonies of shots of icy vodka alternating with torrid saunas. We were stymied. Then the answer came quite simply. It was at the door of our hotel room during our annual exhibition in Geneva. Our first contact with Elena, Head of Mercury Watch & Jewellery Division. She wasn't so much looking at our watches as wanting to get to know us. She was interested in our vision, our ambitions and our motivations. The meeting lasted perhaps for half hour — 30 intense minutes. We went over everything in detail.
Elena smiles, but before she takes a decision she looks you straight in the eyes. You come under intense scrutiny. Do you measure up ? »

The URWERK team

« Long time ago, in 2007, "Mercury" decided to extend its watches assortment with products by small independent brands. Our clients were already quite well educated by then and knew a lot about this "dark side" of watchmaking. They knew about the small niche brand URWERK as well... When we are about to start a new cooperation we ask ourselves a simple question at first: do we want to see these watches in our stores ? In case of URWERK the answer was not easy. We were afraid our clients were not prepared for such a futuristic design. Our worries were eased by Felix Baumgartner: this charismatic young man charmed us with his vision of the future of Haute Horlogerie, his passion and ton of unbelievable ideas for his upcoming creations. All doubts had gone and we all were happy to begin our collaboration, which lasts nine years by now. » - Elena Ivanova



Yacine Sar

« What can we tell you about Yacine? She was the first member of the URWERK team who didn’t make watches. She joined us in the summer of 2006 just after the Opus 5 project made us famous. We needed someone to organize our communications and take care of the day-to-day business of the brand. Our team then consisted of three watchmakers in Geneva, and one engineer and Martin in Zurich. Yacine soon settled down in the workshops. The lunch table became her workplace and she went to buy a chair at the nearby supermarket. It took two months for her computer to be delivered but that didn’t matter because we had already adopted her. Since then she's been given a proper desk where she works on a computer with two screens, but apart from that little else has changed. » - The URWERK team

« I first came across Urwerk in 2006. I met Felix in his workshops of that time which strongly resembled what he described as a Ukrainian prison. I had just left the comforts of the F. P. Journe watch company and was wondering about my new professional challenge. I had the will, the time and an immense curiosity, which I think brought me to Urwerk. I’m now rooted in the brand where surprises are as constant as is my pleasure in working with such fine people. I’m proud of being their first spokesperson. Yet I stumbled in my first steps at Urwerk. In the first text I wrote for them I put down Felix Frei and Martin Baumgartner. The mix-up made Felix laugh. But those two are so united that they’re almost a couple. Maybe I wasn’t so wrong after all. » - Yacine Sar



Céleste and Gloria

« On the first Wednesday of every month, Urwerk welcomes two special visitors to its workshops, two ladies with shining eyes, Céleste, aged 10 and Gloria, 8. One is blond like her mother, the other dark like her father. What they share is a watchmaking heritage going back three generations: a watchmaker father, a grandfather who restored clocks and a great-grandfather who also made watches. But the skills passed down from father to son are now to be passed to daughters. » - The URWERK team

« I was just a toddler when I first came aware of daddy’s office. It’s very quiet in there. On some days, Gloria and I sat on the workshop floor and from the box of coloured felts, reproduced on paper the clocks on the wall. Sometimes we sat at the bench, exploring new watches. On other days, real work: gently taking care of the Urwerk treasures, cloth in hand, just as dad did in his father’s workshops when he was our age. » - Céleste


and Gloria

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