“I was in my freshman year when my aunt gave me the Guess and, although it is not by any means fancy, it inspired me to start reading about watches online,” he says.
“Before that, I simply had no idea that there was such a culture around replica watches and that there were all these independent makers out there experimenting with crazy ideas and creating radical designs. I was especially fascinated by the Urwerk because of its sci-fi looks and really wanted to own one — but at the price they are, that just wasn’t going to happen.”
Undaunted, Mr Bachand began to study images of the UR-202 model, which, instead of a conventional dial and hands, uses a system of revolving satellite cubes attached to telescopic prongs to indicate the time. It is difficult to imagine a more complicated design to replicate.
“The watches are very complex and, of course, made in very small numbers. There wasn’t really any prospect of me getting to see one in real life, so I looked at hundreds and hundreds of photographs online from all different angles in order to try to understand the construction,” he explains.
“I knew the overall dimensions of the case and movement from the Urwerk website, and that enabled me to make scale calculations in order to establish the size of each, individual component. The most difficult part to understand was the mechanism, but I found the promotional video which gets inside the replica omega watches and studied it, frame by frame, for hours on end.”
Once he had grasped the essential design of the UR-202, Mr Bachand turned to a 3D CAD programme to create it on screen and used the resulting diagrams to produce the principal components for the first of what turned out to be nine prototypes using 3D printing techniques.
“I took a base mechanical movement, to which I added a barrel assembly and parts such as the rotating cubes and telescopic arms that were made using the 3D printer,” says Mr Bachand.
“It is possible to print parts quite cheaply, but standard printers operate at a resolution of 0.1mm, which is nowhere near fine enough to make omega replica watches components. I found a more advanced technology, known as the multi-jet modelling process, or MJM, which creates a thin sheet of material using multiple print nozzles, and then polymerises each layer using a UV lamp.
“It can be printed at a resolution of 0.01mm — about one tenth of the thickness of a sheet of paper — and that was much better, although still nowhere near the tolerances of the CNC [computer numerical control] machining used in the watch industry.”
All the same, Mr Bachand’s Urwerk “tribute” watch does work and, to the untrained eye, looks very similar to the real thing.
Its real test came towards the end of last year, however, when Mr Bachand wore it to an event in San Francisco where he met Ariel Adams, a US replica watches blogger and founder of the A Blog to Watch website. Mr Adams asked him to write about his experience of making the watch, which resulted in an invitation.
“I had often thought that it would be really cool if Urwerk’s founders [Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei] were to notice the project, but I didn’t really think they would be interested — so I was absolutely amazed to be contacted by someone from Urwerk very shortly after my article was published, and even more amazed when they offered to book me a flight to Geneva to meet them during the time of January’s SIHH watch show.”