R WeRK Typ-01 Review

Industrial parks are commonplace in every city. Whether a large cosmopolitan or a modest town off the beaten path of the nearest provincial or state highway, these places all share the same air when it comes to nighttime. The atmosphere is one of quiet apprehension as the park awaits its next sunrise and the bustle of tireless and often underappreciated efforts by all who would once again grace its lands. On a mild December evening, my vehicle approached the gate of a private members club located in one of the many hundreds of such industrial parks near the Greater Toronto Area. After parking my vehicle and being greeted by my host, we entered the club, and the shift in ambiance was congenial and warm. The brightly lit building welcomed its visitors with the immediate sight of a classic sports car known to grace the walls of many childhoods as a poster in the 1980s. My host was Nelson Wu, the founder of R Werk, and there was no better place to discuss his newest project than a private club for car enthusiasts.


This car club embodied the intersection of two passions in which its owners are deeply involved. The avid excitement for the automotive world and the hospitality industry was displayed. This precise culmination of passions interested Mr. Wu and brought us together a little over a year ago when we first met. “People who are passionate about one thing are quite common,” said Mr. Wu before continuing. “A place like this gives those of us who pursue multiple passions a space where we can explore our own perspective of how various intersections of various passions looks like.”


Mr. Wu is a dedicated watch enthusiast, and he still wears his Seiko Sportura Kinetic Chronograph, which was gifted to him by his mother when he was 16 years old. “It was the watch I wore when I graduated from high school and university. It was the watch I wore when my son was born. It was the watch I wore at my wedding. I intend to be wearing this watch to more of key life milestones coming up; I am certain of that.”

His relationship with watches goes even further back than that of most enthusiasts. “My parents told me that I need to hold a watch in my hands when I was three years old in order for me to fall asleep. Thinking back, I think it was likely the variety of textures and mix of materials that really intrigued me at the time. Though, I think it’s up until 10 years ago that I became much more disciplined and regimented about developing this into a passion.” This point about textures becomes relevant when we look at the stitching used on his new project, the TYP-01 watch stand.


Mr. Wu is equally passionate about automotive design and culture, which can also be traced back to his early childhood. “The earliest memory I have of a car was riding in the backseat of my grandfather’s Mercedes-Benz W126 500SEL when I was five. He noticed my fascination with cars and machines, and he’d take me to several nearby parking lots to walk around and look at different cars every day. And yes, it is definitely one of my goal to acquire a W126 500SEL at some point for nostalgic sake.”


And this brings us to R Werk and his passion project, which is the TYP-01 watch stand, and why we met in this private car club. As we settled into a corner of the car club that had a fully equipped mechanic bay, open bar, and a separate room dedicated to sim-racing, which had a race car driver practicing for her upcoming race weekend, the TYP-01 watch stand was in its element, and here is started to sing. It quickly became apparent that this was a passion project where the purity of its design took precedence over that of the budget. No penny was spared in bringing this sculpture into existence.


A Sculpture That is Simultaneously a Work of Art, and a Watch Stand

The TYP-01 is not a normal watch stand that enthusiasts have become accustomed to. This is a piece of modern art that serves a deeply personal function for its owner. The sculpture itself is inspired by the exhaust headers of the 1973 Porsche 911 2.7 RS, and Mr. Wu chose the design of this header to lead into his passion for watches. This vehicle is historically important because it influenced Porsche’s GT road and race cars in the decades to come.


“One thing that I love about headers is that they are pipes that dance with each other in a very sensual way and morph into one pipe to draw your focus into that specific point, which is the most important part of the sculpture, which is your watch,” said Mr. Wu as we both opened our bottles of water. “We very much feel that the sculpture on its own is incomplete and that you need to put your own personal watch on it to complete the sculpture.”


At first, when approached from a distance, the TYP-01 demands attention. The design of the pipes leading into the elevated Alcantara pad highlights the watch on display. The materials and uniformity of the finishes also give those in its vicinity clues that this sculpture is something special. Even in its prototype form seen here, the pipes seem to glow as they softly reflect light back onto the environment, and the deep mirror finish of the base seems to elevate the entire stand off the table or shelf which it is placed upon. The character of the TYP-01 did also change depending on which watch was placed on it. It went from an exercise in design excellence when a Bulgari Octofinisimo was placed on it, to an object seemingly celebrating the Moonwatch, to a structure which celebrated motorsport when a TAG Heuer Carrera graced it, to a playful yet subdued statement of automotive design when an Autodromo Vallelungua resided on it.


After seeing all of this in person, one would immediately call the TYP-01 a work of Art. However, if you do this, Nelson Wu will most certainly blush and shake his head side to side in a humble form of disagreement. At first, this may seem to be the result of being modest, but it is due to how meticulously fraught and detailed the project had been since its inception. During our interview, he explained why such a project took place, why it costs as much as it does, and that he understands why onlookers may look at it and see it as an unnecessary or illogical undertaking. “One thing that mesmerizes me always, is that for love or passion, it drives very rational and logical people to do something that, on the surface, is seemingly irrational. Passion is a beautiful thing.” As we went over the details of the TYP-01 and the materials and methods of manufacturing that were used, it quickly became apparent why Mr. Wu was hesitant to call it a work of Art and why it is indeed worth the $4,950 Canadian price tag.

How the Design Ethos Dictated the Use of Exotic Materials and Manufacturing

For those who are not involved in the hobby or industry, one of the unique aspects of watch collecting and the general appreciation of horology that can be difficult to understand is its sheer breadth of scale. Enthusiasts are deeply passionate about $20 plastic Casio’s all the way to watches that are hundreds of thousands of dollars in the realm of haute-horologie such as MB&F. Nelson Wu is well aware of this as a watch collector, and he wanted to reflect the level of craftsmanship and detail that one would expect in an A. Lange & Söhne Datograph into this watch stand.


“I recognize that some of what I am about to talk about may feel like it is taken to the point of being unnecessary,” he said as he held the TYP-01’s bespoke grade-five titanium screw. “There are very few cars that when you are in it, you can sense attention to detail and that even parts that you will never get to see or touch have been done to the same degree as everywhere else. This gives you a feeling that even if you are to spend more money, this gave the craftsmen more time to work on it and that the end result simply could not be any better.” Watch collectors value this greatly, and they can appreciate this sculpture for similar levels of attention to detail. Throughout the watch stand, varying grades of metals were used for how they reflected light. For instance, deep within the star-shaped hex pattern on this grade-five titanium screw, light reflected brilliantly back into our eyes as we examined it, and we both paused the interview to admire the screw.


In his day job, MR. Wu helps others manufacture and design more mainstream products. “With more mainstream products, at one point, it becomes a balance of compromises. For the price target that you are trying to hit, there are certain things that you cannot afford to do.” These last and closing phases can be agonizing at times, for it is easy to see the potential of a product that could not be met due to a deadline or budget constraints.

When I asked Mr. Wu whether the TYP-01 was a method of catharsis for him and his partners, he answered with a resounding “Yes.” By allowing his partners to throw caution into the wind and to push the boundaries of manufacturing and working with specific materials, this became a passion project for everyone involved.

Materials and Manufacturing

“This is also one of the key values of R Werk we hold dear. We are relentless in the pursuit of our vision. And it is critically important to us to execute our vision in the purest way possible.”

A project such as the TYP-01 could not exist without earned trust. By fostering many professional relationships with well over a decade of proven projects, there was never any doubt in the minds of his partners to undertake this very demanding project. These relationships allowed for Mohammad Morassafar- the head of design, Devin Scott-Scicluna -the leather upholstery, and Lewis Liu – the head of manufacturing, to all be on board and to bring this project to life.


A challenge that arose was to instill the same sense of dynamism that is seen in automotive design into the TYP-01. This sense of dynamism is achieved through the use of complex surfacing and that of design rules that I was not aware of. “One of the things that I found interesting was that one of the rules of thumb for designing wheels is that you need to have an odd number of spokes. The reason for this is that the wheel never looks like it is balanced and that it wants to move forward,” said Mr. Wu enthusiastically as he moved onto the importance of Mr. Morassafar. “Once I learned this, it gave me the vocabulary to fully comprehend why I am fascinated with automotive design and this something that I worked long and hard with Mo to instill this into the TYP-01.”

This, of course, has consequences when applied to a product that budget is not a concern when compared to its vision coming through into the final product in an unpolluted manner. The kink, which serves as the foundation for which the pipes extend from the base, was designed to resemble the ducktail spoiler on the 2.7 RS. In order to facilitate this kink and the fact that the chamfer of the base had to be 73 degrees. First, this was needed to give the base the visual sense that it is levitating. Second, this would allow for such complex changes in its surfacing to exist in a graceful manner. This created havoc and necessitated much more complex manufacturing methods to be used. First, the stainless-steel plate had to be hydroformed and pressed a total of five times. If pressed less, water would leak from the corners and the plate would be ruined. In order to achieve the high mirror polish, 7075 aluminum had to be used in order to ensure long-term durability and a deeper finish. Naturally, Mr. Wu and his team are also finishing this base with a self-healing coating as well. 7000 series aluminum is typically used in military applications such as missiles or in medical equipment. In these use cases, these levels of finishing are not a concern, so R Werk had their work cut out for them to achieve the results they set out for. Lastly, to achieve the complex surfaces and exact angles at the scale of the TYP-01, R Werk had to turn to 5-axis CNC machining, which is much more costly than the regularly available 3-axis machines. Adding further complication was finding a facility equipped to take on this project. “I could not find a shop within Toronto that could do 5-axis CNC machining.”


“This 5-axis (CNC process for the) base takes between 16-20 hours to machine without the surface finishing. The mirror finish takes at least another 10 hours,” he said as I started to understand how this watch stand can take over 85 hours to make. The base seen here in the photos is of the prototype, which uses a lower 6000 series grade of aluminum. Thus, you can see the swirls that necessitate the extra cost and effort.

The Alcantara used on the pad which the watch rests on and that of the base presented its own challenges. “One of the first pieces of feedback that our leatherworker Devon gave me, was that given the level of quality that we were striving for, in the beginning, we thought in order for us to make the watch stand elevate a little bit, that would simply glue a piece of Alcantara at the bottom. He insisted that the Alcantara needs to wrap around something, and there could be no open cuts on the Alcantara. We had to do a middle baseplate for him to wrap the Alcantara.” All of this and the above results in a very energetic yet static sculpture. The stitching on the Alcantara-covered base where the watch will rest is also special. Its stitch pattern is the same as those used on the steering wheels on Porsche’s GT cars. We discussed at length about how the textures, seams and stitching on a steering wheel can instantly make a driver feel at home. Lastly, this stitching can be viewed through the reflections of the mirror-polished base.

The exhaust pipes themselves presented two separate challenges. The first was, of course, on the manufacturing side. The second was that of finishing. Unlike the base, which uses subtractive manufacturing in its 5-axis CNC machining, the pipes use the additive manufacturing technique of metallic 3D printing. Each pipe on the TYP-01 consists of close to 7000 layers. Mr. Wu would go on to say that each “pipe without the surface finishing takes slightly longer than twenty hours to print.”


If you were to think that this is where the added complexity would end, you would be wrong. “Naturally, the 3D-printed surface feels a bit rough. With the TYP-01, we sent it to an artisan that specializes in the restoration of bronze sculptures and artifacts. To instill an additional sense of movement, we opted for a more traditional approach to the finishing of the pipes.”

Lastly, now that the TYP-01 is in its final stages before going into production, a month ago R Werk reached out to jewellers to work on the gaps in their final product. “After we got this sample about four weeks ago, we have been engaging with quite a few jewelry manufacturers in order to learn how to tighten the panel gaps and tighten joints between different pieces. With those lessons, we redesigned all of the joints as well, and we managed to close the gaps quite a bit more.”

After reading all of this, it is easy to see why Mr. Wu is not inherently comfortable calling the TYP-01 a work of Art. In reality, when one steps back and takes into account the efforts in the finishing and the gaps alone, this concept solidifies when viewed through the lens of the project’s manager.


So far, we have focused on the TYP-01 being a celebration of two fields, the automotive industry and horology. What you will not find in any press materials or R Werk’s website is of Mr Wu’s most important passion, which also deserves to be celebrated. This is of building a team of talented professionals and learning from them by allowing them to work at their best.

When asked about this, Mr. Wu emphatically replied, “Absolutely! This is an opportunity for me to build a team from scratch and cherry-pick the very best from every discipline that are very passionate about what they do. Then to find a team culture, a principle that ties everyone together. That is also extremely gratifying as well. This also was one of the main reasons why this quickly became a very expensive project.” He would go on to mention that when working with this calibre of professionals and artisans, he enjoys taking a hands-off approach and learning from them.

Often when reading a watch review, the reader is only presented with how the watch wears, and if and how it lives up to its specifications sheet. As with my earlier interviews here with Dr. James Fan, Henry Cong and Ansel Duff, and as seen in my last review of the MKii Paradive Type XIII by Bill Yao, it is the people behind these projects that should be celebrated.

Nelson Wu is just such an individual. We are incredibly fortunate to get a direct window into what it takes to make a high-level product like the TYP-01. It is through Mr. Wu leaning on his decades of experience, his shared trust amongst the very best in their respective industries and most importantly, his passion that radiates so brightly that it easily influences others to partake in such a demanding project, we are able to witness works of Art such as the TYP-01. It is his level of avid love and tenacity which results in products and experiences that others can aspire towards producing themselves.

“The idea of a passion project has a far deeper meaning than what it simply looks like on the surface; it involves every single part and facet of the project’s operation so far. This is one of the reasons that I appreciate the opportunity to share this passion and that it resonates with people and inspires them to either consider the TYP-01 or to look into their own passion and find a project that represents their own passion. That would make me feel very accomplished.”

Like the names mentioned above, these people are responsible for making the world a more beautiful and passionate place. Us enthusiasts here at the Watch Clicker thank Mr. Wu and all of them for their work.

Check out more of Furry Wrist Abroad’s reviews here

Check out the R Werk website here

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