A catalyst-free method for growing self-assembled GaN wires on c-plane sapphire substrates by metal-organic vapour phase epitaxy is developed. This approach, based on in situ deposition of a thin SiN(x) layer (approximately 2 nm), enables epitaxial growth of c-oriented wires with 200-1500 nm diameters and a large length/diameter ratio (>100) on c-plane sapphire substrate. Detailed study of the growth mechanisms shows that a combination of key parameters is necessary to obtain vertical growth. In particular, the duration of the SiN(x) deposition prior to the wire growth is critical for controlling the epitaxy with the substrate. The GaN seed nucleation time determines the mean size diameter and structural quality, and a high Si-dopant concentration promotes vertical growth. Such GaN wires exhibit UV-light emission centred at approximately 350 nm and a weak yellow band (approximately 550 nm) at low temperature.