Urban Jürgensen is one of the watch brands known only between the connoisseurs. The brand’s timepieces are, without exceptions, examples of haute horlogerie masterpieces. Not only are the final products are beautiful, but the manufacturing processes are extraordinary. The brand is still using old horological techniques. This requires not only time but also exceptional craftsmanship. The watches are collection pieces for entire generations of enthusiast collectors. A magnificent example is the Urban Jürgensen Reference 1741.
Please be advised, the article contains a high number of superlatives.
The birth of a dynasty
There are not too many watch brands on the market with a rich family history as the Danish Jürgensen. The Urban Jürgensen brand’s name can be tracked in time to 1745, the birth year of the Jürgen Jürgensen. Jürgen was 14 years old when he started his apprenticeship under the instruction of Johan Jacob Lincke, a respected Copenhagen watchmaker. Between 1766 and 1772, Jürgen Jürgensen did his journeyman years, and traveled through Europe. In 1768, he stopped in Le Locle, Switzerland, and worked for Jacques-Frédéric Houriet. After his return in Copenhagen in 1773, Jürgen makes a partnership with Isaac Larpent and both open a workshop “Larpent & Jürgensen”. In 1781, they start to produce pocket watches and by 1784, Jürgen Jürgensen is appointed to the Dutch Court as Horologist to King Fredrik VI.
In 1776 Urban Jürgensen, Jürgen’s son was born. Urban went to Le Locle, in 1797, to study precision timekeeping with his father’s friend – Houriet. A year later, Urban traveled to Paris to become apprentice to Abraham-Louis Breguet and Ferdinand Berthoud. His next destination was London to Breguet’s friend, John Arnold. With a list of masters like that, it was indeed a great start to an illustrious career. In 1804, Urban Jürgensen publishes “General principles concerning timekeeping by clocks and watches”. And in 1810, he began the production of marine chronometers and later supplied the Danish Admiralty, being also the Danish Court supplier of fine timepieces. In 1822, Urban announced the detached double wheel chronometer escapement. Two years later is invested Knight of the Dannebrog Order.
With his sons, Louis Urban and Jules Frederik, Urban Jürgensen continues to take care of the workshops under the name Urban Jürgensen & Sønner (UJS). In 1834, Jules Jürgensen starts production in Le Locle under the name “Jules Jürgensen Copenhagen”. Meanwhile, his brother continues his work in Copenhagen. Interestingly, in 1850, German watchmaker, Moritz Grossmann worked for him in the workshop. In 1867, Jules patented a new hand setting mechanism. Between 1834 to 1912, UJS wins 34 international awards. One of their clients was celebrated Danish author Hans Christian Andersen.
The Jürgensen line continues to run the watchmaking house, and only ends in 1912 with the death of Jacques Alfred Jürgensen. The modern history of the brand starts in 1979 with Peter Baumberger, a passionate watchmaker and collector, as manager of USJ. He receives the permission to sign his watches with Urban Jürgensen & Sønner name. In 1985, P. Baumberger acquired the brand.
He presents in 1982 the Reference 1 Calendar and in 1990 Reference 2 Perpetual Calendar. The Collection is expanded till the Reference 10. The year 2009 is marked by the worldwide patent for the calibre with detent escapement used in the P8 prototype. These watches were attributed to the genius of English watchmaker, Derek Platt who was operating out of Soloturn, Switzerland. In the same year, Dr Helmut Crott, a horology historian and auctioner was appointed USJ CEO. He becomes the owner of Urban Jürgensen & Sønner and Jules Jürgensen Copenhagen, bringing the companies together in 2012 .
2014 was an important year for the brand. USJ wins the first prize at The Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève Men’s Watch category with Reference 11C Chronometer detent escapement Central Second. Later that year, the brand is acquired by a group of Danish investors and Mr Søren Jenry Petersen was appointed President and CEO, and the brand returns to Danish ownership. Urban Jürgensen unveiled recently the new headquarters situated in a historic villa from Biel/Bienne, Switzerland.
Review: Urban Jürgensen Reference 1741
The reference 1741 is a perpetual calendar from the Jürgensen 1745 Collection. The watch is manufactured in the purest brand’s signature using old manufacturing techniques and haute horlogerie finishes.
The case, dial and hands
The 41mm diameter case is manufactured in Platinum. The case shape is rather sensuous, a combination of convex and concave curves. The concave bezel is mirror polished and holds a domed sapphire crystal. The screwed back case wears only the PT950 inscriptions and the precious metal’s hallmarks. It features a flat sapphire crystal offering an unobstructed view to the exceptional P4 movement.
The most spectacular is the middle case component. The convex shaped piece features the UJS signature teardrops lugs. These are maybe the most beautiful lugs available these days. The lugs’ production is done using up to 8 forging cycles. They are individually manufactured in pairs using 50 tonnes pressure and slow heat treatment after each cycle, to prevent them from becoming brittle and to release the tension in the metal. After the forging process that takes one day, the lugs are separated from their base, hand milled, polished to the perfect shape need it for soldering. The soldering process is a company secret. What we know is that the amount of skills necessary to obtain the perfect heat level, perfect angle and position is tremendous. The result is indeed breath-taking: no visible soldering line, no traces of thermal stress and a perfectly shaped case. All these processes are rarely done today due to the high costs, high degree difficulty and the attendant time required.
A convex crown is used with an embossed logo ant narrow teeth to provide a good grip. The winding is effortless and the crown fits well on the overall appearance. The finished case is classic and elegant. The platinum gives a special glow, contributing to an astonishing wrist presence.
The dial is rich in details, as expected from this brand. For the Reference 1741, it is used a grenage dial with applied gold indices and the lovely UJS’s specific hands.
The grenage is made using a two-century-old dial making technique. The dial manufacturing starts from a silver solid plate. The markings and indexes are engraved, hand filled with lacquer and polished with diamond paper. Next, the dial is hand brushed with a secret mix of silver, special salts and other ingredients. Due to an electrochemical reaction, the dial’s surface gains a unique frosty finish with lovely granularity and pearled look. Every dial manually processed in this way is unique, standing out between the modern dials obtained by micro-blasting or satin brushing. This technique is a modern approach to Breguet frosting process and gives a long-lasting protection against ageing and corrosion.
The hand applied Arabic numerals is another Urban Jürgensen tradition. The cursive typographic numerals are manufactured using two separate cutting processes. Next, each number is hand polished. At the end, the remarkable indexes are hand applied. Gold points are used at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock to make room for “la phase de lune”, month indication window, date sub-dial and day indication window.
The moon phase placed at the highest point, at 12 o’clock is simple looking and gorgeous. The moons are handcrafted in solid gold. The background is handcrafted from thermally-blued steel with the stars etched out. The etches are then infilled with molten gold. The windows used by the month and day indication are bevelled. Their placement balances the dial’s look. At first, one might think that the windows’ size and depth, there was the threat of an irksome appearance. But in the final product, we feel that the Urban Jürgensen watchmakers have handled this quite elegantly. The result is easy to read and perfectly integrated into the dial layout.
The date/leap year indication is built mid-point on lower dial side. The date is a sub-dial with odd numbers engraved and lacquered. The date is indicated by a gold-blue hand. The leap year uses a central scale and a disc with arrow indication.
Some nitpicks: the radius of the date sub-dial is perhaps a tad too large; the 31 marking being partly covered by the hour minute pivot. Another slightly disturbing detail is the date hand that obstructs the view to the leap year’s arrow indication twice a month. However, we feel that, given the beauty of the dial and the painstaking manufacturing processes, we a;re easily persuaded to forgive these nitpicks.
Another typical detail of the Urban Jürgensen watches are the elegant and exquisite hands. Not only the hands are handmade. They have a multi-part construction using steel, gold and several finishes and manufacturing techniques. The solid gold centre canons are manufactured by precision lathe and mirror polishing. The steel arms are cut from selected steel and hand finished to the final shape. The gold circle of the hour is concentrically diamond polished. The asymmetrical geometry is used to strengthen the tip’s indication importance. The steel parts are hand thermally treated to a specific shade of blue.
The dial’s overall look is fabulous. The contrast of the frost dial with indexes and hands is warm, pleasant. The hours applied indexes are highly legible on the dial. The construction of the hands and finishes are uncommon for the vast majority of the watch manufacturers. The Urban Jürgensen dial need only a spark of light to ensure the readability.
The movement: Urban Jürgensen P4
At this level of finishes and manufacturing techniques used by the brand for their watches, we expect a lot from their in-house movement. Our expectation in not only fulfilled but also exceeded. The back case is equipped with a see-through sapphire crystal which reveals everything. The Urban Jürgensen uses Calibre P4 as a base, to which a perpetual calendar module is added. The movement is capable of displaying day, date, month, moon phase and leap year. The hours and minutes setting is realised using the crown, while the other functions use pin pushers placed at 4, 8 and 10 o’clock. The movement has a classic Swiss lever escapement, a 3Hz balance wheel, squeezing 60 hours of power reserve in two barrels.
The first visible detail of the movement’s finishes is the sun-ray Cotes du Genève divided between two bridges. The bridges edges are bevelled and polished. The bridges have polished sinks and are fixed with blued steel screws. The balance’s bridge is skeletonised permitting a better view of the balance wheel itself and to the main plate with a perlée finish. The main plate bears the brand’s logo and the calibre name engraved. The bridges have, as extra decoration, the brand’s name, jewels number engraving, logo and the “1773” – the year Jürgen Jürgensen started to work in his Danish Atelier.
The movement’s layout is elegant and nice to study, even if there are not too many visible elements.
The Urban Jürgensen Reference 1741 is a watch that, at a first thought, has a lot of competitors. Priced at CHF91,200 or €85,800 excluding VAT, it is pitched at a highly competitive point. On a closer look, one might realise that not only the functions count. We decided to split this heading in two: by function and by look.
The first watch to compete with today’s piece must be a perpetual calendar from Patek Philippe, respectively the Ref. 5320. The watch features a perpetual calendar with moon phase, leap year and, as a plus, a day/night indication. We reviewed the Patek Phillipe Ref. 5320 so makes no sense to go to deep into the detail. The need to know, is the Ref. 5320’s sporty look in a 40mm diameter white gold case, with a classic layout dial with modern touches (like the applied Arabic numerals filled with SuperLuminova). The watch is powered by Calibre 324 S Q. This automatic movement boosts 45 hours of power reserve and is decorated in the typical PP way. The Patek Philippe Ref. 5320G is priced at US$82,800 or S$109,000.
Another excellent perpetual calendar comes from the German city of Glashütte. Glashütte Original Senator Excellence Perpetual Calendar is a watch with a 42mm classic shaped case, in steel or gold, without spectacular details, other than the well executed finishes. The dial layout is slightly unusual but absolutely great. The position of the function makes it easy to read and gives the watch a special charm. The Glashütte timepiece uses the in-house calibre 36. We have to mention the automatic movement comes delivered with the paperwork testifying its performance after adjustment in 6 positions, different temperatures and at four intermittent stages of power reserve.
The last piece for this heading is perhaps a bit less of a direct comparison, but rather a watch built in the same spirit. A simple GMT we choose only for the finishes similarities with our reviewed piece. The Kari Voutilainen GMR shares many design elements with the Urban Jürgensen watches. Kari stated many times that USJ are his favourites timepieces and we can see that clearly. The Voutilainen GMR comes in 39mm diameter case with tear drop lugs. The watch is produced in white gold, red gold and platinum. The dial is manufactured in solid silver, hand-guilloché in the Voutilainen workshops with hand-applied Roman numerals. The GMR features a second-time-zone and small seconds at 6 o’clock, a retrograde power-reserve indicator at 12 o’clock. The hand wound movement in rhodium-plated maillechort is adorned with Côtes de Genève and hand-chamfering.
The Urban Jürgensen Reference 1741 is a fantastic timepiece. It looks amazing, it is produced using old watch manufacturing techniques and it is recognisable (though only by connoisseurs, which we see as a plus. A case of reverse snobbism, perhaps.). It is important the fact they still use almost forgotten processes to obtain unique results. We appreciate that UJS keeps live horological traditions and don’t run to the easier, modern manufacturing ways. This timepiece is clearly an investment for generations. The nice part is that it can be enjoyed and loved by each generation, just like the Hans Christian Andersons’s stories.
Urban Jürgensen Reference 1741 Specification and Price
Price CHF91,200 or €85,800 excluding VAT.
Calibre: Urban Jürgensen P4 base movement
Type: mechanical manual winding movement
Dimensions: Diameter 32.00 mm; Thickness 6.85 mm
Power reserve: 60 hours
Frequency: 3Hz, 21,600 vibrations per hour
Functions: Perpetual Calendar: day, date, month, moon phase, leap year
Hours, minutes, central seconds
Adjusted to temperature, isochronism in five (5) positions
Dimensions of the case
Diameter: Ø 41 mm, 12.74 mm thickness
Crystal: Sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating both sides
Crown: Domed sapphire crystal
Caseback: Open back with flat sapphire crystal
Water resistance: 3ATM
Material: Alligator skin
Length 115/75mm, width 21/16.
Custom made sizes available on request.
Semi-matt black, brown or blue.
Other colours available on request.
Buckle: Classic C-buckle in Platinum, stamped Urban Jürgensen. Folding buckle optional.