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Review: Urban Jürgensen The Alfred

What entry level means for Urban Jürgensen or how great can a "simple" watch can be!
by Dan-Andrei Kluska on June 29, 2018

 Urban Jürgensen launched “The Alfred” – to celebrate their new workshop in the Biel/Bienne’s villa and to pay a homage to the Alfred Jürgensen. The Alfred was stripped for the noble clothing of gold or platinum, common to the Urban Jürgensen timepieces, to keep the purity and magnificence of the brand, this time in steel. The result is an entry-level priced watch gathering the brand’s spirit and capabilities. And by all means, this must not be considered an entry-level Haute Horlogerie piece. And we will show why. This is our review of the Urban Jürgensen The Alfred.

How to introduce Urban Jürgensen without pompous words? Trying to describe a manufacturer that produces grandiose watches without using words like sublime, refined and alike – it is impossible. But Urban Jürgensen is a brand that is in a tight little niche, a connoisseurs’ secret. Their watches could go easily unobserved for an untrained eye. And that is a pity. Last year, the brand made a bold move with the Alfred.

 

Urban Jurgensen The Alfred portait

A clean and relative simple look (for an untrained eye) and a touch of vintage feel hide the complex and complicated manufacturing processes. The Alfred is just a small second three hands watch offering a great price-quality ratio and pure horological beauty.

 

Review: Urban Jürgensen The Alfred

Urban Jürgensen has an interesting and rich history we presented in our review of the perpetual calendar Reference 1741. The brand’s timepieces have a series of elements which are recognisable and fascinating. As an example, besides the Ref. 1142 Collection, we would like the Ref. 1140C – a “simple” watch that has a lot to offer. The Ref. 1142L (now in platinum as the steel edition is not offered anymore) can be used as a comparison to the Alfred watch in terms of finishes. And what best recommendation can Urban Jürgensen receive if not the admiration of Kari Voutilainen. He has numerous collaborations with the brand and, as we will notice later in the competitive landscape, Kari has a soft spot for several classic design notes visible at the Danish brand timepieces.

Before we go into the details of The Alfred, please have a look at the hands-on video we took at Baselworld 2018.

 

 

The case, dial and hands

The Alfred comes in a 42 mm stainless steel case. An unusual choice of material for Urban Jürgensen, a brand where gold and platinum is the material of choice. Steel case was used for earlier for a version of the Reference 1142, with a similar dial design. The case design follows the lines of the Jürgensen 1745 Collection. The case body’s braiding of convex and concave curves reminds us of the vintage watches of the 40’s. There was an entire wave of period specific fashion watches featuring the teardrop lugs. Brands like Vacheron Constantine, Jaeger-LeCoultre and even Patek Philippe used this special lug design for the gold wristwatches. Urban Jürgensen uses one of the most voluptuous interpretations with its teardrop lugs, the brand’s case having a je ne sais quoi attraction for the eyes of the viewer.

 

Urban Jurgensen The Alfred oblique

The mirrored polished case shows no trace of the soldering process used to attach the lugs to the case body – is it known the thermal process leaves specific marks to the steel. Nevertheless, the convex body and concave bezel reveal somewhat joyful reflections.

 

The three part case construction is made by a complex manufacturing process. The most complicated piece is the case body. The convex piece is adorned with teardrop lugs by soldering, in a process well kept as brand’s secret. The way they manage to leave no mark of the soldering process is amazing. Steel cases, more than gold or platinum usually show some visible thermal stress, but none is present in our inspection. The teardrops need one day and up to 8 forging cycles using 50 tonnes pressure and controlled temperature. The handwork includes milling and mirror polishing. More about the process on Urban Jürgensen on the Official website.

The concave bezel is fitted with a slightly domed sapphire crystal, completing the watch’s artistic composition. The screw-in case back, in steel as well, is fitted with a flat crystal, offering an excellent view to the P4 movement.

The screw-in crown is manufactured in titanium. It has the brand’s typical convex design with embossed logo. As any other Urban Jürgensen timepiece, the grip is proper with effortless set and winding.

 

Urban Jurgensen The Alfred crown view

The elegance of the of the case is escorted by a gorgeous grenage dial, simple on a first view but rich in details. The view is completed by superb finished hands, one of the brand’s trademark.

 

The dial alone deserves the title of the main attraction, but it will be unfair for the rest of the watch to consider it so. Executed in the grenage technique, the dial can be considered an evolution from the Ref. 1142’s grenage dial. The grenage dial was explained in our review of the Ref. 1741.

The dial is adorned with the most classical of indexes – Breguet numerals. This elegance is enriched by a rail track minute register. The decoration of the dial is not obtained by printing but from the grenage finish. The combination of dial’s decoration is not new, but somehow the Alfred comes with fresh and pleasant interpretation.

The small second’s sub-dial is large, without disturbing the dial’s balance. Only the 6 o’clock numeral was replaced by a large dot surrounded by the SWISS MADE inscription. The seconds use a rail track register with decimal Arabic numerals.

The dial surface, including numeral indexes and registres, is lovely. It wears the marks of its complicated manufacturing process, like a continuous Brownian motion, full of live and vivid.

 

Urban Jurgensen The Alfred Dial

Each element of the Alfred watch has its share of complexity, high amount of handwork and beauty. The hands make no exceptions. The three hands, with distinct design, wear the Urban Jürgensen attention to details. Note the perfect executed polish on the hour hand or the exemplary bent tip of the minute’s hand.

 

A disparate and distinctive approach, a signature of the Danish brand, is the amount of work and attention given to hands production. The hands are manufactured using a multi-part construction and several technological processes. The hands are built using steel and gold. The brand’s watchmakers use special steel, mirror polished and thermally treated to obtain the strong blue shade. Each hand is long enough to float above its designated index, with the result of a considerable legibility.

If we may make one tiny aesthetic suggestion, the brand logo could have been displayed as a circle’s arch in the same position as it is now. In this position, the hands would frame and highlight the brand’s name two times per day, at 10:10 and again at 1:50. The curves of the logo would magically draw in the eye to  reveal the brand’s name.

 

The movement P4

Urban Jürgensen The Alfred is fitted with one of the brand’s marvellous movements – the calibre P4. This movement is used in several watches, and serves also as a base movement and share similarities with the other brand’s movement – the P8. We would like to remind of the prominent perpetual calendar, Ref. 1741, reviewed last year here, that use a perpetual calendar module on top of the calibre P4.

 

Urban Jurgensen The Alfred movement

Calibre P4 is a maison proprietary movement used in several timepieces and it is an exercise of haute horlogerie. The finishes are nicely executed, implying several disciplines. Note the mirror polishing on the steel cap over the balance pivot and on the click (from the winding mechanism – it allows the wheel to go in only one direction, by winding).

 

The P4 movement is impressive on the technical specification side: a manual wound machine with Swiss lever escapement and a 3Hz adjustable mass, free sprung balance wheel, managing 72 hours of power reserve from a twin barrel design. The movements also hacks.

 

Urban Jurgensen The Alfred detail on balance wheel

The P4 is a beautiful movement full of small details for the finishes’ hungry eye. Please note the mirror polished bevelled edges and jewels/screws sink. The bridge within the bridge – the para chock holding the wheel has its own set of finishes.

 

The movement decoration is very detailed and painstakingly executed. The bridges share a sun-ray Cotes du Genève finish having as epicentre the balance wheel’s axe. This decoration is also present on the balance wheel’s skeletonised bridge. Having the edge bevelled and polished, the bridge needs a special care during the manufacturing. The regulating element it is held in place by its own polished bridge.

While the bridges cover most of the movement side, the mainplate is still noticeable below and is covered with a discrete perlage.

 

Urban Jurgensen The Alfred bridge detail

The inner angles of the bridge wear the marks of the manual polishing: a closer look reveal the difference between two sides, coming from the hand polishing process. Nevertheless, note the exemplary polish and the reflection of the photographer and camera. The same quality can be observed on the jewels sink.

 

The screws have chamfered and polished edges and are blued in a thermal treatment. The jewels sinks are very well polished, providing a clear definite reflection, as seen in the photograph above. The bridges’ leveling is a bit uneven in several places, especially on inner angles, but the polishing is exemplary. Another example of the manual finish is the perlage‘s details. Some are deeper while others are more superficial, allowing a depth effect which can only be achieved by manually controlled lever on the perlage machine.

The small inadvertences from the finishes make the movement more pleasant to the eye. The human imperfections are in this case the desired element, a testimony of the handwork.

 

Competitive landscape

Urban Jürgensen The Alfred is priced well at € 14,300 (plus taxes). For a modern sized, small second watch, the price is not the lowest but considering the offer, we tend to believe it is a fair price.  Acquiring this watch opens the opportunity to visit the atelier in Biel, meet the team and spend an evening with Urban Jürgensen CEO, Soren Jenry Petersen. Not too many brands propose such a rich agenda, especially considering the price.

Talking about a competitive landscape for Urban Jürgensen, a natural deduction will point out Kari Voutilainen pieces. Kari also uses teardrop lugs on his cases and the hands have a similar design. Kari does not offer an entry level watch in steel, so comparisons are futile.

An adequate competitor can be considered the steel Czapek Quai des Bergues Guilloché Ricochet – Aqua Blue. With a price tag of CHF15.400, the Czapek watch comes in a 42.4mm steel case with an exquisite Ricochet pattern guilloché dial and haute horlogerie exclusively sourced mechanical hand-wound calibre SXH1. To become acquainted with the Czapek watches, we recommend the reviews of the Quai des Bergues Fleur de Lys No 33 and the Faubourg de Cracovie.

For a more modern approach, in design, execution and selling experience, one might be interested in Armin Strom watches. Their timepieces with in-house movements can be ordered online using an online configurator. The corresponding piece of today’s review (manual wound, small seconds cased in steel), can be considered the Armin Strom Manual. Starting with a price point of CHF9,192, the timepiece can be manufactured according to the customer wishes. The complete process is described in our hands-on report here.

 

Concluding thoughts

We can only accuse Urban Jürgensen of great work. The Alfred is dedicated to the ones lusting for traditional watchmaking techniques and sublime manual finishes. It’s a classic looking watch that can be considered a dress watch by the today’s relaxed norms. But The Alfred is a much too beautiful watch to be kept in the drawer in the expectancy of a black-tie event. It deserves to be out, in the eyes of the collectors and enthusiasts. We salute Urban Jürgensen for releasing another steel case piece without giving up their quality, or worse, their expertise and heritage.

The Urban Jürgensen Alfred is a complete classic, independent haute horlogerie experience. Starting with manufacturing, followed by acquisition experience (with all what that means) and happy ownership. Because how can one be sad with such a wrist accompaniment.

 

Urban Jurgensen The Alfred wrist

Urban Jurgensen The Alfred is like a dream come true. From the affordable price and up to the magnificent manufacturer’s work, this timepiece is a key to a collector’s heart.

 

Urban Jürgensen The Alfred Specification and Price

Urban Jürgensen The Alfred has a price of €14,300 (plus taxes) or CHF15’200 (plus taxes).

 

Movement

Calibre: Urban Jürgensen P4

Type: manual winding

Dimensions: Ø 32.0mm, thickness 5.2mm

Jewels: 23

Power reserve: 72 hours

Frequency: 3Hz / 21’600 vph

Functions: Hours, Minutes, Small Seconds

 

Case

Material: Stainless steel

Dimensions of the case: Ø 42.0mm

Crystal: Domed sapphire crystal

Crown: Screw-in crown titanium

Caseback: Open back with flat sapphire crystal

Water resistance: 3atm

 

Strap

Material: Brown Calf Leather

Buckle: Classic C-buckle in Stainless Steel, signed Urban Jürgensen.

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Leave a response
  • John Wick
    June 30, 2018 at 1:27 pm

    You may want to have a native English speaker proof read the article. I do indeed understand what you are trying to say but the syntax and expressions used are a bit unusual to say the least.

    Fine watch nonetheless. I wonder why comparison to Kari V is “futile” just on the basis of steel vs precious materials. Obviously, there must be more to it than that? Or maybe not?

    You should also mention that the components and maybe even parts of the design of the movement are outsourced to a third party company? UJ still seems to do most of the hand finishing but still – it’s an exclusive outsourced movement.

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