Every brand, at least those with a historical background, has its own hallmarks, those unmistakable signs that create its DNA, helping people to quickly identify a watch from a certain brand. For some, it is the shape of the case or a hand, for others it could be the complication used. For one brand, Urban Jürgensen, these are small details, however with such a level of execution that they deserve an entire story in this magazine – something that we’ll try to illustrate with the latest addition to the catalogue, the superb 1140RG in Rose Gold with a dark brown dial.
The Urban Jürgensen reference 1140 is a watch that we already covered here, when the brand unveiled a stunning platinum version, with blue dial and applied Breguet numerals (yes, in this case, the name Breguet doesn’t only refer to the manufacture but also to the shape of the numerals, which have been widely used in the watch industry). In this case, we refer to the classical version of this watch, with a traditional Swiss lever escapement, and not the technically impressive 1140C version, which features a detent escapement (a watch fully explained here).
Basically, the Urban Jürgensen 1140RG is the rose gold, brown dial, baton indexes version of the existing watch here. It is a simple timepiece, with only 3 hands and no specific complications (with the exception of a twin-barrel), however, all the interest of this piece is derived from its exceptional elegance and the superior finishing of all its elements, case, dial, hands and movement included, which leads us to the 4 details that you must see on this watch, in order to fully appreciate the what the concepts of haute-horlogerie and hand-made mean.
The hand-guilloché dial
In the watch industry, there’s luxury and then there’s high-end. As we’ve always tried to demonstrate, there’s a world of difference between the two, however this is often only visible to trained eyes, and only in the details – details that create the beauty of an object. As for dials with guilloché-like or real guilloché patterns, there are two ways to do things. The first one, the most common and, you guessed it, the cheapest way is by stamping the dial. A blank plate is pressed under a sort of matrix with a reversed pattern, “printing” some reliefs and recesses on a dial. There’s nothing wrong with it, as it brings a nice texture, and allows the owner to enjoy a classical design for a low price – Montblanc or Frédérique Constant use this method for instance, on watches priced far below 5K.
However, there’s a second technique, one that creates an object full of life, full of details, with some irregularities – and in terms of craftsmanship, irregularities are usually a sign of a human intervention. This is like the difference between hand-stitched bags by Hermes and machine-stitched bags by Lancel. It might only be a detail, but it is the one that gives an object all its refinement. With Urban Jurgensen, the dials are created using a traditional and hand-made technique, the engine-turning process also called guillochage in French. A hand-controlled machine (usually centuries-old, as it is the case for the Urban Jürgensen dial-maker) replicates a pattern that has been engraved on a matrix on a solid silver plate. The machine requires very careful control, in order to apply the same pressure on all parts of the dial to create an even pattern all over.
The fine guilloché one-piece solid-silver dial produced by Urban Jürgensen on the 1140RG requires up to 700 operations and takes 2 full days of hand work to complete. The result is a variety of complex and repetitive patterns. In the case of the Urban Jürgensen 1140RG, we have a Grains d’orges (barleycorn) on the central area of the dial and Guilloché Damier pattern (checkered) inside the small second sub-dial. These are not the only textures found on the dial however, as for instance the hour ring is surrounded by two circles with grain pattern and the chapter ring is circular brushed. This create a dial full of texture, discreet at first but extremely detailed when closely observed.
The hand-made hands
To complement such a dial, there is clearly no possibility to have machine-made hands. Indeed, most of watches feature hands made by simply stamping a thin sheet of metal, then finishing with several decoration and painting processes. Once again, this is the easy way. On the Urban Jürgensen 1140RG, the choice was for the complex, time-consuming way, however with a result that is simply stunning. The close-up photo below will certainly provide the demonstration of “attention to the details”.
We could have talked about the indexes too, which are obviously perfectly executed (made from solid gold, then hand-polished) but the signature hands of Urban Jürgensen are even more demonstrative – especially the hour hand and its typical “eye” on the tip. Urban Jürgensen hands are handmade. They are constructed of multiple parts that are individually honed, polished, assembled, and thermally blued to a specified shade. The steel arms of the hands are cut from specially selected steel and hand finished to the perfect shape and fit. Of course, the blue shade is obtained from a thermal treatment and not from a chemical / painting process (again, that is the easy way). After careful polishing with increasingly fine grain diamond paper, the end result is a superb mirror polishing.
The “eye” of the hour hand is a concentrically diamond polished solid gold insert, held in place by the sheer accuracy of the fit. The eye is designed with an asymmetrical geometry, by tapering the volume from the dial centre towards the tip of the hand. The solid gold center canons for the hands are turned on a precision lathe and then mirror polished (and because of their shape, these canons can only be polished by hand). The arms of the hands have then been carefully riveted in place around the canons for the perfect fit.
The tear-drop lugs
What might, at first, seem to be a simple design element is actually the result of a great technical process and time-consuming human operations. Indeed, the signature “teardrop lugs” of the Urban Jürgensen 1140RG are not just lugs. In luxury watchmaking, following an efficient industrial process, lugs are machine milled out as an integrated part of the case (cases can also be produced via a a stamping process, even faster and of course cheaper). However, the “teardrop lugs” on Urban Jürgensen’s timepieces are individually forged, heat treated, hand-polished, and individually soldered onto the watch case in a way which makes the soldering line invisible to the naked eye.
Forging these “teardrop lugs” requires between 5 and 8 cycles through a process where little by little the final form of a paired tear drop set is forged into shape under the pressure of 50 tons. Once this operation is complete, the paired lugs are then separated from their base, and carefully milled and hand-polished into the perfect fit for the case soldering. The soldering process is a well-kept secret, resulting in a perfect angle of all lugs at the same time – and with no visible soldering line. This process is done on several materials such as platinum, white gold, yellow gold or, in the case of the present Urban Jürgensen 1140RG, pink gold – and of course, the melting point of these materials is different, meaning that great care must be taken during the soldering process.
The hand-decorated movement
This new Urban Jürgensen 1140RG is more than just a case, a dial, lugs and hands – what is named the habillage in watchmaking, or the external parts of a watch. This 1140RG is also a movement, and a great one to be honest. Of course, the proprietary Calibre P4 (manufactured by Chronode, exclusive to the brand) is rather simple: hours, minutes, small seconds and a classical Swiss lever escapement (no complex detent escapement here) that beats at 3Hz / 21,600vph. It features refinements though, such as a twin-barrel (for the power reserve – 72h – but also for accuracy), a stop-second and it is adjusted in a precise way. However, all of that remains rather incidental. What makes this movement worthy of interest is the finishing and the decoration – and once again Urban Jürgensen didn’t go for the easy option.
Let’s go crescendo. First, the Geneva stripes. They are done by humans and not by a CNC machine. Furthermore, they show a specific pattern, radiating from the center of the balance wheel – and this pattern perfectly transfers from one bridge to another. Then, the engravings. Most movements are engraved to some degree, with the name of the manufacture, the number of jewels, the reference, etc… Usually, these are done at the same time as the cutting operations are performed to shape the bridges. Here, you can easily see that the unique number of the watch is applied on a screwed plate, also decorated. Then, sinks and screws. Jewels are inserted in polished sinks and screws are heat-blued and their heads are mirror polished by hand – once again, something that you only find in haute-horlogerie.
Many other details are worth mentioning, such as the wheels with beveled spokes or the ratchet wheel with circular graining. However, the most striking decoration detail on this Urban Jürgensen 1140RG (and with all watches from the brand with the Calibre P4, such as the recent Jules Collection) is the work done on the bridges and the anglages. Not only are the edges beveled and polished, but there are some complex shapes with what connoisseurs call internal or sharp angles. Usually, bevels are pre-executed during the machining process, and then diamond polished, however because of the way it drills the metal, a machine can only create curves and not sharp angles. To obtain this, a trained watchmaker (the finisseur) will slowly create these pointy and sharp recesses, which are always seen as a proof of “hand-made” decoration. Time-consuming, painstaking but resulting in a superb decoration.
As we’ve tried to show here, with the help of this new Urban Jürgensen 1140RG, the difference between luxury and high-end watchmaking definitely hides in the small details that might not be visible at first. Only a close inspection and trained eyes can spot these differences. However, once educated to these details and to the processes engaged to obtain them, you can really appreciate the beauty of a hand-made watch – and understand why they can cost 3 to 5 times more than a watch from a mainstream brand. In the present case, the 1140RG is no exception to the rule and appears to be a superb classical watch, elegant and discreet at first, however with an insane amount of details – and that entirely justifies its price of CHF 29,900 (before taxes). More information on www.urbanjurgensen.com.
Technical Specifications – Urban Jürgensen 1140RG
- Case: 40mm diameter – round 3-piece case, with a convex bezel and soldered lugs – 18k rose gold, polished by hand – sapphire crystal on both sides – 30m water resistant
- Dial: hand-guilloche brown dial – Circular brushed chapter ring, Hand finished guilloche dial on solid silver plate – solid gold baton indexes – hand made steel and gold hands
- Movement: Calibre P4, proprietary – manual winding – 3Hz frequency – 72h power reserve – 32mm diameter x 5.20mm thickness – hand-made decoration – hours, minutes, small seconds
- Strap: alligator leather strap (20/16) on gold pin-buckle
- Reference: 1140RG
- Price: CHF 29,900 (ex. taxes)