While luxury for the masses can sometimes be loud and exuberant, proper high-end, exclusive and hand-made watches don’t need such profusion. As we always tend to demonstrate here, at Monochrome-Watches: “the devil is in the details”. A garde-temps can be apparently simple, almost minimalistic, yet look closer and it can reveal splendid, yet almost imperceptible, details that make it far more precious than a diamond-paved, full gold watch. As we already reported, Urban Jürgensen timepieces are to be placed in such a category, and the new Reference 1142 with Grenage dials might even push the idea one step further.
At first sight, like many other watches created by the brand, these new Urban Jürgensen Reference 1142 are simple, classically designed and could well remain unnoticed by non-insiders. Their dials are apparently sleek and flat (but you’ll see, they are the complete opposite), the display is all about tradition and, even if slightly larger than the usual dress watch, they basically fly under the radar. Don’t get me wrong, this is a very positive point.
Collectors who buy such watches are discreet people, with a sense of elegance and details, and they look for such understatement. They are probably just a bit more mature in collecting watches. However, those in the know will quickly recognize that something in these watches deserves that we take the time to look at them closely. Never neglect the details…
What we have here is a pair of watches, both equal in all aspects, with the exception of the case material. One is 18k pink gold, the other is 950 platinum. Debate closed. Also, the base for this new edition is well known at Urban Jürgensen, as we’re familiar with the Reference 1142, basically a larger and more modernly proportioned version of the “1140” we reviewed here, and also detailed there. As they say, we are in familiar territory – a very nice territory though. The main evolution we are seeing today is the addition of new dials, with a specific finishing technique named “grenage” or “grené dial“, which could badly be translated into English by a grained dial.
The Grenage dial
As you can see on this rather wide image, the dial of this Urban Jürgensen Reference 1142 appears quite simple and not that complex in terms of execution. Only a slight texture can be seen, and black Roman numerals and tracks could well be transferred on top of it. Right… Sorry to announce to you that you’d be wrong to think so! In fact, even if far less demonstrative, at first, than a guilloché dial – which is commonly known as one of the most complex techniques to create a dial, together with cloisonnée enamel for instance – the grenage finishing applied here is nevertheless highly time-consuming and requires some serious skills to be achieved properly. A close-up image will help…
Grenage dials originated in the late 1800s, however, this dial making technique is rarely used these days – or at least, it is rarely used in the way Urban Jürgensen does it. In fact, it might have been almost abandoned simply because more modern techniques allowed for a visually –not that- close result and because, despite the superb result, it is quite a discreet decoration. However, when done with state-of-the-art methods, the end result is worth it.
The grenage technique is a distinctively handmade process dial by dial. Each dial begins with a plate of solid fine silver, on which are created ultra-fine engravings for the numbers and markings. The recessed engravings are hand filled with lacquer, and after hardening, the lacquer is polished with diamond-paper, to leave its residue in the grooves. As you can see in our images, the logo, the numerals and the different tracks are indeed slightly recessed and they bring an interesting relief to the dial.
The grenage layer is then built step by step as a mix of silver, salts and other ingredients is hand-brushed onto the individual dial. By electrochemical reaction, the surface emerges as a beautiful silvery/frosty surface with a unique granularity that no industrial process could achieve. The result is extremely fine, detailed and lively, with a handsome shine. However, compared to other grained dials, the grenage technique allows for great details.
Overall, the result is a dial that looks extremely discreet and elegant, however one which reveals many details on closer examination. Of course, it’s much less obvious than a guilloche dial – such as this one – and will probably require being clearly explained to be appreciated for what it is. On the other hand, compared to the very classical, quite old-school guilloche dials offered by the brand, these new grenage dials offer a sleeker, yet slightly vintage look to the watch, which befits the larger case of the Reference 1142.
The Urban Jürgensen Reference 1142
About the watch itself, this Urban Jürgensen Reference 1142 is basically a bolder, slightly larger version of the well-known Reference 1140. It here features a 42mm case (instead of 40mm), yet the design and the finishing are equal. We find again the superbly shaped case, dear to UJ, with stepped-bezel and these stunning teardrop lugs that are individually forged, heat-treated and then hand-polished before being individually soldered onto the watch case.
The grenage dial is paired with the usual signature hands of the brand. Believe us, these hands show some serious craftsmanship… in fact, so much so that our own Xavier wrote a 1,000-word article only about them and the way they are manufactured. Several steps are required: laser-cut, milled, formed, hand-polished and blued by heat, with a hand-polished gold “eye”, these hands are rare and superb.
Inside the case of the Urban Jürgensen Reference 1142 is the proprietary P4 calibre (manufactured by Chronode, and exclusive to the brand) with manual winding. This large twin-barrel movement offers a 72 hours power reserve and runs at 21’600 vibrations per hour. Even if it is classical in terms of specifications, this movement is superbly decorated: hand-made Geneva stripes, jewels inserted in polished sinks and screws heat-blued, with their heads mirror polished by hand, wheels with bevelled spokes, ratchet wheel with circular graining, edges of the bridges that are chamfered and decorated with anglages, including internal angles that can only be done by hand (with a wood stick and diamond paste). Overall, a very pleasant haute-Horlogerie decoration.
This new version of the Reference 1142 is all about distinction, fine watchmaking, traditional techniques and retrained luxury. It never screams its pedigree, yet it deserves to be observed closely. Famous designer Charles Eames said once “The details are not the details. They make the design“. He might have loved these Urban Jürgensen Reference 1142 with Grenage Dials.
Price: 27,900 Euro in 18k pink gold and 42,000 Euro in platinum (prices before taxes). More details on www.urbanjurgensen.com.
Technical Specifications – Urban Jürgensen Reference 1142 with Grenage Dial
- Case: 42mm diameter – 950 platinum or 18k pink gold, with convex bezel and Individually soldered teardrop lugs – sapphire crystal on both faces – 30m water resistant
- Movement: Movement P4 – proprietary – hand-wound – 3Hz frequency – 72 hours power reserve – hours, minutes, small second counter
- Dial: Single piece solid silver handmade Grenage dial
- Strap: Alligator leather strap (20/16) with pin buckle – folding clasp optionnal
- Reference: 1142
- Price: 27,900 Euro (pink gold) – 42,000 Euro (platinum) – before taxes