Monochrome Watches
An online magazine dedicated to fine watches

Review – Urban Jurgensen Reference Big 8 in Steel, An “Entry-Level” Full of High-End Details

| By Brice Goulard | 6 min read |

Recently at Monochrome, we re-discovered a brand that properly “flies under the radar” but that, believe us, has so much to offer: Urban Jürgensen. We’ve already showed you some of their watches, including the 1140 collection, with exclusive movement (and even a hypertechnical detent escapement) or the Jules Collection. But what can you get for less than 13,000 Euro when you open the door of an Urban Jürgensen retailer? This is the question we’ll answer today, with the “entry-level” proposition, the Urban Jürgensen Reference Big 8. (spoiler alert… you’ll get a hell of a lot)

This Urban Jürgensen Reference Big 8 is the essence of the brand. By that, I mean that this watch is simpler, more restrained, less demonstrative (at first) and maybe even more timeless than the rest of the collection. It is the “entry-level” proposition of the brand. However, this leads to an inevitable question… Will I get enough of the taste of the brand when buying such an “accessible” watch (relatively speaking), or will I feel like being robbed and will I be disappointed by my possible purchase? This is an important question, as even if it is the most accessible piece of the collection, this Urban Jürgensen Reference Big 8 still requires close to 13,000 Euro (and for mere mortals, this is a lot of cash…)

Urban Jurgensen Reference Big 8 Steel - review

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Without thoroughly answering this question now, we can tell you that there are no such feelings when handling the Big 8… It is a superb watch, from every possible angle. Of course, there are a few concessions to make, simply because the price difference with a 1140 has to be justified, however we’re not talking about lower quality or about fewer details. All the signature features of the brand are packed in this Big 8, for an ultimate pleasure.

Urban Jurgensen Reference Big 8 Steel - review

As its name indicates, the Big 8 is a large version of Urban Jürgensen’s 37 mm Reference 8, now featuring a 40mm case. Slightly larger, more modernly sized to fulfil the desires of certain collectors, yet timelessly elegant. To achieve this very decent price level, the first concession that this Urban Jürgensen Reference Big 8 implies is to get rid of the precious metals. Even if this watch can be ordered in Platinum, 18K Yellow Gold or 18K Rose Gold, the version that is under the scope today is crafted in stainless steel. This more common material isn’t that bad either… In fact, it allows a certain lightness and is more wear-proof (as less easy to scratch).

Urban Jurgensen Reference Big 8 Steel - review

Unaristocratic material doesn’t mean that the overall execution isn’t perfect. In fact, even in steel, the case of the Big 8 is still superbly detailed, the main focus being these teardrop lugs that are individually forged, heat-treated and then hand polished before being individually soldered onto the watch case (imagine the tact required to solder these finished and decorated lugs to the case, without destroying them…) The 40mm round case features a slim stepped bezel and a recessed crown, which makes it extremely classical and refined. No superfluous details, yet the case feels elegantly designed and well-proportioned on the wrist. The 40mm diameter wears rather small (the short lugs and recessed crown makes it compact), and in any case the 37mm could also be an option for those who really want to go old-fashioned and delicate.

Urban Jurgensen Reference Big 8 Steel - review

The other part of the Urban Jürgensen Reference Big 8 where no concessions have been made is the dial. Again, as with most of the watches manufactured by the brand, this dial is an ode to traditional techniques and to supreme details. The dial is hand-guilloche; with different geometric patterns that are meticulously engraved on a solid silver plate. In the center, the guilloche pattern borders on an arched cartouche which displays the brand’s signature. The hour markers are Roman numerals printed in black. The date aperture at 6 o’clock is finely framed, faceted and finished. Again, extremely classic, but so pleasant for connoisseurs.

Urban Jurgensen Reference Big 8 Steel - review

And then there are the hands… These hands are so special that our own Xavier even wrote an entire story on the way Urban Jürgensen manufactures them (and as he said, we’re close to obsessive details…) These are entirely handmade from multiple parts in a complex, time-consuming ritual requiring some 50 production steps and over a day of work to manufacture one set of hands. The steel arms of the hands are thermally blued to the specified Urban Jurgensen shade. The mirror-polished gold eye of the hour hand is held in place by the sheer accuracy of the fit. The canons riveted on the hands are also in gold. These hands alone could justify to buy an Urban Jürgensen Reference Big 8.

Urban Jurgensen Reference Big 8 Steel - review

The last of the concessions which had to be made in order to reach such a price level is to have a movement that is not exclusive to the brand. Indeed, the Urban Jürgensen Reference Big 8 is powered by an out-sourced automatic Piguet movement, the FP1160 caliber, the small-second version of the famous and proven 25.6mm Frederic Piguet 1150. For its Big 8, Urban have used a 4Hz version for a better precision, with two barrels for 48h of power reserve. The movement is classically but elegantly decorated, with Geneva stripes and anglages on the bridges, as well as a 21k gold rotor with guilloche pattern. We told you “concession”, yet this movement doesn’t really feel like a downgrade either. It is just less exclusive than the proprietary movements in the 1140 collection. And the bonus comes from the slim profile of the movement, which allows the Big 8 to be classified as a thin dress watch (with a 10.50mm case).

Urban Jurgensen Reference Big 8 Steel - review

So, overall, what to think about this Urban Jürgensen Reference Big 8? Once you put this whole idea into perspective, taking into consideration the 12,400 Euro price of this watch (at least in steel), you’ll obtain a watch that offers tons of pleasure for the price. Think about it: what other watches on the market can offer a hand-made guilloche dial, overly detailed hand-crafted hands, a proven, well-decorated and not-so-unaristocratic movement, such a detailed and beautifully executed case, and the level of exclusivity expected with this name printed on the dial for less than 13,000 Euro…? I searched and I can’t find many options around, meaning in all honesty that this Big 8 is almost a bargain. And then comes the overall style: classic, timeless, extremely elegant and refined. True independent watchmaking and hand-made details for the price of a mainstream luxury brand… More details on Urban Jürgensen in our previous articles and on the brand’s website.

Technical Specifications – Urban Jürgensen Reference Big 8

  • Case: 40mm diameter x 10.50mm height – Stainless steel, polished (also available in platinum, 18k yellow gold, 18k rose gold) – Individually soldered teardrop lugs – sapphire crystal on both sides – 30m water resistant
  • Movement: Calibre Piguet FP1160 – automatic – 4Hz frequency – 48h power reserve – hours, minutes, small seconds, date
  • Dial: hand-guilloche silver plate, hand-made hands in thermally blued steel and 18K Gold
  • Strap: Alligator leather, 20/16mm – pin or folding buckle matching the case
  • Reference: Big 8
  • Price: 12,400 Euro in steel – 22,500 Euro in Yellow or Pink Gold – 26,300 Euro in Platinum

5 responses

  1. As part of this lineage it might noted that readers may be more familiar with the Jules Jurgensen line of fine movement watches. These unique pieces are still a favorite among collectors looking for a fine dress watch.

  2. It resembles some Breguets, George Daniels and Roger Smith , watches in which these under the radar were probably inspired. I,however, if the protuberant crown not properly inserted was something that someone has inadvertently forgotten to push back or if they really not adjust perfectly to the case. Also, if it was up to me I would not add the date windoiw.

  3. This brand just keeps getting better and better. Awfully difficult to find something to complain about for this watch (though, it if was $10K I’d own it already…). Nice work UJ!

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