Urban Jürgensen is an independent high-end brand known for obsessing over details, creating masterpieces that may appear minimalistic, but hide an execution of subtleties that few ateliers can match. Founded in Copenaghen in 1773 by Jürgen Jürgensen, the company is among the foremost watchmaking dynasties in history. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Jürgensen family worked with legends like Jacques-Frédéric Houriet, Abraham-Louis Breguet and John Arnold to set standards for fine watchmaking that still apply today. Urban Jürgensen, first son of Jürgen, continued building the family's brand with innovations like a cylinder escape wheel comprised of hardened steel (instead of traditional brass) to greatly reduce wear and increase reliability. His book, Principes Généraux de l'Exacte Mesure du temps par les Horloges, is still a relevant reference for today's watchmakers. Although headquartered in Biel/Bienne, Switzerland, the company is again under Danish ownership with Soren Petersen (formerly with Nokia) as President and CEO.
Urban Jürgensen remained a family business until 1912 with the death of Jacques Alfred Jürgensen, ending a 139-year run of continuous Jürgensen operations. The company never stopped production, however, changing ownership many times for the next 67 years. They started manufacturing wristwatches in 1919 and enjoyed an Art Deco period during the 1920’s, but following the Great Depression, there was a lack of strategic vision. That changed in 1979 as the brand had a renaissance under the leadership of Peter Baumberger, an ardent watchmaker and collector, who was granted permission to use the Jürgensen name for timepieces. He officially acquired the brand in 1985, but had already produced the Ref. 1 Calender Chronograph three years earlier. By 1990, the Ref. 2 Perpetual Calendar wristwatch with 122 Gold and 50 Platinum pieces was introduced, and the brand was again a focused, exclusive watchmaker that shunned machine-aided mass production for tradition handwork at a deliberate pace.
Grenage dials are a specialty for the brand, originating in the late 19th century. The difficult, labour-intensive production process begins with a solid silver disk that’s given ultra-fine engravings of numbers and markings, which are then hand filled with lacquer. When hardened, the disk is diamond-paper-polished to leave only the grooves filled. Multiple steps are then required to build the grenage layer, using a mix of silver, salts and other ingredients that are hand-brushed onto the dial. Following an electrochemical reaction, the dial takes on a silvery frosty finish with unique depth and granularity. This is a very rare technique that few watchmakers attempt. The brand has also mastered the art of guilloché and enamel dials as well.
The new P8 movement, first introduced as a prototype in 2011, was the first to use a chronometer escapement in a wristwatch. This detent escapement was so precise that it eclipsed even the tourbillon in terms of accuracy and had been considered impossible to implement in a wristwatch (it was used in ship’s chronometers in the 18th and 19th centuries). Urban Jürgensen not only successfully created the Pivoted Detent Escapement for its new movement, but also made it robust enough to pass the Chronofiable test – one of the toughest standards in the industry. The company’s wristwatches are also the only ones in the world to have a central seconds hand sweep at three beats per second. A unique identity for collectors.
The final products are hand-crafted timepieces from artisans who obsess over the smallest details. The watch hands are never stamped or cut by machines, but handmade from multiple parts that are individually honed, polished, assembled and thermally blued. The eye of the hour hand is a concentrically diamond polished solid gold insert and polishing of the hands consists of secret types of polishing paste on a variation of dried woods. Cases are made from platinum, rose, yellow or white Gold, and in the case of the new Alfred, stainless steel. Unique teardrop lugs are individually soldered to the case, with sapphire crystals on both sides. Case and hand designs are faithful to the brand’s watches from the 18th century.
Pieces like the Reference 1741 with Grenage dial, perpetual calendar, leap year indicator, moon phase and 3-piece platinum case demonstrate the painstaking craftsmanship the brand is famous for. The Ref 1741 caliber is based on the Urban Jürgensen P4 In-house movement with enhancements for the leap year indication. And while the company’s handmade watches are already produced in low numbers, limited editions exist as well. The Grand Complication, limited to just one piece, features a minute repeater, tourbillon, perpetual calendar, day, date, month and moonphase. A Grenage dial is fitted in a platinum case and the piece exemplifies the brand’s commitment to luxury, exclusivity and traditional artisanship.