Urban Jürgensen encompasses a rich history, and in the centuries since it began the identity of the brand has remained strong. As CEO Søren Jenry Petersen points out, the cornerstones of the marque haven’t changed. “We still humbly work hard on deploying traditional crafts in all of what we do,” he says. “We strive to ensure that our clients come to own traditionally-crafted timepieces where each piece is unique and not merely a clone.”
To keep quality high, they produce in limited volumes only. “We do not have a single newer model that has sold over 50 pieces – this tells you a lot about the exclusivity of an Urban Jürgensen. We continue to find partners in the retail channel who understand the value and we aim to keep it that way,” Petersen explains. And it’s a formula that’s working: since the early days, the brand has collected awards from Jüles Jürgensen’s gold medal by Canton Neuchatel for the “betterment and improvement of the Swiss watchmaking industry” in 1864, to the GPHG prize for the development of the Detent escapement in 2014. The brand is on its own successful path, but what does Petersen think about those around them? “I would say that my inspirations for the quality are mostly people who have made, or still do make, timepieces under their own name, from their own bench. Philippe Dufour or Kari Voutilainen come to mind. Urban Jürgensen has a 244- year continuous history with four generations involved and a small museum exhibition to boot – so our challenge is staying true to what has worked for that many years – and I believe this is visible in our collections.”
Day-to-day, the focus shifts between designing new models, fine tuning, meeting supply partners and sales activities. Developing a new watch typically takes one and a half years, with variations of design for dials and casing completed in four to six months. As Petersen points out, it is almost shorter than it takes to get the parts themselves. While production varies for each watch, some things always remain constant. “We have very little use for ultra-modern technology,” Petersen says. “There are enough choices for that out there, and the problem with new technology is that it loses value extremely rapidly, replaced by the ‘new’ thing – or the market fills up with everyone else doing it within six months. We stay true to the old crafts. Picasso never used a spray can – and the traditional way to handcraft precious objects ensures that the basic intrinsic value of the work produced remains more stable. We take great inspiration from the past, and retain the manual work processes that in turn results in unique pieces and not just cloned products coming off a manufacturing line.”
Key design touches ensure all collections are always recognisably Urban Jürgensen. The familiar hands and teardrop lugs, the grenage dials and typography are all beautifully handcrafted details that emphasise the real value of the watch. Petersen loves the classic aesthetic – prior to his time at Urban Jürgensen, he assembled quite the collection himself. “It includes many classic brands. Lange & Söhne, Rolex, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Ulysse Nardin, Breitling, Panerai and so on,” he says. “I only buy pieces that speak to me from a design perspective, and never for speculation in value. My Urban Jürgensen Ref 2 was the second one that set off the collection.” So with such a prosperous past, we can only ask – what’s next? “The industry is in turmoil, where lots of players don’t know where to set the next foot. We are growing well, so to develop this further is our focus, after having found a new atelier, and expanding the collections. We’ll continue to surprise, so there’s lots to look forward to.” We can’t wait.
Quick Fire Questions
Tell us about your new watch, The Alfred…
“The Alfred came about as a response to the desire to share the atelier experience with clients in a more direct fashion. We also discovered some Jacques Alfred Jürgensen movements and dials when we moved to our new atelier, and we thought of celebrating the move as well as making a special edition that’s only available if you visit us. We are very excited about the prospect, and believe the tonality of the piece with the whole experience will be very well received.”
What’s the inspiration behind it?
“The idea was to create a classical timepiece deeply rooted in our history, but at the same time executed to show how a handcrafted watch of serene purity can be made and still look effortlessly cool on people’s wrists today. We have combined some of the most exquisite details with a robust movement and case material – and we can’t wait to share the result.
The Alfred is named in tribute to Jacques Alfred Jürgensen, the last watchmaker of the Jurgensen family. It combines an iconic case with teardrop shade lugs, a beautiful fluted crown and grenage dial, for a classic, timeless effect. No detail is left neglected, with even the hands requiring approximately 50 manufacturing steps and taking over a day of work to complete. The precious P4 calibre can be admired through the caseback, and is decorated with Geneva stripes to give the viewer a thrill. Technically accomplished, the full balance bridge is openworked, with the contours of the bridges underscored with beautiful manual chamfering. A simple brown leather strap is all it needs for an understated finish.”
Price: Approximately £11,800; urbanjurgensen.com