Despite the classic aesthetics, traditional crafts, and history that Urban Jürgensen & Sønner‘s watches are rooted in, the Danish-Swiss brand is able to be thoroughly modern in offering direct-to-consumer online sales for its latest release. As the brand’s new entry-level watch, the Urban Jürgensen & Sønner Alfred also appears to offer a lot for its price with a proprietary movement and a lot of handmade parts using uncommon techniques. Urban Jürgensen remains a lesser-known independent brand that high-end watch collectors can wink to each other about, but they might be starting to get more of the attention they deserve.
The Urban Jürgensen & Sønner Alfred watch is named for Jacques Alfred Jürgensen who was the last Jürgensen family watchmaker at the brand. The brand has had something of a dual Danish-Swiss identity throughout its centuries-spanning history, and while it changed hands a number of times after Jacques Alfred Jürgensen’s death in 1912, it returned to Danish ownership with now CEO Søren Jenry Petersen running the company since 2014 – while the watches remain Swiss Made. Read more about the brand and its history in our hands-on article on the Urban Jürgensen 11C watch here. The design of the Urban Jürgensen & Sønner Alfred dial, we are told, is based on a pocket watch signed by Jacques Alfred that was discovered in the brand’s archives while moving to their new atelier in Bienne, Switzerland, earlier this year.
At a modern 42mm wide in steel (30m water-resistant), the Urban Jürgensen & Sønner Alfred has a lot of handmade elements and even some “secrets” – the lugs’ soldering technique, the type of wood used to polish the hands, and the mix of ingredients for the “grenage” dial are all apparently classified. The clean look of the dial, the style of “observatory” hands, and the “teardrop” lugs have become signatures for the brand and they are keen to explain their painstaking production. The dial seems like a good place to begin…
Just because the Arabic numeral hour markers are flush with the rest of the dial, don’t mistake it for another printed one – as Urban Jürgensen’s technique makes applied indices look like the lazy choice. Again, the technique is called “grenage,” and the brand has used it for other watches in the past. Grenage involves, first, the indices, numerals, and texts being engraved into the silver dial and then filled in with lacquer that is polished to be flush with the dial surface. Then, the dial is treated with a mixture of silver powder, salt, and other (secret) ingredients, and an electrochemical bonding process causes the finish you see here to develop. This is all done by hand, of course, and we are told that each dial will therefore have an individual character and slight differences. The brand describes the texture as “granular,” but we’ve seen a lot of granular-textured dials before that often have a rougher, asphalt-like appearance – in the images at least, the Urban Jürgensen & Sønner Alfred dial texture looks almost like velvet or soft suede to me.
Most watch cases are made with the lugs as an integral part of the case’s shape, milled from a single piece of metal. Urban Jürgensen, on the other hand, makes each of the four teardrop lugs individually and then solders them to the three-part case. Just think: you’d have to make sure each is on there perfectly straight. Even for small batches, the lugs’ initial forging process alone apparently requires a full day of work and between five and eight cycles including heating and cooling stages that must be monitored and manually adjusted. Both the dial and the lugs seem as if produced with totally unnecessary complexity for a final product that differs from one produced more easily only in very subtle ways – these are the joys, I suppose, of watch collecting at a certain level.
We’re not done yet, though! Knowing all that, you wouldn’t expect simple stamped hands over that downy dial, would you? The hour hand alone is composed of four parts, and each hand and component is honed, polished, assembled, and heat-blued to a very specific hue of Urban Jürgensen navy blue. You might not even notice that the diamond-polished center of the hour hand’s “eye” is asymmetrically slightly thicker towards the center of the dial.
Finally, the hand-wound UJS-P4 movement was developed by Urban Jürgensen with Chronode. It features a Swiss lever escapement rather than the brand’s signature detent escapement of the P8 movement as in the 11C watch (linked to above), but shares much of the same architecture and finishing. With two barrels, the UJS-P4 gets 72 hours of power reserve and beats at a frequency of 3Hz to display the time with a small seconds subdial at 6 o’clock on the dial. The movement is visible through a sapphire caseback and decorated with some perlage and radial Geneva stripes emanating from the balance wheel, a balance bridge that’s skeletonized in a cool modern way, hand-chamfering for the bridges, and blued screws with polished countersinks.
What is perhaps most notable is the relatively reasonable price for the level of work we can attest to Urban Jürgensen doing and the direct, online-only sales. Now, this is not an online shopping experience where you add to cart, proceed to checkout, and choose your method of payment. No, you contact the brand via their online form (or just call the atelier) and “arrange purchase.” Part of the package is an “experience” – you are invited to pick up your watch in Bienne where CEO Søren Jenry Petersen will personally hand it to you and introduce you to the watchmakers and craftsmen who made it. I’m assuming the buyer is responsible for transportation and lodging, and I’m not sure if shipping is an option, but I suppose that’s really all beside the point for any potential customer. Price for the Urban Jürgensen & Sønner Alfred watch is €14,300 + VAT. urbanjurgensen.com