Urban Jürgensen

The story begins at the time Christian VI was King of Denmark and Norway, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein, a child named Jürgen Jürgensen was born, and he was to have great significance for watchmaking history. He was both the father of the most famous Danish watchmaker Urban Jürgensen and at the same time the founding father of the horological dynasty which was to revolutionize the outdated structures of the clock and watchmaking craft in Denmark and Switzerland. Through their use of new theoretical findings and practical working methods, they subsequently achieved the highest recognition both in Denmark and Switzerland.

Among the world’s greatest watchmakers of the 18th and 19th centuries, members of the Jürgensen family, notably Urban and Jules, worked alongside other horological geniuses such as Houriet, Breguet, Berthoud and Arnold. They have greatly contributed to the development of horology.

The watchmaking family’s roots stretch back to eighteenth century Denmark and Jörgen Jurgensen (1745-1811), founder of the dynasty. The most eminent watchmakers amongst his descendants are undisputedly his sons Urban (1776-1830) and Jules-Frederik Jûrgensen (1808-1877).

The latter two continued their father’s business by founding Urban Jürgensen & Sonner in Switzerland. Jules moved to Le Locle, Switzerland while his brother Louis was in charge of the factory in Copenhagen. After Louis Urban’s and Jules-Frederik’s deaths, the company went through several more changes of ownership but continued the tradition of chronometric timepieces.

Historical Chronometer Movement

Urban Jürgensen was one of the world’s most prominent watchmakers in the 18th century and contributed significantly to horological developments in fine mechanical watchmaking. As a result of his efforts, he was awarded an appointment as Royal Purveyor to King Frederik VI of Denmark and conferred the honour of the Royal Order of the Dannebrog, regularly supplying timepieces to the court and ship’s chronometers to the Danish Admiralty.

A brilliant and multifaceted talent, Urban Jürgensen achieved great international acclaim for his innovations in technology and science, gaining equal status with his scientific contemporaries. The results of his research were published in 1804 in a series of articles in Danish, French and German, earning him a place in the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters. He was a brilliant engineer, a visionary far ahead of his time in many respects regarding creativity and aesthetics. As a horologist, inventor and aesthete, he must be considered one of the great talents in Denmark’s history.

Urban Jürgensen

Following the wish of his father Jürgen, Urban Jürgensen, spent a major part of his training as a watchmaker in Paris, London, Geneva and Le Locle in the Canton of Neuchatel, Switzerland. It was under his management that both pocket watches and precision timekeepers for navigation and astronomy made by the Urban Jürgensen Company achieved international fame and recognition. The Danish King, Frederick VI, granted Urban Jürgensen a Royal Appointment to supply the court with watches and the Danish Admiralty with chronometers.

The use of first class materials and the extremely robust design of all the timekeepers made by the company soon made them highly coveted collector’s items, as is still the case today.

In accordance with the practice of the times, Urban Jürgensen’s sons also entered the watchmaking profession and following their father’s footsteps, traveled abroad to study and apprentice as watchmakers. After receiving recognition as masters, they joined their father’s company officially. This led to a change in the company’s structure, which was expressed in the name Urban Jürgensen & Sønner, the same title used by the company today. The sons and grandchildren of this generation went on to ensure the Jürgensen dynasty’s continued existence into the 20th century. One member of the family, Jules Jürgensen, ended up not only studying, but later settling permanently in Le Locle in the 1830s, where he was responsible for an official manufacture under the Urban Jürgensen & Sønner name.

This is the reason why the cities of Copenhagen and Le Locle are incorporated inthe company logo, as a reference to the Danish and Swiss roots of the firm together with the date of its initial founding. The Jürgensen, with their analytical approach to the processes and methods of watch production, exercised a tremendous influence on the watchmaking industry of Le Locle,and indeed the entire Canton of Neuchatel, introducing the most modern methods to the Swiss industry of the era, for which they received many accolades and were endowed with honorary status from the city of Le Locle.

In 1981, Peter Baumberger, a trained watchmaker and passionate collector, acquired Urban Jürgensen & Sonner and is the congenial successor of Urban Jürgensen’s spirit. Dr Helmut Crott became the guardian of the brand since his friend Mr Baumberger’s death.

Since its establishment, Urban Jürgensen & Sønner always cultivated a policy of maximum quality in the art of horology, with particular efforts directed at the technical perfection of the movement combined with artistically designed cases, dials and hands of classical elegance.

 

Jürgensen Dynasty
Jürgen Jürgensen (1745 -1811): Jürgen Jürgensen was born in 1745 in Copenhagen. Between 1759 and 1765 he worked with Johnas Jacob Lincke as an apprentice. In 1768 Jürgen Jürgensen moved to Le Locle and worked with Jacques-Frédéric Houriet, the renowned Swiss watch maker who was known as the Father of Swiss Chronometry.

He established a watchmaking factory in Copenhagen in 1775 and he coined the brand name Larpent & Jürgensen in 1780s in partnership with Isaac Larpent, a renowned Danish watch maker. In 1781 Larpent & Jürgensen started the production of pocket watches. In 1784, Jürgen Jürgensen was appointed as the Court horologist by King Fredrik VI.

Urban Jürgensen (1775 -1830): Urban Jürgensen was born in 1775 in Copenhagen. Following the footsteps of father, Urban Jürgensen travelled all the way to Le Locle to study precision timekeeping with Houriet. Under the guidance of this genius horologer, young Urban brushed up his watchmaking skills. Urban Jürgensen married Sophie-Henriette Houriet, daughter of his master.

Jacques-Frédéric Houriet & His Daughter,
Sophie-Henriette Houriet

In 1798, Urban Jürgensen introduced the steel cylinder escape wheel. He then moved to Paris to study with Breguet, and in the following year he travelled to London to study with Arnold. In 1801, Urban Jürgensen introduced his Bimetallic Thermometer.

In 1810, Urban Jürgensen started the production of marine Chronometers and in the same year he was awarded the Daneborg order, a prestigious award by the king of Denmark. In 1815, Urban Jürgensen was accepted into the Royal Danish Academy of Science, a non-governmental science Academy, founded in 1742 for the advancement of science in Denmark.

Marine Chronometer, Circa 1811

In 1818, Urban Jürgensen started the supply of Marine and deck chronometers to the Royal navy.In 1821, Urban Jürgensen introduced the famous Krusenstern Chronometers and in the following year he announced his new, detached double wheel chronometer escapement.

Krusenstern Chronometer

Louis Urban Jürgensen and Jules Jürgensen: In 1830, on demise of Urban Jürgensen, his two sons Louis Urban and Jules continue the company under the name UJS (Urban Jürgensen & Sønner). In the same year Louis Urban Jürgensen introduced his first marine chronometer.

In the following years, Jules Jürgensen introduced precision horology and quality improvements into the manufactures of Canton Neuchatel, settling permanently in Le Locle. Jules Jürgensen Copenhagen was established.

In 1836, UJS received the Grand medal of the Copenhagen Industrial Exhibition. In 1850s legendary watchmakers Victor Kullberg and Moritz Grossmann were worked for Louis Urban Jürgensen. In 1852, Louis Urban Jürgensen awarded 2 medals at the Great exhibition in London.

In 1867, Jules Jürgensen patented his hand setting mechanism. In 1871, Jules Jürgensen was awarded a gold medal at the maritime exhibition in Naples. In 1873, Jules Jürgensen was awarded a gold medal at the Copenhagen industrial exhibition and in 1874 he was awarded Knight of the Legion d’Honneur.

Jacques Alfred Jürgensen: In 1893, Jacques Alfred Jürgensen was awarded gold medal at the international exhibition in Chicago and he received a gold medal at the National exhibition in Geneva in 1896. In 1912, Jacques Alfred Jürgensen died.

1912 – No More a Family Owned Company
After the death of Jacques Alfred Jürgensen, the last watch maker from the family, the company and brand names were transferred to the hands of new owner. In 1919, Jules Jürgensen Copenhagen started to manufacture wristwatches. The control of company, which had production sites at Copenhagen and Le Locle passed through several hands such as E. Heuer (From 1919 – 1936), Aisenstein-Woronock (From 1936 – 1974) and Mort Clayman (From 1974 to 1979). The New York based watch business group Aisenstein-Woronock & Sons continued to produce watches under the Jules Jürgensen brand name and they were mainly marketed in USA. Mort Clayman, who took over the brand in 1974, did not succeed to revive the legendary watch brand.

1980s – Revival of the brand in its original spirit
In 1980s, Peter Baumberger, a trained watchmaker and passionate collector, acquired Urban Jürgensen & Sonner and is the congenial successor of Urban Jürgensen’s spirit. P. Baumberger with his small team of skilled master watchmakers produced small series of traditionally made, complicated timepieces, ranging from 50 to 300 examples, at the privately-owned firm in Bienne, Switzerland.

In 1979, Peter Baumberger was granted permission by the owner of the UJS brand to sign his watches Urban Jürgensen & Sønner. From1982, he commercially launched Urban Jürgensen & Sønner Ref. 1 Calendar Chronograph in limited edition of 186 pieces, which heralded the revival of the legendary watch brand. In 1985, Peter Baumberger formally acquired Urban Jürgensen & Sønner.

Derek Pratt became the master watchmaker for Urban Jürgensen .This extremely talented watchmaker realized many exclusive pieces for the brand including the “Tribute Oval Tourbillon Pocket watch” – a one-of-the kind timepiece referring to all the watchmakers he admired. He passed away in 2009.

Tribute Oval Tourbillon Pocket watch

In 1990, Peter Baumberger presented the Ref. 2 Perpetual calendar wrist watch, produced in 62 examples. The models ref 3 to ref 10 followed. These watches signed under Urban Jürgensen & Sønner brand name were produced in small series from 50 up to a maximum of 300 examples. These watches were mainly based on ébauche movements from Frédéric Piguet, Le Brassus.

UJS Reference 10 – Perpetual Calender Small Seconds

In 2003, Peter Baumberger initiated his plan for a new in house calibre and in 2008; he acquired a worldwide patent for the new in house calibre with a detent escapement. In 2009, a prototype wristwatch with the patented detent escapement is presented for the first time at Baselworld. Unfortunately, the sudden demise of Peter Baumberger in 2009 resulted a huge loss to Urban Jürgensen & Sønner and Switzerland’s traditional watch making industry.

After Peter Baumberger’ death, his friend and horology specialist, Dr Helmut Crott took over as CEO of Urban Jürgensen & Sønner. Dr Helmut Crott became the owner of Urban Jürgensen & Sønner and Jules Jürgensen, and both brands began to operate under same roof. Dr Helmut Crott, a medical doctor turned horology specialist has been associated with horology industry since 1972 as a consultant of fine luxury watches.

Dr Helmut Crott

In 2011, Urban Jürgensen & Sønner presented the prototype of the breakthrough UJS-P8 movement. The newly introduced Urban Jürgensen Reference 11 represents the first time thatthe chronometer escapement has been used in a wristwatch. The invention is the result of several years’ development work and has been patented worldwide.

2014: Urban Jürgensen Back in Danish Hands
In the case of Urban Jürgensen’s 240 years of history there were several events that can be described as historic recurrence, the most recent happened in 2013 and it lead to Urban Jürgensen returning to Danish ownership.

In 1976, the 200th anniversary of Urban Jürgensen’s birth was celebrated by the watchmaker’s guild in Copenhagen. At the same time, the shop bearing Jürgensen’s name had a small exhibition of timepieces from the past. A young watchmaker by the name Peter Baumberger was passing through Copenhagen looking for antiques when he saw the exhibition in the shop.Peter Baumberger had a vision whilst standing there in Gundesen’s shop. Of course Urban Jürgensen’s timepieces were well known to him, but the idea of buying the shop, including the trademark “Urban Jürgensen”, was a challenge that was too irresistible for him. In 1979, UJS owner granted permission to Peter Baumberger to sign his watches Urban Jürgensen & Sønner. He finally acquired the Company in 1985.

In 2013, the story would repeat itself when a Danish watch collector was presented with an Urban Jürgensen watch in the store that used to be Urban Jürgensen’s atelier centuries ago.

He was looking for the perfect gentleman’s watch; the sales manager proceeded to hand him an Urban Jurgensen Ref. 2 in yellow gold. He was stunned by the sheer level of handcraft and attention to detail the Urban Jurgensen watch exuded and ended up being the lucky owner of number 23 of this limited edition watch. He was given the book “The Jurgensen Dynasty” which helped him to learn about the company’s 240 year history. The choices the company had made in execution of the handcrafted watch were simply awe inspiring.

This watch collector was Soren Petersen and for him as Peter Baumberger felt 40 years prior, the idea of acquiring the Urban Jürgensen company was a challenge to irresistible to pass. After 30 years of foreign ownership, the 14th of November 2014, a Danish Private Investment Group took over the company, included in this group was Soren Petersen, who was appointed President and CEO.

For the past 30 years, Peter Baumberger, Derek Pratt and lately Dr. Helmut Crott has been steering the company forward with concepts for new calibres and a clear foundation for the 21st century. The new ownership plans to build upon this foundation producing complicated timepieces in classically beautiful styles deploying the traditional highly specialized forms of craftsmanship that will honour the long established timeless traditions of the company.

UJS-P8 movement
In 2011, Urban Jürgensen & Sønner presented the prototype of the breakthrough UJS-P8 movement, the world’s first wristwatch movement utilizing a chronometer escapement, thus connecting the marine chronometers and clocks made by the firm in the 18th and 19th centuries directly to the world of watchmaking in the 21st. The extreme precision and accuracy of the detent escapement, which lies at the heart of defining a true chronometer, ranks far above the tourbillon in accuracy and horological importance.

Pivoted Detent Escapement

Nonetheless, until now it was considered an impossibility to successfully implement it in a modern wristwatch. In the 18th and 19th centuries it was used exclusively in ship’s chronometers, built to withstand the motion of the open sea, always with the dial facing upwards in a gimbal mounting and set within a closed box. The demands on a detent escapement fit for the21st century are quite different indeed. In today’s world, the day-to-day shocks of life on the wrist are extreme compared to this marine environment and therefore the original escapement concept had to be altered.

Additionally, this step required smaller dimensions in order to make the detent escapement practical and accurate for modern times. After several years of research and the expenditure of vast funds, Urban Jürgensen & Sønner were successful in creating a new detent movement and far beyond that – the new movement was found to be so robust that it passed Chronofiable® testing, one of the toughest standards in Switzerland for wrist watches, with flying colours. This success closed the circle between the company’s past and present, in an elegant and mechanically perfect way, completely in line with the company’s standards and traditions.

Unveiled at Baselworld 2011, Urban Jürgensen & Sønner’s Reference P8 Chronometer is the world’s first wristwatch with a detent escapement. The new Chronometer P8 “with detent escapement” – adapted to the mechanical wristwatch – achieves a 40% better timing performance than the average COSC certified chronometer.

The collection was again updated in the following years P8 Chronometer Ref. 11C Automatic (2012) and Montre observatoire émail dial – Limited Edition (2013). At Baselworld 2014, Urban Jürgensen
& Sonner presented the Tourbillon Minute Repeater Enamel Regulator and the Reference 11 C P8Chronometer with Central Second.

240 years of legacy
In 2013 the book, The Jürgensen Dynasty – Four centuries of watchmaking in two countries (in English) by John M.R. Knudsen was published and this book provides the full history of a uniquefamily of watchmakers.First published exclusively in Danish and quickly sold out, this new and completely updated English edition (2013) provides the full history of a unique family of  watchmakers in 368 pages and more then 560 illustrations.

Contact details
Urban Jürgensen
Rue de Boujean 77
2502 Bienne/Biel
Switzerland 
https://www.urbanjurgensen.com

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