Hands-On: Angus Davies gets hands-on with the Urban Jurgensen ‘The Alfred’
This detailed review of the Urban Jurgensen ‘The Alfred’ includes live images, specification and pricing.
What’s in a name? A name means so much in this age of consumerism. A judiciously chosen brand together with an eye-catching logo can make a mundane product covetable and a mediocre service acceptable.
With this in mind, it may be a little surprising that the traditional and exalted company, Urban Jurgensen, has chosen to give a name to its latest offering. The maison from Biel / Bienne has historically used reference numbers to identify its watches, but recently it unveiled a comparatively modern timepiece, ‘The Alfred’.
‘The Alfred’ pays tribute to Jacques Alfred Jürgensen, ‘the last watchmaker of the Jurgensen family’. The watch doffs its hat to Jacques Alfred and upholds the fine craftsmanship and painstaking attention to detail for which the brand is synonymous. Indeed, I can already report that there is nothing mundane or mediocre about this sublimely elegant and virtuous timepiece. Allow me to elaborate further.
The watch features a ‘Grenage’ dial, a traditional and time-consuming artistic canvas the creation of which is shrouded in secrecy. A ‘Grenage’ dial eschews printing in favour of engraving, in this case Arabic numerals in the maison’s distinctive font. In addition, the dial of the Alfred is engraved with a small seconds display, place of origin, maker’s name and chemin de fer.
On a Grenage dial, once each engraving has been performed faultlessly, the recesses are filled with lacquer. Thereafter, the dial is brushed of excess material and its surface is subject to the application of a mixture of powders, salts and oil, the precise composition of which is a closely guarded secret. The brushing technique and composition of the mystery application leads to each dial evincing its own unique character. The surface, appearing silvery in some light, exhibits a ‘frosted surface with remarkable depth and granularity’.
The hands on ‘The Alfred’ are made by hand and necessitate 50 manufacturing steps that take over a day of work. The hour hand features a mirror-polished eye which is affixed merely by the function of its frictional fit. Thermally blued, the hands exude a regal persona and the elongated minute hand brims with elegance as it wonderfully kisses the chemin de fer. It is surprising that, despite its comparatively modest asking price of €14,300 + VAT (RRP as at 17.10.2017), Urban Jurgensen has not chosen to cut costs and equip the timepiece with a cheaper form of hands.
The traditional maison, Urban Jurgensen, has embraced modernity with the sizing of ‘The Alfred’. This gorgeous timepiece measures 42mm in diameter, a size which is universally appealing and likely to fit most male wrists. The Swiss company has seemingly done nothing to mitigate costs in order to deliver a keen price point. The stainless steel case features the brand’s legendary teardrop shape lugs.
Each lug is forged, hand-finished and seamlessly soldered to the case. This clearly is more labour intensive than stamping or milling a case with integrated lugs. However, the approach taken by Urban Jurgensen yields much eye-appeal and creates a superior ergonomic union with the wrist.
The decision by Urban Jurgensen to make ‘The Alfred’ in stainless steel, eschewing noble metals, has clearly allowed the company to achieve the competitive price point of €14,300 + VAT. However, save for the use of stainless steel there appears to be few other indications of cost saving. Indeed, this timepiece emits a sense of luxury wherever you choose to look.
Gracing the rear of the watch is an exhibition case-back affording sight of the hand-wound Caliber P4.
The watch is supplied on a hand sewn calf leather strap paired with a stainless steel C-shaped pin buckle.
The Urban Jurgensen Caliber P4 is a manually wound movement featuring no-compromise finishing. Two bridges dominate the movement, each beautifully adorned with Côtes de Genève rayonnantes. A third, open-worked bridge holds the balance wheel in position. By affixing the balance bridge at two points to the mainplate, the balance is more stable.
Thermally blued screws vie with rubies to enliven the movement landscape. Each jewel sink is highly polished, the bridges have been subjected to peerless chamfering and the mainplate features glorious perlage.
The balance oscillates to a frequency of 21,600 VpH (3Hz), the movement contains 23 jewels and twin barrels collaborate to deliver 72 hours of autonomy.
The ‘Grenage’ dial, thermally blued hands and matchless legibility make this a very special timepiece. The effort which Urban Jurgensen has put into creating the dial ensemble is very impressive. Indeed, despite ‘The Alfred’ being priced much lower than some of the complicated timepieces from Urban Jurgensen, there are no indications of penny-pinching.
A stainless steel case has helped the Swiss company achieve a lower price point, however, the case material proves highly practical and does not leave the wearer feeling shortchanged. Indeed, its lower mass and comparative hardness when contrasted with gold should appeal to many would-be wearers.
The Caliber P4 is beautifully designed and expertly executed. Thermally blued screws, Côtes de Genève rayonnantes, perlage and polished jewel sinks vie with each other to steal a purist’s heart. The finissage is exquisite.
In addition, Urban Jurgensen makes the purchase of ‘The Alfred’ special, offering purchasers the opportunity to collect their chosen timepiece from the company’s atelier in Bienne. It is here that visitors will have the chance to tour the company’s facility and meet the very craftsmen responsible for making the brand’s exceptional timepieces.
So, what’s in a name? In this case, ‘The Alfred’ is a name which stands for excellence, beauty and peerless functionality, providing a refreshing alternative to expedience and compromise. Indeed, this is a name worth remembering and flies in the face of cynical branding.
- Model: Urban Jürgensen ‘The Alfred’
- Case: Stainless steel; diameter 42 mm; sapphire crystal to front and case-back; water resistance 3 ATM (30 metres)
- Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds
- Movement: Caliber P4; Hand-wound movement; frequency 21,600 VpH (3Hz); 23 jewels; power reserve 72 hours
- Strap: Brown calf leather strap with C-shaped steel pin buckle
- Price: CHF 14,300 + VAT (RRP as at 17.10.2017)