The steel sports watch is credited as the saviour of the Swiss watchmaking industry for a reason. At the height of the 1970s quartz crisis, high-complication, high-price models were struggling against a riptide of mass-produced battery-powered timepieces that were as cheap as they were accurate.
The industry needed an injection of cool to pull itself above the water – and it got it in the form of Gerald Genta’s triptych of watch designs, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak (1972), Patek Philippe’s Nautilus and the IWC Ingenieur SL (both 1976).
It was nothing short of a revelation. Genta’s designs broke down the conventions of dress and tool watch to create something altogether different: dressy but casual, luxurious yet rugged. Models like the Vacheron Constantin Ref. 222 and the Girard-Perregaux Laureato rode on the coattails of this newfound Swiss watchmaking momentum so that by the turn of the decade the giants of Geneva and beyond were back on top.
And then…nothing. The frenzy of creation that forged a whole new timepiece category dried up. Watch brands consolidated their iconic efforts and added new complications and colour combinations – to this day, there has been little advancement in the sports watch category beyond the odd movement update.
Urban Jürgensen hasn't just launched a brand-new sports watch, but one of the most harmonious, unique designs in the category
So forgive us for losing our collective minds at the sight of independent brand Urban Jürgensen not just launching a brand-new sports watch, but one of the most harmonious, unique designs in the category (we’ll say it) ever.
Coming from a Danish-born, Swiss-bred brand with almost 250 years of continuous history this is something of a surprise, especially when you consider the handcrafted complicated pieces that encompass much of its range. But here we are: the Jürgensen One.
The timepiece started life as a series of varying circular shapes overlapping one another. This crystallised into a modern steel watch without a single straight edge and a distinctive bracelet featuring oval-shaped central links. The links are also tapered so that no two are shaped the same and create a stylish silhouette on the wrist.
Before we get to the attention to detail, it’s worth stressing that this is perhaps the first time in 40 years that a brand has dared to deviate this far from the Genta blueprint. This is bold and exciting watch design, the likes of which we haven’t seen for a long time.
The watch in the metal is composed of a seven-piece construction with stylised tear-drop lugs. There’s satin-brushed and mirror-polished surfaces across the timepiece, while Urban Jürgensen has opted for a medical-grade 1.4441 steel (a higher grade than what you will find in most similarly priced models). But this is just the tip of the iceberg.
The central dial features an intricate wave-like grain d’orge guilloché pattern, while the the outer perimeter features a grained effect that adds further texture to the design. Urban Jürgensen’s immediately distinguishable hand-finished hands are present on the dial featuring more detail than you’re likely to see from almost any other brand: hand-riveted centre canons, slightly bent tips for further legibility and with either a highly polished or thermally blued finish. It’s a visual feast.
There's also a clever GMT option available, featuring two pushers at eight and ten o'clock to change the timezone, for those looking for something a little more travel-ready.
Truly iconic watch designs, like prized fighters, come around once or twice a decade. Meet the new heavyweight champion of the world.
For more info, urbanjurgensen.com