Master hand, sleights of hand, all hands on deck… No matter the context, hands hold a particular significance – especially in the world of Urban Jürgensen. This applies as much to the changing of metaphorical hands from Danish to Swiss and back to Danish, as to the skilled human hands that shape and finish the brand’s complicated timepieces in classically beautiful styles, and of course to the actual watch hands that we will examine in particular detail here.
An Urban Jürgensen timepiece has always been an example of uncompromising craftsmanship, a tradition the current owners of the company feel honour-bound to perpetuate. The maison’s timepieces are not mass-produced in an anonymous industrial building, but carefully honed in a traditional atelier. The creation of an Urban Jürgensen watch is not the product of expedience, but instead the prolonged pursuit of excellence deploying the traditional, highly specialised forms of craftsmanship reflecting the timeless traditions of the company.
At Urban Jürgensen there is a belief that perfection is seldom the product of haste. Machinery may offer capacity, but hand craftsmanship provides individuality and a lasting joy. While traditional materials ensure longevity, skilful hands are required to deftly manipulate tools in order to create horological objects of beauty.
Authenticity and substance
At the epicentre of the Urban Jürgensen paradigm, the word ‘authenticity’ defines everything the company does. This Maison renounces marketing hyperbole in favour of real substance, placing the emphasis firmly on fine workmanship and technical prowess.
At first glance, an Urban Jürgensen exhibits a simplicity that conceals the complexity of its creation. The construction method and craftsmanship used are deliberately intended to appeal to connoisseurs of fine watchmaking. While some design elements and finishing are clear to see, others are virtually hidden from view to the untrained eye.
The company’s skill in the production of actual watch hands is no exception to this rule. Most watch hands these days are both industrially designed and factory manufactured, many in a simple stamped-out shape with perhaps a fold in the centre line to reinforce the construction. Bluing is most often done chemically, too.
the ‘eye’ of the hour hand on Urban Jürgensen watches is a hand-crafted wonder in its own right
Urban Jürgensen hands, by contrast, are very much hand-made. They comprise a significant number of components that are individually honed, assembled and finished – a result of numerous hours of highly skilled workmanship.
The steel arms of Urban Jürgensen hands are cut from selected steel and manually finished to ensure a perfect shape and fit, while gold arms are made from solid gold. Numerous hours of diligent polishing with increasingly fine-grained diamond paper are followed by mirror polishing using secret types of polishing paste applied using a variety of wooden pegs specially shaped for the task. The final touch is then set by meticulous thermal bluing, patiently performed by highly experienced artisans until they meet the inimitable Urban Jürgensen shade of navy blue.
When the noble art of watchmaking is exercised at such a high level, the importance of the human hand is matched by that of a trained and expert eye. Symbolically, the ‘eye’ of the hour hand on Urban Jürgensen watches is a hand-crafted wonder in its own right: a concentrically diamond-polished solid gold insert that is precision-fitted and thus free of any gluing or soldering. Its asymmetrical design, gently tapered towards the tip, ensures a unique elegance. This unwavering commitment to excellence is further exemplified at the very centre of the dial, in the precision-turned and mirror-polished solid gold hand pipes (also known as bushes), around which the arms are riveted to ensure a perfect fit.
Hand-wound, hand-fitted and hand-made
Aristotle described the hand as the “tool of tools”, while according to Roman rhetorician Marcus Fabius Quintilianus: “The hands may almost be said to speak. Do we not employ them to indicate joy, quantity, number, and time? Have they not power to excite?”
Hand-wound, hand-fitted and hand-made: hands at Urban Jürgensen – be they Danish or Swiss, of the human or watch variety – not only indicate time, but in 2016 continue to stir the same excitement, approval and wonder among watchmakers and connoisseurs alike as they have for more than 240 years.
For more info, see urbanjurgensen.com