Simply Divine: The Urban Jürgensen Unique Piece Tourbillon Minute Repeater Regulator
by Ian Skellern
Around 1995, the founder of the modern Urban Jürgensen & Sønner brand, Peter Baumberger (1940-2010), went into partnership with the then-independent movement manufacture Lémania (now owned by Swatch Group and incorporated into Breguet) to develop a minute repeater tourbillon movement.
This project was finished in 2000; however, very few of these movements were ever made by Lémania . . . though Baumberger received three – each with different indications and finishes. One was a regulator.
Baumberger unfortunately passed away before doing anything with the precious movements, so they sat quietly in a box, waiting . . . waiting patiently for nearly a decade and a half until the brand’s new owner, Dr. Helmut Crott, discovered them and decided to create a wristwatch worthy of such a very special caliber using the regulator version: the Urban Jürgensen (UJS) Tourbillon Minute Repeater Regulator.
There are two main features making this watch a sui generis piece: the tourbillon minute repeater movement with regulator-style indications and the beautiful hand-painted Geneva technique (fondant de Genève) enamel dial.
Let’s look at the enamel dial in more detail first. Enamel is basically crushed glass heated until it melts over a plate, which usually means temperatures of at least 800°C (1,500° F).
The major benefit of an enamel dial is that it doesn’t fade. How the dial looks upon exiting the oven is how it will look (if cared for) centuries from now.
The disadvantage of an enamel dial is that it is very difficult to make. Multiple layers of crushed glass must be heated, melted, cooled and polished. Then the process is repeated any number of times, and at any stage the enamel might crack if it heats or cools too quickly.
The Geneva technique adds yet another layer of complexity and difficulty to the equation: coats of clear enamel are placed on top of the finished layers of colored enamel to increase the three-dimensional depth of the dial.
For the UJS Tourbillon Minute Repeater Regulator, after the colored enamel process is finished, the numbers, lines and chapter rings are hand-painted on the dial.
Layers of special optical-quality glass enamel are then added. These final layers have to be heated at a temperature just a bit lower than that required for the first layers so that they do not melt away. However, the temperature has to be close enough to melting the first layers so that the clear layer of glass actually fuses with the layer beneath.
The result adds brightness and depth to the dial. However, this is a technique that the majority of enamelers avoid due to the difficulty of its execution.
The movement of this minute repeater tourbillon is a work of art in its own right. A single spring barrel provides a 40-hour power reserve and the free-sprung balance beats at a traditional 2.5Hz (18,000 vph) . . . nothing out of the ordinary there.
Nothing, that is, until we come to the minute repeater and 60-second tourbillon, although these complications (and, yes, I know that technically the tourbillon isn’t a complication, but I’m claiming poetic license) by themselves aren’t enough to take the breath away. It’s the high level of hand finishing that does that.
Gazing through the display back is as rewarding as getting lost in the dial with black (aka mirror or flat) polished bridges and screw heads, polished countersinks, and impeccably executed Geneva waves greeting the eye.
Not surprisingly, this Urban Jürgensen Tourbillon Minute Repeater Regulator has been preselected among the top six in the Striking watches category of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. You can check out the competition and vote for your favorite (and possibly win a Girard-Perregaux Vintage 1945 XXL Petite Seconde valued at more than 10,000 Swiss francs) at www.gphg.org/watches/en/grand-prix-dhorlogerie-de-geneve/2014/.
For another beautiful enamel-dialed masterpiece, please check out the Urban Jürgensen Montre Observatoire Enamel.
For more information, please visit www.ujs-chronometry.ch/.
Case: 42.5 x 13 mm, platinum
Movement: Caliber UJS-Cla92 with minute repeater and 60-second tourbillon
Functions: hours and minutes shown regulator-style, central seconds; minute repeater, tourbillon
Dial: grand feu enamel using Geneva technique finish
Price: 380,000 Swiss francs
Limitation: unique piece
Also published on Medium.