The last time we saw Urban Jürgensen here on HODINKEE, it was to spend A Week On The Wrist with the self-winding Big 8. The Big 8 has a decorated F. Piguet movement, it’s got the lovely signature UJ “observatoire” hands, the dial is decorated with honest-to-Betsy guilloché, and the price in steel is $15,300. Relative to what else is out there, this is something of a steal (to make a feeble pun) and since sending the watch back to Urban Jürgensen, I’ve been thinking about it a lot – mostly because most of the other haut de gamme watch brands simply don’t have anything in steel even remotely approaching the Big 8 in terms of bang for the buck. Now UJ has just announced a similarly priced offering, also in steel, but this time, housing the simplest version of their very own in house movement: the caliber P4.
The Alfred is on the larger side for this sort of watch, at 42mm x 11.9mm, and the narrow bezel will probably make it wear even larger in terms of visuals although that taken by itself doesn’t convey much with respect to whether or not the watch is going to work overall on the wrist. It does make me exceedingly curious to see one in person, however (one of my favorite watches of all time is the IWC Portofino Moonphase ref. 5251, which is 46mm in diameter and has a 16 ligne pocket watch movement, by the way). Unlike most other Urban Jürgensen watches, the dial is not decorated with guilloché, which gives The Alfred an altogether more sober and classic look – this is a very pocket-watch-esque timepiece and it has a pleasurably antiquarian vibe. The grenage-finished solid silver dial really throws the hands into even greater prominence and if you’re a fan of Urban Jürgansen’s elaborately made observatoire hands (I am) The Alfred is right up your alley.
Caliber P4 is an elegant piece of work. Like the watch that houses it, it’s on the larger side, at 32mm x 5.20mm. It’s adjusted to temperature and 5 positions, has a stop seconds feature, and two mainspring barrels delivering about a 72 hour power reserve. Like the watch itself, it has a pleasantly anachronistic character (don’t all hand-wound movements, to some extent) and the finish looks, from the pictures we’ve seen at least, up to an excellent standard. The only slightly discordant note for me is the balance bridge, which with its cut-outs looks a bit industrial next to the lyrical scalloping of the train bridge, but there is some precedent for such a thing; Omega, for example, used an almost identical balance bridge configuration in its caliber 30 I observatory tourbillon movements, all the way back in 1947.
The price is €14,300, which is exactly $16,591.58 at the time of writing. The price in Euros is relevant because interestingly enough, The Alfred is not going to be sold at brick-and-mortar retailers – this is an e-commerce only outing for Urban Jürgensen (their first) and buyers, UJ says, will be able to collect their watches in Bienne, Switzerland, if they wish, and tour the factory, as well as meet the craftsmen who worked on their watch. The case dimensions might discourage a few potential buyers for this type of timepiece but there is quite a lot here to justify an enthusiast’s interest – Urban Jürgensen watches in general have a really terrific aesthetic and there is nothing I’ve seen of The Alfred (which is named for Jacques Alfred Jürgensen, the last watchmaker of the family) makes me doubt that this will as well.
At a similar price, but in precious metal and of course, a smaller size, there’s the A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Thin 37mm, however I think that the aesthetics and general feel of the Urban Jürgensen make it competitive, and the two watches are different enough from each other to probably speak to somewhat different tastes and priorities. For more info, and to place a reservation for The Alfred, head over to UrbanJurgensen.com.