A deeply respected name in the world of watchmaking, Urban Jürgensen traces its roots back as far as 1773. While the brand is filled with historical prestige, mystique and wonder, its modern counterpart arose in the late 1970s when the legendary Peter Baumberger was permitted to sign his watches as Jürgensen & Sønner, later going on to buy the brand in 1985 and develop it into the brand as we know today.
With its classical themes, rich traditional craftsmanship, and exquisite attention to detail, Urban Jürgensen has risen to the fore of independent watchmaking and stands proud as a watchmaker, with a genuine heritage and a distinctive design language. Speaking to that same design language, the Urban Jürgensen Big 8 Japan Edition was released in 2020 solely for the Japanese market. A limited edition of just 20 examples was made available and they sold out almost instantly. We almost never see one come up publicly for sale, until now.
Made of stainless steel, the Big 8 Japan Edition swaps Urban Jürgensen Big 8's typical precious metal case design in lieu of a modern, and frankly, more desirable stainless steel construction. Featuring beautifully soldered-on teardrop lugs and a stunning stepped bezel design, the Big 8's 40mm round case speaks to Urban Jürgensen's classically vintage-inspired design language and aesthetic whilst maintaining an approachable case size for modern wrists.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of its overall design, the Big 8 Japan Edition features a stunning silver grenage dial (or grené dial), which is one of Urban Jürgensen’s dial-making specialties. Grenage dials originate from the late 1800s, however, this technique is rarely utilized these days in watchmaking, or should I say, it is rarely used in the way Urban Jürgensen does. This is due to the fact that there are much more technically efficient techniques today that can be used to achieve a similar result. That being said, the end result we see here is a dial that looks discreetly elegant and reveals a lot of detail upon closer inspection. In my books, that alone makes the watch so much more desirable and collectible.
Either way, the Big 8 Japan edition is packed full of character and authenticity- it features a unique combination of several design elements that makes the Big 8 special. The beautiful observatory-styled hands are meticulously heat-blued, turned, and polished by hand. Additionally, there is a hand-pressed gold ring at the tip of the steel hour hand for added legibility. Along the outer perimeter of the dial, you will also find Breguet-styled numerals which lends the watch a touch of elegance and distinctiveness. All things considered, this dial is very balanced looking with a fascinating blend of textures and impeccable craftsmanship – all signatures of a high-end watchmaker that obsessively cares about their watches.
Powered by the Frederic Piguet cal. 1160, the Big 8 Japan edition maintains a relatively slim 10.5mm case thickness and a fantastic exhibition of fine watchmaking through its sapphire caseback. Featuring a 21-carat yellow gold winding rotor and high-end finishing throughout, this movement beats away at 28,800 beats per hour and 48 hours of power reserve.
One thing to point out, which I usually wouldn’t do, is just how fantastic Urban Jürgensen's packaging is. Usually, it is all about the watches, but it must be said that the brand has hit the mark when it comes to how they present their watches. With a beautifully finished inner wooden lacquer box that is reminiscent of the independent revolution of the ’90s (Think Dubuis, Roth, Journe, etc.) and an outer cardboard box with a beautiful ink splatter pattern accented by hints of gold leaf, everything from the color profile to the box size and materials used are just spot on. Modern watch packaging can get so boring and at times tacky- it is lovely to see that Urban Jürgensen cares where most others won’t. I’ll let the photos do the talking. Bravo.
Ultimately, this Big 8 Japan edition from Urban Jürgensen is a work of art. I have to say though, Urban Jürgensen's watches are somewhat on a very different playing field in comparison to many other independent watchmakers- they emanate a very mysterious yet unique aura that seems invisible to many but greatly appreciated by true watch aficionados and connoisseurs alike.