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Urban Jürgensen - How the brand came back into Danish hands

Urban Jürgensen How the brand came back into Danish hands

Urban Jürgensen’s CEO Søren Jenry Petersen tells our editor-in-chief the story behind the brand coming back under Danish ownership.

WorldTempus met Søren Jenry Petersen, CEO of Urban Jürgensen, at this year’s SalonQP in London. Rather than the usual interview, Mr Petersen recounted the full story – almost one year on to the very day – of how the brand came back under Danish ownership.

“First of all, I don’t have a background in the watch industry. I started collecting watches based on a singular product decision back in 1996. I was working for Nokia and had become fairly successful. I was running the global product marketing group and was responsible for the entire product development worldwide for Nokia.

I had started to participate in black tie dinners and client events and I realised that I couldn’t show up with a big clunky watch at these events and that I needed to get a gentleman’s gold wristwatch. Now remember that this was back in 1996 and there was not much Internet around and I had to base my search on catalogues.  I quickly realised as a global product expert that my desires were for a real high end and respected watch brand, and I had a special model in mind.

“I went into the royal purveyor shop of Ole Mathiesen in Copenhagen, where Mr Ryser, who is incidentally with me here as my head of global sales, helped me. I came in with the brochures and told him what I wanted. He looked me up and down and said ‘you seem to know what you’re doing’. I replied ‘I hope so,’ and he said ‘you’re very lucky because I happen to have one. However, it is already sold to another client but at least you could have a look at it.’ I had a look at it and thought that I was right. He was standing next to me and remarked how specific I had been about having something truly special. Then he suggested something else that I might want to look at. He brought out an Urban Jürgensen reference 2, which was a perpetual calendar watch, also 38mm, also gold. So I was comparing apples with apples. He left me with a loupe for 10 minutes to look at both of them. I can honestly say that it took me less than 30 seconds to make my mind up. The almost insane attention to detail of the Urban Jürgensen just blew me away.

About 20 years later it was time for my son Sebastian to get his first real watch. Meanwhile I had left Nokia and I was 48 at the time and decided that it was the best time to do something else. In late autumn 2013 I was in the same shop with my son looking at watches and Mr Ryser asked me if I had found a new job. I told him that I was very busy consulting. then he asked me if I had thought about Urban Jürgensen. He then explained that Peter Baumberger had died and that there had been attempts to find investors but without much success. I asked to look at the business plan, signed a confidentiality agreement, and then really started to do some due diligence. Within six months I felt comfortable with the business case and strategy direction it was based upon.

On 14 January 2014 I went to Switzerland to meet the owner Dr Crott and see the workshops and I was blown away again. In the workshops there were all the gold medals from the 18th and 19th centuries, all the workbooks from 1772 onwards and even a pencil sketch on the wall signed “HCA 64”, which for any Dane immediately means Hans-Christian Andersen. He actually stayed with the Jürgensen family on several occasions. Only last week I discovered original ledgers from the company that mention the Urban Jürgensen museum in Bienne in the 1930s, which must have been one of the world’s first. The 242 years of history, the legacy of the Jürgensen Dynasty, and the extremely well documented continuous operations forms a very strong unique basis for future growth. We have so to speak a full documented history in museum quality.

One of the things we bring to the industry is that we ask different questions. I come from an industry where we used to produce one million units in one line per week. My director of logistics also comes from Nokia, where he managed 15 billion euros worth of sourcing accounts from suppliers all over the world. Our volumes at Urban Jürgensen are next to nothing and we are very small, but we provide some knowledge and a different approach to this industry,  that I know will be needed when it comes under pressure from the onslaught of the so called smart watches from Silicon Valley.

We have taken the reins of a legendary company with many historic achievements and quality traits – and we will move forward with intense focus on the quality of the choices we make. Today with enough money and machinery one can make anything – so it comes down to what choices are made, and we will continuously seek to deploy traditional crafted methods and watch making savoir faire of the highest order to our time pieces. Most of the times driving our partners and suppliers to the brink of their capability – but we believe this is the only way forward in todays business where most products are factory made. Urban Jürgensen will be Atelier made".