The jury of the most relevant annual watch award ceremony, the Grand Prix de Horlogerie de Geneve, has chosen Urban Jurgensen & Sonner Central Second timekeeper as the best gentleman’s timepiece of the year. Its main strength is the manner in which the watch functions, since it includes a detent escapement. This is a technical solution which is renowned for its accuracy and which was characteristic for precise marine chronographs of the past. Until recently, this type of escapement was suitable for wristwatches. However, Urban Jurgensen & Sonner managed to present such wristwatch three years ago. The new prized model takes the technical complexity of the construction one step beyond, since it includes a central seconds hand. The most successful men’s watch of the year is available in a red gold or a platinum housing and it costs around $50,875.
Unlike the vast majority of modern watches which are equipped with Swiss lever escapements, the novel watch of the Danish-Swiss watchmaker features a detent escapement. The main advantage of this technical solution is that it delivers impulses of energy directly to the balance from the movement’s escape wheel. By omitting an intermediate part for the transfer of impulses, the arrangement guarantees that each specific oscillation of the movement is disturbed only once, instead of two times as it is the case with Swiss lever escapement. Fewer disturbances of the regulating organ clearly imply better overall accuracy and this is clearly the main advantage of the technical solution.
Because of the improved punctuality, detent escapements rapidly gained popularity after their invention in the 18th century. Marine chronometers which needed to be as precise as possible to ensure accurate navigation were subsequently equipped with exactly this type of movements. Urban Jurensen & Sonner was among famed manufacturers of these timekeepers and in the following 19th century, the brand even became the official supplier of the Danish Royal Houshold and the nation’s Admirality.
More Accurate than a Tourbillon
It is interesting to note that even though detent escapement was invented before the tourbillion complication, it actually provides far better and more accurate chronometric results. However, this sort of escapement comes with an inherent disadvantage. It is notorious for its sensitivity to shocks. Unlike marine chronometers that were constantly placed inside gyroscopic boxes that kept it protected, common wristwatches are constantly subjected to shocks and bumps which are imminent, regardless of how much its wearer is careful. This infamous delicacy of the solution, especially when it is made in smaller dimensions, was exactly the reason why they were gradually abandoned and why they have never been featured in a wristwatch until recently.
The First Wristwatch with a Detent Escapament
Everything changed three years ago when Urban Jurgensen & Sonner first presented its UJS-P8 caliber which featured a modernized version of the detent escapement. After eight years of research and development, the brand with facilities in Copenhagen and La Locle presented its reinforced version that was secure enough to be fitted inside a wristwatch. For its new movement, the watchmaker’s engineers designed a specially shaped detent lever supplied with a safety roller. This proved to be quite enough to guarantee the resilience of the construction. Caliber UJS-P8 was even able to manage Chronofiable testing of Dubois Laboratory. The extensive procedures of the test even include subjecting the movement to no less than 20,000 shocks. Caliber UJS-P8 was thus able to pass the test that is too difficult even for many wristwatches with a Swiss lever escapement. After the release of the first wristwatch with a detent escapement, other brands started created their own versions of the solution, as well. Previously, we have written about such watches by Bulgari as well as Christophe Claret.
Central Seconds Complicate the Construction Even Further
The award-winning timepiece by Urban Jurgenssen & Sonnen which came three years after the first one takes the original complexity one step beyond. Instead of the small second counter that was initially used, the best men’s watch of the year is equipped with a central seconds hand. On the first glance, this does not seem as something spectacular. However, this sort of construction is far more intricate. To make this possible, caliber UJS-P8 was in this case equipped with additional gears which are used as the means to transfer energy from the movement. Just like the vintage marine chronometers of yesteryears, the new version is made with a central hand which moves three times each second.
When other traits of the movement are concerned, we should point out that it has the width of 32 mm and the thickness of 5.25 mm. It operates at the frequency of 3 Hz and it includes a free-sprung balance whose width measures to 12 mm. It likewise provides a patented differential power reserve indication. Unlike its predecessor that had the power storage of 88 hours, new version with central seconds has the slightly lower power reserve of three days.
The indication for the power reserve lies at the top of the watch’s exquisite solid silver dial. In order to create just a single dial, the brand’s watchmakers need to implement 700 different operations which are spread throughout two full days of work. The result is a lovely dial with prominent guilloche patterns. In combination with the shape of the hour hand and the presence of Roman numerals surrounded with a railroad-type scale for seconds, these details make the watch look close to refined Breguet models.
Urban Jurgensen & Sonner Central Second Watch is placed inside a round case which is made from red gold or platinum. The housing has the brand’s recognizable appearance and includes double rounded sides, as well as lugs in the shape of drops. The platinum version of the reference 11 C SC R watch is paired with a black leather strap, while the red gold version comes with the same type of attachment in a brown color. The price of the best gentleman’s watch of the year is around $50,875.