Confirming chatter that was circulating in Geneva during watch auction season two weeks ago, Urban Jürgensen & Sønner (UJS) has been taken over by a group of investors with Kari Voutilainen at the helm.
Having worked at UJS decades ago as a young watchmaker, Mr Voutilainen is returning as the chief executive. He will also retain his role at his namesake brand, which recently moved into new premises high up above the town of Fleurier on the mountain known as Chapeau de Napoléon.
Working alongside Mr Voutilainen at UJS will be his daughter, Venla, who recently completed her watchmaking studies and then an internship at a large watch retailer. Better known for the unique pocket watch she helped create for Only Watch 2019, Ms Voutilainen will be in charge of after-sales service at UJS, while also working at the Voutilainen brand itself.
Originally an 18th century Danish brand, UJS was revived in the 1970s by the late Peter Baumberger. Control then passed on to watch expert and auctioneer Dr Helmut Crott after Baumberger’s death. During that period, Mr Voutilainen became involved with the brand once again, when he helped to refine its in-house calibre.
UJS was then taken over by its most recent owners, Danish investors led by former Nokia executive Søren Jenry Petersen. Although the brand earned some press with new products during that period, most notably with its first sports watch, UJS never gained the necessary momentum to break into the ranks of top-tier independents.
Now it appears the winds have shifted with Mr Voutilainen taking over. He assumes the top job at UJS just in time for the brand’s 250th anniversary in 2023, when UJS will debut an entirely new range of watches. Presumably the watches will keep to some variant of the classical aesthetic that Mr Voutilainen has skilfully developed for his own brand.
Having skilfully developed his own brand over the last two decades – Voutilainen is unanimously regarded as a preeminent contemporary independent watchmaker – his reputation alone will be enough to boost UJS’ fortunes, at least for the short term.
Smartly leaving it entirely to Mr Voutilainen to run things, his backers are passive investors who remain anonymous, though they are believed to include an American financier who’s an important collector of independent watchmaking.
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