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A tribute to Peter Baumberger (1939-2010)

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May 2020


A tribute to Peter Baumberger (1939-2010)

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the passing of Peter Baumberger (Koppingen, 1939-Bienne, 2010), a brilliant watchmaker who invested his passion in the resurgence of Urban Jürgensen. A personal friend as much as a partner in this venture, renowned watch expert Dr. Helmut Crott delivers a moving tribute to Baumberger in this column.

“T

en years ago, Peter Baumberger died in Biel. On the occasion of this anniversary, I would like to pay a brief tribute to the one who was a dear friend and an extraordinary character, whose ideas and personality marked the Swiss watch industry after the “quartz crisis” .

I first met Peter in November 1975, during a visit of the auction sale Peter Ineichen in Zurich. He was with the famous Derek Pratt. At that time, he was one of the world’s leading dealers in antique watches. His charming and “authentic” nature immediately fascinated me: this is how our friendship started, a friendship that lasted until the end of his life.

Under the leadership of Peter Baumberger, Urban Jürgensen contributed to the renaissance of fine mechanical watchmaking after the quartz crisis.
Under the leadership of Peter Baumberger, Urban Jürgensen contributed to the renaissance of fine mechanical watchmaking after the quartz crisis.
©Europa Star

The name of Peter Baumberger will remain forever in Swiss watchmaking history thanks to his rescue and his revival of the historic brand Urban Jürgensen at Le Locle, which he acquired in the late 1970s. Undeniably, Peter played a pioneering role in the renaissance of the high-quality Swiss mechanical watch, long before others. As a trained watchmaker, he combined cutting-edge technical skills with a very distinct aesthetic sensitivity, as well as with an intimate knowledge of the works of the old masters; the remarkable confluence of these aspects is therefore the basis of his creative work.

Peter Baumberger holding his favorite Urban Jürgensen watch, the 1991's oval tourbillon pocket watch, and wearing a Ref. 3.
Peter Baumberger holding his favorite Urban Jürgensen watch, the 1991’s oval tourbillon pocket watch, and wearing a Ref. 3.

Peter Baumberger put all his strength and his spirit at the disposal of Urban Jürgensen to give a new spark to the brand. From then on, the masterpieces produced under his direction bear witness to the quest for uncompromising perfection and the love for detail that characterized it. The automatic wrist watches references 2 and 3 with perpetual calendar represent the admirable result of this philosophy, while the oval pocket watch called “Hommage”, reference no. 1, is today considered an icon of traditional mechanical watchmaking from the end of the 20th century, both aesthetically and technically.

As a final point his research into the development of an Urban Jurgensen-specific caliber with a traditional detent escapement - a real first for a wristwatch production - is the apotheosis of Peter’s visionary spirit.

Urban Jürgensen Ref. 11C “avec détente”
Urban Jürgensen Ref. 11C “avec détente”

This work was notably carried out with Derek Pratt. The achievement of Peter’s projects and the respect of his very high quality standards would not have been possible without the genius and the know-how of the English watchmaker, with whom Peter has maintained professional and friendly ties since the early 1970s. Originally, the master clockmaker had restored a few rare historic watches for Peter, such as the Vacheron Constantin pocket watch offered to King Faoud 1st in 1929.

“The first detent escapement made for a wristwatch”: article published in 2011 about the legacy of Peter Baumberger.
“The first detent escapement made for a wristwatch”: article published in 2011 about the legacy of Peter Baumberger.
©Europa Star

Peter Baumberger also worked as a forerunner by discovering other personalities whose names are currently unavoidable in the watchmaking world: think of Kari Voutilainen or Jean-François Mojon. Irrefutably, he had a particular gift for recognizing and promoting exceptional talents, which he then put at the service of his brand.

Peter Baumberger in 1994 (featured in picture n°2). The watchmaker had a passion for sharing his know-how with other promising talents.
Peter Baumberger in 1994 (featured in picture n°2). The watchmaker had a passion for sharing his know-how with other promising talents.
©Europa Star

Peter Baumberger passed away on May 18, 2010, at the age of 71 in his workshop in Biel. His face had a peaceful expression and Peter held a watch magazine in his hands, leaving us a legacy of his eternal passion for watchmaking.”