SIHH 2017 Personal Perspectives: Ulysse Nardin – Strong Styling and Surprising Value Propositions
Ulysse Nardin has historically excelled at producing interesting movements, often inside watches with idiosyncratic designs, the legacy of its late owner, Rolf Schnyder, who had a distinct aesthetic vision. Now owned by luxury conglomerate Kering, Ulysse Nardin has evolved into to posses a more palatable house style, exemplified by the line-up unveiled at SIHH 2017, which also benefits from well conceived movements and affordable pricing.
The year’s offerings were replete with wristwatches inspired by marine chronometers, the gimballed, precision clocks used in sailing ships. Ulysse Nardin was a leading producer of such clocks, and first translated the look into a wristwatch in 1996. Now the collection includes a broad array of complications – all powered by the same family of in-house movements – with the top of the line being the Marine Tourbillon Manufacture, a surprisingly affordable tourbillon.
It’s stainless steel, 43mm in diameter and fitted with a fired enamel dial that gives it a classical bent, despite the sporty case.
The calibre UN-128 is self-winding and has 60-hour power reserve. On the front it shows a power reserve display at 12 o’clock, and a flying tourbillon at six. This starts at SFr27,900 on a rubber strap.
The Marine Chronometer Annual Calendar Manufacture has an attractive fired enamel dial – done in the flinque technique with translucent enamel over guilloche metal – as well as a cleverly concealed annual calendar function.
The date is in a window at six o’clock, while the months are integrated into the sub-seconds, leaving the dial clutter-free.
The calibre UN-113 inside is automatic, while the steel case is 43mm.
The Marine Chronometer Annual Calendar Manufacture starts at SFr12,800 on a rubber strap.
The Marine Chronograph Annual Calendar Manufacture takes the complication a step further with the addition of a chronograph. Here the months are located on the constant seconds sub-dial at nine o’clock, resulting in a relatively clean dial, given the functions.
Like the rest of the Marine collection, this too is 43mm in diameter and features a fired enamel dial.
The calibre UN-153 is an integrated chronograph movement with a column wheel.
This starts at SFr14,500 on an alligator strap.
The Marine Chronograph Manufacture Regatta is a chronograph designed for Ulysse Nardin’s partnership with Artemis Racing, the sailing team that competes in the America’s Cup. Like all regatta chronographs this has a countdown feature, but unusually the countdown period can be set backwards and forwards.
This has a large 44mm steel case and a dial that departs from the traditional marine chronometer styling of the rest of the line. Available with a blue or white dial, this costs SFr15,900.
Ulysse Nardin also unveiled the limited edition Marine Chronograph Manufacture Regatta that features a black champleve enamel dial. Made by covering the engraved dial base with translucent bluish-grey enamel, the dial depicts the Artemis Racing vessel.
The case is identical at 44mm in diameter, as is the movement inside.
The Artemis edition is limited to 35 pieces, priced at SFr29,800.
This is a new version of the Executive Skeleton Tourbillon. The 45mm titanium case now has a blue ceramic bezel, matched with blue accents on the open-worked movement that has an impressive seven day power reserve.
The hand-wound calibre UN-171 is admirably transparent, with the flying tourbillon at six o’clock.
The Executive Skeleton Tourbillon costs SFr38,000.
The collection also included a good number of high-end complications, like the North Sea Minute Repeater. Conceived for those who pay in petrodollars, this is a minute repeater with an automaton on the dial, the latest in a long line of automaton watches from Ulysse Nardin. When the repeater is activated, the cranes on the offshore oil platform move up and down.
The dial is made of champleve enamel, depicting a dark blue sea and a somewhat menacing bright orange sky. The oil platform is made of solid gold with hand-engraved details.
Inside is a hand-wound movement produced by Christophe Claret, the complications specialist that Ulysse Nardin first turned to in the 1980s for its first automaton wristwatch, illustrating the length of the relationship. Traditional in style and layout, the movement was inspired by vintage pocket watch repeater movements.
The North Sea Minute Repeater is limited to 18 pieces each in rose gold and platinum, priced at SFr295,000 and SFr325,000 respectively.
The Moonstruck Worldtimer is a variant of Ulysse Nardin’s elaborate moon watch that’s now combined with a world time function. Displaying the moon phase as well as the positions of the moon and Sun relative to the Earth, the moon indicator is unusually precise – the display will deviate by a full moon only after 100,000 years.
The case is 46mm in diameter and available in rose gold or platinum, each being limited to 100 pieces. The rose gold version is SFr75,000, while the platinum is SFr95,000.
The Vintage collection was a surprise offering from the brand. Made up of four watches, this collection takes inspiration from historical Ulysse Nardin watches, including fairly recent ones. Find out more in our in-depth story on them published last month.
Ironically, the most noteworthy watch of the 2017 range was one that’s not for sale. An experimental, one-off concept watch, the Freak Innovision 2 takes Ulysse Nardin’s signature carrousel wristwatch and loads it with a plethora of technical innovations.
The features include a double escape wheel, constant force escapement – most of its parts are made of silicon – and a silicon balance wheel with gold weights. Other innovations include Grinder, a efficient automatic winding mechanism that relies on springs to operate, as well as wheels made of 24k gold that’s been hardened.
A prominent feature is the balance bridge, which is made of glass, the same material used for the minute hand.
The Freak Innovision 2 is not for sale, though expect some of the features to make their way into serially produced timepieces in the future.