A HISTORY OF WATCHMAKING PRECISION
Over the 19th and 20th centuries, Ulysse Nardin earned an exceptional reputation as a master of deck chronometers for naval forces around the world. The accuracy of these instruments was crucial for calculating longitude to determine the ship’s position at sea.
The House won awards for its excellence at the time and supplied its inventions to over 50 navies, geodesy institutes and astronomical observatories. Ulysse Nardin’s pocket chronometers were some of the most prized and coveted chronometers among navy officers and merchant navy captains. It was this nautical history that led Ulysse Nardin to design the iconic Marine Chronometer, an expression of its technical performance.
A new generation of chronometer was born in 2017: the Marine Torpilleur. Named after the torpedo boat – a small, rapid historical vessel so agile that it could easily evade the most imposing ships – this timepiece adopts the aesthetic codes of marine chronometers, including the fluted bezel, Roman numeral hour markers and the dual counter.
Marine Torpilleur Dual Time
As business and leisure travel became more commonplace in the 20th century, watchmakers started to design timepieces that could simultaneously display two time zones: local time and home time.
In 1994, Ludwig Oechslin invented the GMT± functions for Ulysse Nardin, offering two push-pieces, “+” and “-”, used to instantly change the time zone of the hour hand, while the “reference time” aperture at 9 o’clock continually displays the home time. Then, in 2014, Ulysse Nardin introduced the UN-334, the first manufacture calibre fitted with the GMT± function, in the Dual Time Manufacture timepiece.
The new Marine Torpilleur Dual Time offers the technical advantages of the UN-334 manufacture calibre and the vintage DNA of the Marine Chronometer (fluted bezel, counter and Roman numeral hour-markers). The movement offers hour, minute and small seconds functions at 6 o’clock, and a large date in a double aperture at 2 o’clock, which can be adjusted in both directions. While the “home time” display operates continually over a 24-hour period in an aperture at 9 o’clock, the small hand can be moved forward or backward very easily to the local time using the “+” and “-” push-pieces at 8 o’clock and 10 o’clock. To top off the refined mechanics, the calendar function syncs automatically no matter the direction of the adjustment.
Expertise: Silicium technology
Like all of Ulysse Nardin’s manufacture calibres, the UN-334 incorporates silicium technology, with the escapement wheel, anchor and balance-spring all made from this metalloid, which offers non-magnetic, elastic and durable properties to guarantee the utmost accuracy. This avant-garde material – which was first introduced to the watchmaking industry in the early 21st century thanks to Ulysse Nardin’s pioneering efforts – requires almost no lubrication and resists wear. As its production techniques are complicated to implement, they remain the preserve of just a handful of watch manufactures.
Marine Torpilleur Tourbillon Grand Feu
Ulysse Nardin’s tourbillon chronometers are a work of art that first originated in the late 19th century. The tourbillon formed part of a search for the greatest possible accuracy as its primary function is to compensate for deviations in the rate of the movement caused by Earth’s gravity in vertical positions. Since the 1980s, the House has perpetuated this heritage, continually developing new rotating carriages and adding to its long list of watchmaking achievements.
While last year the brand launched the Marine Torpilleur Tourbillon in black Grand Feu enamel as a limited edition of 175 pieces, it is now unveiling the Marine Torpilleur Tourbillon in white Grand Feu enamel as part of the permanent collection. With an open sapphire crystal case back, this polished and satin-finished steel model is completed by a fluted bezel. The white “Grand Feu” enamel dial designed by Donzé Cadrans proudly displays the power reserve at 12 o’clock. The UN-128 self-winding manufacture calibre powers the flying tourbillon with constant escapement, which is fitted with a flying silicium anchor, a system patented by Ulysse Nardin that won the Tourbillon Watch Prize at the 2015 annual GPHG (Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève) ceremony.
Expertise: Grand Feu enamel
Enamelling is a decorative technique mastered by a small circle of artisans and nowadays is only used on watches produced by the most prestigious watchmakers. Complexity, meticulous detail and realistic decoration are the main reasons why collectors have historically wanted to acquire timepieces with enamelled dials.
Ulysse Nardin is a leader in this field and a keeper of this artisanal know-how. It works in conjunction with its house Donzé Cadrans, which entirely produces this type of dial traditionally according to ancestral principles. The Donzé Cadrans artisans apply a variety of enamel techniques, in particular Cloisonné, Champlevé, Flinqué and Grand Feu. The term Grand Feu (“big fire”) comes from melting the enamel powder in a furnace heated to between 760 and 900°C, a technique used for all categories of enamelling.
Marine Torpilleur Moonphase
Astronomy is one of humankind’s most ancient fixations and has always aroused human curiosity. Our planet’s moon has always been of particular interest due to the direct impact it has on the oceans and its effects on our lives.
Ulysse Nardin began to design watches with moonphase displays in the late 19th century. The first Marine Torpilleur Moonphase models were presented in 2021 with a stainless steel case and a blue or white dial, as a limited edition of 300 pieces per model. Given its success, this year Ulysse Nardin is introducing the Marine Torpilleur Moonphase into its permanent collection, with a 42 mm rose gold case powered by the UN-119 self-winding calibre with a silicium balance-spring and a DiamonSil escapement wheel and anchor. The dual counters display the power reserve at 12 o’clock and the small seconds and moon disc at 6 o’clock. The moon is transferred onto the counter, which adds elegance and sparkle when it shows itself against the starry blue PVD sky. This timepiece, which is water-resistant to 50 meters, is fitted with a dark blue alligator-skin strap with rose gold folding clasp. timepiece, which is water-resistant to 50 meters, is fitted with a dark blue alligator-skin strap with rose gold folding clasp.
Expertise: DiamonSil technology
After being one of the first watch houses to use silicium in the first Freak watch in 2001, here Ulysse Nardin also uses DiamonSil (patented in 2009), a plasma surface treatment process combining silicium and synthetic diamond. This DiamonSil plasma technology is one of the brand’s most iconic forms of know-how. The escapement wheel and silicium anchor of the Marine Torpilleur Moonphase are coated in this artificial diamond layer, which optimises its performance and improves its resistance to magnetism, friction and the millions of impacts it receives each year.