The Ulysse Nardin Marine Torpilleur collection is one of Ulysse Nardin’s most popular. It uses the deck clocks and on-board ships’ chronometers that Ulysse Nardin was world-renowned for producing through the 20th century as inspiration, with an easily identifiable vertical sub-dial orientation consisting of a power reserve display at 12 o’clock on the dial and a small seconds register at six o’clock. Marine chronometers were precise timekeepers that sat in gimballed boxes and were frequently used for navigation on the high seas; as mythologized in Longitude, Dava Sobel’s 1995 best-selling book. Ulysse Nardin was a prominent producer of these timepieces and even won a U.S. Navy contract in 1905 to produce marine chronometers for use by the American torpedo boat fleet.
In 1996, under the ownership of Swiss watch industry legend Rolf Schnyder, Ulysse Nardin brought its Marine Chronometer back, this time in the form of a nautical-inspired wristwatch. The Ulysse Nardin Marine Torpilleur, launched in 2017, is a continued evolution of that ideal; in 2021, on the 175-year anniversary of Ulysse Nardin as a company, the new 42mm Marine Torpilleur “Panda” Limited Edition has been released.
While classical on the outside, the movement inside borrows some of the high-tech attributes of the company’s well-known Freak line. Inside is the manufacture UN-118 movement, which utilizes a silicon escapement and offers 65 hours of running autonomy. Limited to 300 pieces, the Marine Torpilleur comes on your choice of a blue or brown alligator leather strap.
Ulysse Nardin has spent much of the past two decades bucking industry conventions and pushing watchmaking further through the Freak collection, so it’s sometimes easy to forgot that the company has such a quintessentially good-looking line of watches in the Marine Torpilleur. The new “Panda” model, which Ulysse Nardin Marine Torpilleur states is the first time they’ve used the design, utilizes a pair of dark-blue sub-dials and classic black Roman numerals to contrast against the varnished white dial with rhodium-finished spade-style hands.
I am, quite honestly, very surprised this is the first Ulysse Nardin Marine Torpilleur with a panda dial. All that means, after all, is a white dial with contrasting darker sub-dials, akin to the visage of the panda bear. Although this might be the first Marine Torpilleur with such a dial orientation and design, I’m sure it won’t be the last.