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Ulysse Nardin Torpilleur Moonphase 42mm

Ulysse Nardin has a long and storied history when it comes to nautical navigation and marine chronometry. For decades, if not centuries, marine navigation relied on the position of celestial bodies. The introduction of precision instruments such as marine chronometers revolutionized navigation at sea. Founded in 1846, meaning the brand celebrates 175 years of watchmaking this year, Ulysse Nardin quickly gained fame for producing precise marine deck chronometers. In what is a celebratory year, UN honours its past with seven new Marine Torpilleur models, one of which we’ll be taking a closer look at today, the Ulysse Nardin Marine Torpilleur Moonphase 42mm.
The Ulysse Nardin Marine Torpilleur Moonphase collection, introduced as a sub-collection in Ulysse Nardin’s emblematic Marine range, was launched in 2017. While inspiration still clearly stems from the early days of marine chronometers, the updated style of the Marine Torpilleur made it a simpler, lighter version around the classic nautical theme. As Rebecca already explained in the introductory article of the entire 2021 collection earlier this week, the name comes from small and manoeuvrable torpedo boats introduced in the 19th century.
The new Ulysse Nardin Marine Torpilleur Moonphase is a first within the portfolio, as there have been moon phase watches before, but not in this collection. It is a perfectly fitting complication, considering the Moon played a significant part in astral navigation in the early days and is responsible for ocean tides.
The recipe for the Ulysse Nardin Marine Torpilleur Moonphase is still very much what you would expect from Ulysse Nardin. A large dial with elongated Roman numerals, double-register layout (12 and 6 o’clock), and classical spade and whip hands. Two versions are introduced: a blue PVD dial with a sunray brushed finish and, like the model in our photographs, a second version with a white varnished dial. The markings are white or black, depending on the dial colour, and the hands are rhodium-plated or blued steel. As said, new to the Marine Torpilleur is the moon phase indication. Integrated into the slightly recessed small seconds sub-dial at 6 o’clock, it features a deep-blue PVD disc with stars and a textured moon. And not only does the complication feel appropriate, but it also looks great within this signature Marine design.
For both models, the stainless case is 42mm wide and 11.13mm thick and features the classic fluted bezel. The movement inside is the UN-119 manufacture movement, which uses a silicon hairspring and a Diamonsil escapement and anchor. Running at a frequency of 28,800 vibrations/hour (or 4Hz), it delivers 60 hours of power reserve when fully wound. The sapphire crystal caseback reveals the winding rotor, decorated with two UN anchors, and elegant decoration with circular Geneva stripes and bevelled edges. And, of course, the movement is a certified COSC chronometer.
Four references of the Ulysse Nardin Marine Torpilleur Moonphase are launched as both the blue and white dials are available on either a blue or brown alligator leather strap.

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Ulysse Nardin Marine Torpilleur Panda 42mm

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.

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Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision 45mm

When you talk about the founding fathers of the mechanical watch renaissance, you routinely hear the names Nicolas Hayek and Jean-Claude Biver, but another that belongs right alongside them, even if he is remembered for his work with a single brand, is the late Rolf Schnyder of Ulysse Nardin. Schnyder rescued and revived Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision 45mm in the 1980s before dragging it into the modern age of contemporary mechanical watchmaking. After meeting his longtime collaborator Ludwig Oechslin, now of Ochs und Junior, Schnyder pivoted his company from being a maker of traditionalist wristwatches to a brand dedicated to championing new technologies and materials, most famously silicon. Though Schnyder is no longer alive, his spirit lives on in the company he revived. Today we’re going hands on with the heir to one of Schnyder and Oechslin’s most famous creations, the Freak.
Today, the vast majority of the watchmakers at SIHH have at least experimented with “new materials”; I dare say that you can’t really call silicon a new material in watchmaking any longer, especially if you consider its routine use in the ateliers of titans like Breguet and Patek Philippe. Facing competition from other companies that have seen the value of crafting escapements from this predictably low-friction material, Ulysse Nardin has sought to innovate further within the field of its use.
The escapement within the Freak Vision’s UN-205 movement is an interesting example of Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision 45mm doing just that. Here we see the company’s Anchor Escapement, first introduced in 2014. It’s improved upon with a super-light balance wheel that recalls the one seen in Ulysse Nardin’s Innovision 2 concept watch last year. The wheel is fitted with nickel mass elements and micro blades that stabilize the wheel’s motion through air friction. This oscillator beats at a steady 2.5 Hz. The original implementation of the Anchor Escapement from 2014 came inside a standard tourbillon mechanism; here we see it on a Freak, which turns the whole movement itself into a tourbillon.
The Anchor escapement, you may recall, dispenses with the customary pivot for the pallet fork. Instead, the fork is suspended in space between two perpendicular flat springs that are linked to one another. The escape wheel must supply enough force to impel the fork to push those springs to either side. And because the fork itself is suspended in space, there isn’t any troublesome friction to contend with. When the minimum threshold of force fails to be met, the escapement stops abruptly, rather than progressively supplying less and less power. In a normal lever escapement, this would lead to the paradoxical effect of a watch running faster and faster, with lower and lower amplitude, until it finally came to a halt.

This particular example of the Anchor Escapement offers 50 hours of power reserve, and all of it at a constant amplitude. It’s worth mentioning that the principle behind the UN Anchor escapement – the need for a minimum amount of energy to move flat springs between stable states – is shared with another famous constant force escapement at UN sister brand Girard-Perregaux.
This watch also features the Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision 45mm Grinder Automatic Winding System, which UN claims is twice as efficient as its conventional winding systems. It does this by lowering the winding system’s torque, so that the energy of slight movements can be captured and stored in the mainspring. The whole gear train is also finished in silicon, enhancing power transmission and lowering friction along the way.
The Freak Vision is a very large watch at 45mm in diameter, but as you can see in the above wrist shot, it doesn’t wear huge. The case is made from 950 platinum, and the bezel is made from titanium and blue rubber, which makes lots of sense in this case: you set this watch by turning the bezel. This watch is read like any other Freak. The hours are indicated by the rotating arrow pointing at the periphery of the dial. The minutes are the long, rotating arm of the freak mechanism. And since the escape wheel is located on that arm – and the whole escapement’s position is completely rotated over the course of an hour – it’s a kind of tourbillon.
.The Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision 45mm will sell for $95,000, no small amount of money to be sure, but also one that doesn’t seem unreasonable for a fully platinum timepiece featuring such an innovative mechanism. Additionally, the Freak is now a full-fledged family of watches within the Ulysse Nardin portfolio (instead of just a set of limited editions), so we can expect more models to debut in the near future.

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Ulysse Nardin Tourbillon Free Wheel 44mm

That’s right, this is an actual review of the Ulysse Nardin Executive Tourbillon Free Wheel, this very latest $99,000 halo-piece from La Chaux-de-Fonds. First things first, I have to say, kudos to Ulysse Nardin for being good sports and sending their latest tourbillon out for a review after I was rather critical about its presentation in the news article where we debuted this piece a couple weeks back. It was Stéphane, the Head of Research and Innovation at Ulysse Nardin who commented below the article to explain a few important details that were missing from the original press release and I did really appreciate that. Without further ado, let’s cut to the chase.
As is the case for any halo watch, there are two main and very different aspects to the appreciation of such a top-shelf exercise in fine watchmaking. First, there is the strictly technical aspect, where we lift the watch close to the loupe in front of our eyes or we crop deep into the macro photographs, all in an effort to understand and to appreciate the creative effort and engineering work that has gone into its creation. Second, there is the actual, real-world experience, when such a watch gets taken out into the real world, full of… well, everything. Exciting is the word I’m looking for because at this point the watch is no longer up close to our face, but down on our wrist and all we can do is catch glimpses of it as it performs its essential function: keeping and telling time. This real-world take is a completely different and indeed very special experience. I am at odds with which element to start, but I figure it’s best to gain an appreciation of its fine details and bold engineering first and with that in mind, learn what it was like to wear such a watch for weeks on end out and about in a metropolitan world.
At 44mm wide, the Ulysse Nardin Executive Tourbillon Free Wheel is a wide watch that compensates for its substantial diameter with an impressively thin profile. Irrespective of all that’s going on, the Free Wheel is a thin watch by the standards of any watch, not just comparably complicated ones. The case-back is slightly “bubbled” and the lugs are angled downwards steeply, so rather than a pointless exact measurement of thickness I’ll say that it feels, looks, and wears a little thinner than a Rolex Submariner on the wrist. It is wider and longer though. The case comes with the brand’s trademark triple lug design and while those could normally steal the show as far as exterior elements are concerned, the real showstopper here is the sapphire “cap” that pans across the top of the watch and reaches all the way down into an extremely thin, 18ct white gold case profile. It’s like a wrist-vivarium with a selection of highly exotic things kept safely and exhibited proudly within. It creates an airy look and feel, keeping the physical and aesthetic weight of the watch at an absolute minimum.
The massive sapphire front and side element also let a lot of light into the case and onto the many different components that appear to be sparkling with joy now that they are not hidden underneath a dial or a funky arrangement of plates and bridges. Thankfully, the sapphire piece appears to be amply AR-coated and so – despite its noticeably domed front – all components are easy to appreciate from afar or up close, without the annoying hindrance of excessive reflections.
A fun part of the watch is how you can see (on the image below) the white gold case glued to the sapphire cap from the inside. It sort of reminds me of how diamonds are held secure by their gold settings. The two lugs on the side are fully polished, including the heads of the screws that appear to hold the strap secure, while the center portions of the lug structures are vertically brushed. The crown exhibits comparable complexity with its brushed and polished parts. It often happens, and this piece is no different: on such a complicated watch, where there is so much going on to draw one’s eyes, certain components such as the case or crown often get overlooked. Even if, upon a closer look, one would rightly shiver at the thought of machining and engraving a piece as complex as that crown on its own. Not to mention the polish that is to be applied between the flanks and the brushed surface treatment on the higher parts. Even the aforementioned screws in the lugs have beveled and polished outer edges; these aren’t just some screws that came in by the hundreds from a supplier. No, these appear to have been finished to the same standards as much smaller screws are inside properly high-end movements. Apparently, placing such feats well on show really is the theme of this watch, down to such details. They really didn’t hold back on anything and while that sounds absolutely normal and expectable, it is not always the case.
All these, however, pale in significance when compared to the dial and its many shiny, contrasting, mind-tingling components. This is where the Ulysse Nardin Executive Tourbillon Free Wheel really stands out. A lot of it appears self-explanatory upon first sight – but it’s one of those things where the more you know, the more you can appreciate how much you actually don’t understand. As far as indications go, you get hours and minutes in the middle, indicated by two very large and very bold hands that have never ever failed to stand out against the dial – other issues I did experience with legibility, but more on that later. You also get a one-minute tourbillon at the 6 o’clock position of the dial; this doesn’t hack so you can’t really use it as a seconds indicator all that much, but it’s still there to give you a rough idea if you really want to time something within a minute. Last, but definitely not least, there is a power reserve indicator at the 4 o’clock position of the dial that, just like the tourbillon, is standing there all on its own, without any apparent connection to any moving parts whatsoever.
This latter feature, the fact these parts stand free, adds tremendously to the overall look and impression of these components, as well the entire watch itself. We have seen countless flying tourbillons and yet more power reserve indicators, but for them to be just sticking out of a dial like that shows them in a completely new light. The tourbillon includes Ulysse Nardin’s lubrication-free silicon affair for the escapement assembly – namely the escapement wheel, pallet fork, and its spider web-like structure. Take a look at how this cool tourbillon works with the video below.
To better understand the Free Wheel concept, let me quote Stéphane von Gunten, Head of Research & Innovation at Ulysse Nardin who kindly chimed in on the comments under my news article with an explanation that could only ever come from a modern watchmaker:

“The gear train on the left of the watch, between 8 and 10 o’clock, is a so-called “differential” and “demultiplifier” gear system. It is used to read the rotational information from and between (in and out) the two [mainspring] barrels and to reduce the speed in order to generate the correct rotational angle towards the power reserve indicator. The power reserve indicator is thus situated at 4 o’clock and is actuated by a double rake element underneath the dial, close to the Tourbillon area. All this gear train [the one on the left side of the dial] is composed of three levels of double planetary pinions, allowing to convert the 40 turns of the barrel-stack to the 270 degrees power reserve indication. Like the energy transfer that comes from the barrels to the Tourbillon, underneath the dial, this marvelous movement is kind of a tribute to “Mysterious Clocks.” It is the basic concept behind all of that. Showing the “best” elements of the movement – barrels, demultiplifier gear train, power reserve indicator and the Tourbillon with our Ulysse Anchor constant force escapement – is a super mix between the technics and the aesthetics of this high-end watch.”
Here is a closer look at the left-hand side component group that Stéphane referred to in his comment. This is the differential and demultiplifier, the three-level component group that essentially is a mechanical device that divides 40 into 0.75. That is forty turns on the mainspring barrels into 3/4 of a turn of the power reserve indicator. Better still – and I did need a loupe and proper macro photography to determine this – all the components are exquisitely finished. I almost (almost!) got tricked into thinking that there really wasn’t that much to be seen here, and unless you have truly excellent near-sight, that is more or less true. But take a high-quality loupe or some macro shots and boy, will your experience change dramatically. I cannot really describe how thin the bevelled edges are on the arms of these wheels, or how even the mirror polish is on their top surfaces – but it really is top-tier work, simply performed on a scale that is all the more smaller than what we see on plates and bridges and larger wheels. The top of the boomerang-shaped bridge has a frosted finish but its edges are nevertheless polished – with the dark screws and shiny surfaces nearby, this creates an unquestionably high-end look.
Understandably not completely free from distortions, the side view the sapphire cap of the watch provides is really very cool too. The three-dimensionality of high-end watches is frequently under-appreciated or, worse still ignored entirely. Here you at least get a somewhat better understanding of what’s going on and how much of a (very enjoyable) challenge it must have been for the Ulysse Nardin team to engineer these beautifully finished wheels onto and into one another. Top-tier work both in complexity and refinement, the sort of stuff that, I think, we will never ever see trickle down into more affordable price segments – it will always be reserved for the mid-five figures and up. Because unlike many other previously high-end and novel solutions, like forged carbon cases or extra-long power reserves and whatnot that we did see make their way into genuinely affordable price tiers, this combination of complexity and refinement does not bode well with the concept of the scale of economics. Not a complaint, just an observation.
The dial has an interesting gazillion-hole pattern to it – if you have trypophobia, you will probably not want to look at it with a loupe too long. Frankly, this pattern I could take it or leave it. It doesn’t move me in any way, other than that I can appreciate the challenge of finding a texture that works well with the rest of the design, without paling in its looks or overpowering the overall aesthetic of the watch. The rose gold version of the Ulysse Nardin Executive Tourbillon Free Wheel has a solid dial with a slate or earth-like texture to it that I prefer to this one, but that really is just down to personal preference.
The hands, as I had already mentioned, are insanely large. They even have a bit of black lume in the center. As lume, it is absolutely worthless unless you go from the brightest summer noon outdoors into the darkest room possible, but they do a great job at making the hands stand out against the super busy backdrop of black and white, shiny and matte surfaces that we see scattered all across the face of the Executive Tourbillon Free Wheel. The sheer size of the hands also tells me that this is a strong movement, capable of moving these beasts around all day.

Speaking of the movement, the Ulysse Nardin Executive Tourbillon Free Wheel UN-176 caliber was designed in-house, according to the manufacture. It features a 170-hour power reserve and runs at 18,000 vph, a slow beat so you can really see that tourbillon breathe. Let’s see what little there is to be seen on the case-back side of it.
The case-back, as I mentioned above, is slightly, but noticeably domed outwards, towards the wrist. Its massive sapphire crystal has a smooth surface and it merges with the white gold frame seamlessly. Funnily enough, while the original launch document referenced this as a place where there was “nothing to see,” this side of the Ulysse Nardin Executive Tourbillon Free Wheel actually is pretty exciting too! You’ll find some absolutely massive jewels that will give you a rough idea on the layout of some of the parts hidden on the dial side. I especially liked the little, rounded cut-outs where, at the 6 o’clock position, I could see a small and large wheel merging – this is where the tourbillon gets its drive and you’ll see a closer look on the image just below. On the upper half of the case-back, visible through similar cut-outs, I could see part of the winding mechanism revealed.
The texture of the large plate covering all of the back of the watch and hence filling the entire case-back is like miniaturized concrete. In harsh light like directly above it really shows its dense and gritty texture, while in softer light (as on the image further above) it looks soft and easy on the eyes. An obscure detail is the tiny “Ulysse Nardin Certified,” something that becomes all the more confusing once you look at its logo with a lonely pine tree standing in a field with a bright star above it. I have no idea of its meaning today and I doubt it will be any easier to figure out a hundred years from now – when we’ll be all gone but this watch will still be around, dazzling and amazing people that mechanical watchmaking was this awesome in the early 2000s. That, I think, is pretty cool. And unintelligible details like this little countryside scenery will make these watches that much more charming in the eyes of future-dwellers.
Nearly 3,000 words into it and finally we have arrived at this point… I did mean to pay my dues and explain the technical details of this watch before I told you how it actually feels on the wrist… But wow, there was even more to say than I had anticipated. Anyhow, in short, it is both more exciting and, in a few ways, more restrained than I had anticipated. I had the privilege and good fortune to wear this incredible piece for a number of weeks out and about, running errands and so on… And it is at times like these when one gets to discover what a watch really looks and feels like.
The laser sharp, hard-lit macro photography that I had used for most of this article was to show the extremely fine and minute details in a crisper way, hopefully making them easier to appreciate. In the real world though, on the wrist, the watch appears a lot more “velvety,” a lot like how it looks on the image above. There is a good separation between the different dial components. The glass looks crystal clear, appearing with just a tiny bit of presence as it encapsulates the precious-looking components underneath. The case is beautifully made, with soft-polished lugs and barely noticeable brushed surfaces. The dial – with its holes – is prominent and one does get hung up on it from time to time, but it hardly ever does steal the show.
At times I’d go so far as to say that the Ulysse Nardin Executive Tourbillon Free Wheel looks a lot like a normal watch. Like on the image above. At this time none of the polished edges reflect light sharply. The sapphire cap cannot really be perceived, the silicon parts in the tourbillon do not show up in bright purple and blue, and the overall layout looks pretty straightforward, really – strictly by the standards of this watch and how it can appear at other times.
Flick your wrist a tiny little bit though and the whole thing comes alive. Suddenly there’s immense depth, different parts of the components shimmer with light at the tiniest movement and the whole thing starts to look as expensive as it actually is. Over the weeks I could really appreciate this transformation, especially since knowing when and how it happens (depending on a million things such as amount, type and temperature of light, the reflection of the world around me at the time (open skies, indoors, whatever), the distance at which I am looking at the watch, and the amount of time I am looking at it. And sure, similar things happen with a regular luxury watch if it’s made well enough… But the scale and quantity of these transformations and exquisite details so neatly exposed is what propels the Executive Tourbillon Free Wheel into haute horlogerie territory. Where your money goes in this instance is the absolute overkill in the number of neat details (think of the bevelled edges on the tiny wheels, the unique surface treatments, the massive sapphire cap, the neatly detailed white gold case and so on). Sure, there are more shouty luxury watches at this near-6-figure segment in terms of sheer visual complexity – you can get literally a dozen different indications on a dial if you really insist – but don’t forget that the point of this watch is the Free Wheel concept, where part of the fun is how part of the components have been hidden away.
When I look at this watch, I see an aquarium – for total nerds, I’ll say that it’s actually a terrarium, for it has no water in it – a glass display that safeguards and, at the same time, exhibits a selection of naturally beautiful things. I feel as though I could easily open up the case and fiddle with these very numerable parts, but I shiver right after entertaining that thought for I know I’d cause irreparable damage to those tiny little organisms. There is, I find, a rare, organic beauty to this watch. Some things are beautifully and proudly displayed, others work mysteriously in the background, hidden away from the human eye and mind alike.
The only thing to be aware of is that this is an expensive watch of which everyone can tell is expensive – even from afar. At times that’s what people buying these watches want, but some other times discretion is what matters. It would be idiotic to mention this aspect as a downside of the Tourbillon Free Wheel; anyone who buys an open-dial watch and moans that it isn’t discrete enough clearly loves to make unreasonable expectations. I guess what I am trying to say is that while I do very much enjoy all the brilliant details of the Free Wheel, I at times wished it was only me who could see them… And look at them for more than 10-20 seconds while out in the wild without looking like a total schmuck that’s eyeing his expensive-looking watch for a long time. Discretion, then, is not a strong point of the Ulysse Nardin Executive Tourbillon Free Wheel and while normally I wouldn’t even think of mentioning this element on a watch of this style and caliber, I do so here because once you appreciate the elegance of the layout and design, you won’t see this as an attention-grabbing effort in ultra-luxury, but rather as a labor of love put on display.
To return to some more realistic expectations, I do wish that the Ulysse Nardin Executive Tourbillon Free Wheel came in a smaller case. I wish that partly because I have narrow wrists and partly because I look at that black, feature-less band around the dial and think to myself: “that is exactly how much narrower I wish it was!” With a thickness of just over 13mm, having this come in at 42mm would not have been outrageous at all. Maybe the sapphire cap is the reason for this extension – if you scroll up, you’ll see how it isn’t a perfect box-shape but rather a dome that slopes downwards at its edges. That said, it will wear and look really good on those fortunate owners with a somewhat thicker wrist than my 17.5 cm (6.75in) thick wrist; but even so, I wish this outer ring had a minute track on it. Strangely, I had no trouble reading the time with the accuracy required by the sort of person who routinely buys watches priced at or above $99,000, but I felt I needed some point of reference when I was setting the time on the watch.
A wish, if I could have one, is this. I would absolutely love to see this dial and movement in a more ordinary case with a regular sapphire front, coming in at 42mm wide and with regular lugs. This dial with all these features looking back at me from a more wearable sized and classically styled watch that came in at a price point closer to Ulysse Nardin’s other tourbillons (closer to $50k rather than $100k) I think would do incredibly well. Now that I have gotten to look at and appreciate the many truly beautiful details that have been hidden all along in the components so prominently displayed on the face of this watch, I have really grown to appreciate the Executive Tourbillon Free Wheel on another level. The layout is the lasting sort of fun, and so is interacting with the watch and seeing the keyless works turn and the truly flying tourbillon rotate on its own.

I am absolutely sure that those who get one of these will end up wearing it a lot because it is a lastingly entertaining watch to wear with countless details to appreciate. It is a piece of modern watchmaking with so much of what UN knows thrown at it: super long power reserve, fancy, ultra-modern silicon escapement, flying tourbillon, sapphire, and white gold case, completely unique movement design and so on… And all that is packaged in a way that I’m sure will resonate with some – and will not with others. In short, I hope to see more iterations of this face, especially one in a more toned-down package at a competitive price.
Why would anyone buy the Ulysse Nardin Executive Tourbillon Free Wheel? I think the reason is basically exactly the same as why one would support an unknown (but otherwise really quite great) painter: out of appreciation and a personal resonance with the art itself. There are six-figure watches that you can own and sell for the same amount as you paid for it – select Richard Mille and factory-set Rolexes spring to mind along with a few obscure models that have a total fan base of 10 collectors when only 8 were made. But you don’t need to shop around for long to realize how some of the watch snob-favored references take a hit in value all the same when the game of musical chairs ends. What I’m trying to say is that this watch will make a couple dozen collectors happy in the world who tried it on and interacted with it and have consequently fallen in love with it. Despite the tremendous amount of money that it costs and the fact that it has a lot of work put into it, this will be a purchase made with the heart first and the mind second – not the other way around. And that’s all good because the mind will ultimately find a lot to enjoy.

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Ulysse Nardin Skeleton X 42mm

Innovation is a word that is symbolic of the famous Swiss watch brand Ulysse Nardin Skeleton X. The brand has created some fantastic movements as well as designs that defy belief. A true testament to this is Ulysse Nardin’s Skeleton X model. Released back in 2019, the Skeleton X model belongs to Ulysse Nardin’s Executive collection. A collection which has been disrupting the watchmaking industry, with timepieces inspired by the sea.
The Ulysse Nardin Skeleton X comes in Titanium, Titanium Black, Rose Gold, and Carbonium case design, with all of them having the same skeleton dial design and movement. It does also come in two sizes; a 42mm and 43mm case size.
We have our hands on the 42mm Ulysse Nardin Skeleton X in titanium black DLC. Ulysse Nardin has drawn inspiration from the letter X for the design of the skeleton dial. As the brand put it themselves “more than a means, exploring has become Ulysse Nardin’s motivation. The X-factor is the answer: X like an adventure, X like our deepest desires, X for the unknown, X for what’s forbidden, bold and exciting.” The hour indices at 1 o’clock, 5 o’clock, 7 o’clock and 11 o’clock are partially connected to form the “X” shape.
The open-worked dial on the Ulysse Nardin Skeleton X takes skeletonisation to new heights. Only the bare necessities are left on the movement, as Ulysse Nardin has cut away as much material as possible. Even with so much of the dial being open-work, it’s still easy to read the dial thanks to the black and white contrasting. The hour indices, minute and hour hands all have white Superluminova on them. This contrast directly against the black frame and minute track of the dial. Touches of colour can also be seen on the dial with the jewels used for the movement, which provide a subtle effect to break away from the black/white contrast.
The skeleton X dial also consists of different shapes that make up the “skeleton”. From the circular case, we then go to the dial, which consists of a rectangle that connects with the X from the hour indices. Beneath all this, we can see the circular gears, a super-light balance wheel made from silicium, nickel flyweights and the stabilising micro-blades that make up the Skeleton X movement.
This particular model comes in a 42mm titanium black DLC case. The DLC case gives a great shine when worn on the wrist, and with the case being black, it doesn’t take the attention away from the centrepiece of this timepiece; the movement.
The movement used inside the Ulysse Nardin Skeleton X is the Calibre UN-371 Manufacture movement. This Calibre UN-371 movement consists of 173 components and produces a frequency of 3 Hz (21, 600 VPH). One of the reasons why Ulysse Nardin was able to make the Skeleton X, so “open-worked” was because the Calibre UN-371 movement is manual wound. Without the use of rotors and complications like tourbillons, the Skeleton X is able to show the bare minimum in watchmaking.
The Calibre UN-371 is based on Ulysse Nardin’s Calibre UN-171 movement; however, it has been completely redesigned. Calibre UN-171 is a hand-wound column-wheel chronograph movement, which produced a staggering 170 hours of power reserve!
It can be understood then that quite a bit of work was done on the base UN-171 movement, by removing the chronograph and its functions to create the Calibre UN-371 movement for the Skeleton X. This, however, does come at a cost as the power reserve is reduced to 96 hours. That’s however still four days of quality watch time you’ll get before needing to wind it again manually!
The Ulysse Nardin Skeleton X certainly is a special timepiece. On a 6.5inch wrist, the watch sits quite well without feeling too big or bulky as the case thickness is just under 10mm. Lugs on the Skeleton X are short and slightly curved in and lug to lug just under 50mm, the watch sits well on the 6.5 inch wrist. The Skeleton X is also one of the smaller models in Ulysse Nardin’s range, so that certainly helps with wearability for small to medium wrist sizes. The integrated rubber strap that comes with the Skeleton X Titanium Black DLC is also very comfortable to wear. It’s important to note that the rubber strap is flexible and will fit around the wrist quite easily.
The highlight of wearing the Skeleton X timepiece is, of course, the open-work dial. One thing is for sure, the background of the dial will always be different from one watch to another depending on your skin tone! As we mentioned earlier, although the watch is see-through, the dial still has easy readability thanks to the black and white colour contrast. It would be hard to not catch yourself from admiring the movement and the beauty that is watchmaking.
The Skeleton X can be considered more of a sports watch due to the materials used and the intricate complexities of the timepiece. However, this piece can also be easily paired with a nice jacket or formal wear. The rubber strap makes the wearability of the watch versatile, making it suited to almost any occasion. Honestly, with a piece like this in your collection, you would want to show it off any chance you can get!
The Ulysse Nardin Skeleton X is another innovative release by the renowned Swiss brand, with a watch where we can see everything from the architecture to the movement of time. With bold looks and a powerful movement, the future of watchmaking design is here.

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Ulysse Nardin Blast 45mm

Though it’s been nine years since he passed, the late Rolf Schnyder comes to mind almost every time I sit down to look at a new watch from Ulysse Nardin. He was a larger-than-life figure in the watch industry and one of the key people behind its resurrection in the years following the quartz crisis. Clearly someone who was not bound by what had already been done, Schnyder employed technology and avant-garde design to breathe life into a centuries-old brand best known for its conservatively designed wristwatches and ship’s chronometers. Then an independent marque, Ulysse Nardin was the first Swiss watchmaker to use silicium, and though many others soon followed, it was UN who showed the way, even as horological purists plaintively wailed that the new material didn’t belong in “real” watchmaking. And while my own personal tastes tend to favor smaller watches of a more conservative style, I have a lot of respect for what Ulysse Nardin does, in large part because I recognize the impressive groundwork laid by Schnyder.
I say this because today, ahead of the Geneva Watch Days event, we have a new watch from Ulysse Nardin Blast 45mm, and considering its large size, use of unusual materials, and unorthodox construction, it struck me as one that Schnyder would have liked. Available in four different variations, the Blast is a 45mm openworked automatic tourbillon with three days of power reserve. In each of the four versions, the movements are framed with a rectangular upper bridge as well as by a bi-color double “X” and, if you flip the watches over, you see the X and the rectangle repeated. As you’d expect from Ulysse Nardin Blast 45mm, the escape wheel, the anchor, and the balance spring are all made from silicium, which benefits both tribology and resistance to magnetic fields.
The movement is the in-house UN-172, a new automatic tourbillon derived from the manually wound UN-171. And, while the new 172 has a less-lengthy power reserve than the 171, it has the benefit of automatic winding. Now, one could certainly argue that a tourbillon like this is hardly an everyday watch, but I think that depends on who’s wearing it as much as anything else. And having a solid three days of reserve means you can comfortably switch it out every so often knowing that it won’t need to be reset for a few days. There’s no date, so setting the Blast is as simple as it gets. Still, having a power reserve that is a convenience rather than an inconvenience is something I’ve come to expect from new mechanical movements coming out in 2020.
There are some other updates beyond the switch to automatic winding (which comes via a micro-rotor positioned at 12 o’clock) and the associated reduction in power reserve. The tourbillon cage, for example, has been redesigned to offer a more open view onto the escapement inside of it.

The watches also have Ulysse Nardin Blast 45mm UN Certification, which is granted following testing of the fully cased up watch to rate tolerances tighter than those required by C.O.S.C. for movements.
Each of the four versions features a four-part case with faceted lugs featuring contrasting finishing, and this part of the design is well worth a close look. The lugs are influenced by the exaggerated angularity of radar-evading stealth aircraft. And by virtue of their multi-piece composition, the cases can incorporate different materials. They have a multi-layer, “stacked” look. But this doesn’t lead to an overly thick-looking watch. The Blast measures 13mm thick, which I think works quite well with its 45mm diameter.

On the Rose Gold Blast below, for example, a black DLC titanium middle case is matched with gold just above and below it, as well as for the lugs. On top is a black ceramic bezel, which provides for a nice, scratch-resistant bit of protection for the gold case. The matte striations you see on some of the gold surfaces have been applied with lasers, UN says. On titanium surfaces in black, the surface treatment is DLC, and where there is a color involved, it’s PVD.
In addition to the new case design, the Blast is also debuting a new folding clasp. When you close the portion with the gold buckle, it sets the other side in motion simultaneously so that you don’t need to grab both parts or close the bottom side first. The clasp can be closed in one easy motion.
Any time a watch is more than 42mm in diameter, I tend to wonder about its wearability. At 45mm, the Blast is right in line with what Ulysse Nardin likes to do these days. Discreetly sized dress watches are something that I associate much more with the company’s past than with its present. While 45mm is not for everybody, there is an enthusiastic audience for watches of this size.
I’d like to get a closer look at these new watches. The angular lugs look like they give the Blast a lot of character. I wonder what a simpler, slightly smaller take on this watch might look like, too. At any rate, given the downward slope of the lugs and the relative thinness of the case, I think there is a good chance that this 45mm watch could wear comfortably on my seven-inch wrist.

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Ulysse Nardin Marine Lady Diver 39mm

As the warmer weather months take over, its means time to pick the perfect summer watch for watch enthusiasts or collectors. This usually means pieces that incorporate a head-turning design with the reliability of being water-resistant for days on the boat. Ulysse Nardin is stretching its aquatic arms with a new Diver Collection, presenting three new models for men and women. The Ulysse Nardin Summer 2021 Diver Collection features the Diver 42mm, Ulysse Nardin Marine Lady Diver 39mm, and Chronometer 44mm, all highlighting the use of quality materials and state-of-the-art technology.
The Diver 42 mm Grey and Rose Gold is a contemporary design made for the deep that is just as cool at home in the city as it is on a sun-drenched shore. With a stainless, “shark gray” PVD satin-finish and polished case, a rose gold 5N and gray rubberized, a unidirectional rotating, concave bezel, and a domed sapphire glass, this new Diver is highly functional and dashing, a watch that will take its wearer from sandy beaches to coral reefs. The gray alligator strap is secured with a stainless steel gray PVD buckle that can withstand the most arduous of feats.
Beautiful to the eye and accurate to a fault, the 39mm Lady Diver Rose Gold is set with 40 diamonds for a total of .80 carats that glisten brightly in the midday sun. Bearing all the hallmarks of a classic Ulysse Nardin Diver, this watch is proof that you cannot judge a book by its cover, and that beauty is not skin deep. Inside the stunning case is the powerful UN-816 movement, an automatic movement that functions at 4 Hz and 28 800 V/H. The mother of pearl dial bears 11 diamonds totaling .12 carats and the white alligator strap is held in place by a 5N rose gold buckle. This is a watch for people who appreciate the aesthetics of fine design yet are unafraid of confronting the unknown in the name of adventure.
The Ulysse Nardin Chronometer 44 mm, with its deep-sea blue color and rose gold details, is the ultimate navigator’s watch. With an escapement wheel and anchor in Diamonsil, the 260 components work in harmony for a flawless look and precise performance. The open sapphire case back testifies to the fine horological mastery that is the rule at Ulysse Nardin, showcasing the balance spring in silicium along with the other parts made in-house to create this technical marvel. Crafted to withstand up to 300 meters of water pressure, it redefines functional elegance and audacious design. Shop the all-new Ulysse Nardin Summer 2021 Diver Collection by clicking the link below.

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Ulysse Nardin Marine Diver Chronograph 44mm

Over the dial is a domed sapphire crystal with AR-coating on both sides. The dial is designed for legibility and just a hint of glitz in the form of the polished hands and hour markers. Ulysse Nardin made sure to keep the dial utilitarian with a matte, textured dial, and easy-to-see-chronograph hands. (Note that both the chronograph and main hands are given luminant for darkness viewing.) Dial symmetry is ideal with even the date being balanced within its own round window right above the 6 o’clock hour marker. Dial text is minimized and neatly integrated into places such as the out seconds scale or within the chronograph subdials. While at first, the Diver Chronograph dial can appear simple, its refined nature allows it to grow on you after having it on your wrist for a while. I further appreciate how Ulysse Nardin was able to take the essence of previous Marine Diver watches but also create something new that we’ve not seen before for the Diver Chronograph 44mm collection.
Around the dial is a smooth-acting rotating bezel that has pleasant audible clicks and whose design again takes inspiration from traditional Ulysse Nardin Marine watches, but also does something a bit new. Aside from the design of the case itself, the bezel of the Diver Chronograph is what gives this Ulysse Nardin watch its primary visual distinctiveness. The chronograph pushers are screw-down, which is a bit of a retro feature, in my estimation. While this is a tried and true means of getting more water-resistance in a diver’s chronograph timepiece, I’d like to see brands move in a direction where the chronograph complication doesn’t need screw-down pushers and that can even be fully operated underwater (maybe not down to 300 meters, but at least 50 or 100 meters). On the left side of the watch is a small metal plaque with the timepiece’s serial number. This area is used for limited-edition numbers, such as on the limited edition America-only red, white, and blue “Hammerhead” reference 1503-170LE-3/93-HAMMER version of the Diver Chronograph.
Inside the watch is a fantastic movement, the in-house-made Ulysse Nardin caliber UN-150. This movement debuted around 2013 and is the brand’s premium automatic 12-hour chronograph movement. The UN-150 is beautiful to behold and operates at 4Hz (28,800 bpm) with 48 hours of power reserve. The 322-part movement is individually regulated for performance at Ulysse Nardin and also benefits from having a silicon escapement for added timing performance. Turn the watch over to view the UN-150 movement through the caseback, which helps add an impressive presentation to this luxury sports watch.
The titanium case makes the watch really feel light on the wrist, which is a good thing. Ulysse Nardin Marine Diver Chronograph 44mm also features an all 18k rose gold reference 1502-170-3/93) version of the Diver Chronograph 44mm that is nearly four times the price (at $38,500 USD) of this titanium model — and comes with the extra weight of gold to boot. That is a wonderful option for those who want to go swimming with a gold watch, but as a tool piece I’m not sure that gold is the best choice — so, my option would be titanium. I think the real value of the Diver Chronograph is a daily wear timepiece if you live in the tropics or warm place where you not only will sweat a lot, but also don’t want to think about swapping out your “nice watch” for something else when you want to submerge yourself in water. That also makes the Ulysse Nardin Diver Chronograph a great “vacation” watch if you are traveling to a tropical zone.

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Ulysse Nardin Diver X 44mm

Many words can be used to describe Ulysse Nardin’s deep and varied modern lineup, but one unifying concept that ties the brand’s offerings together is audacious design. This commitment to bold and aggressive style flows through its 2021 novelties collection, and the new limited edition Diver X Skeleton is a prime example of this. By combining the impactful and futuristic tool watch principles of the successful Diver X line with the intricate showcasing of the Skeleton X series, the limited edition Ulysse Nardin Diver X Skeleton offers one of the brand’s most unrestrained and vibrant diver offerings to date.
The 44mm case of the Ulysse Nardin Diver X Skeleton follows the same sporty modern pattern as previous Diver X models, with a heavily toothed unidirectional dive bezel, distinctive stepped lugs, and low, narrow rectangular crown guards. This combination leads to a bold, hefty presence in initial images, but Ulysse Nardin increases this model’s visual impact further with a few custom touches. The case is finished with a mix of bead blasted and brushed surfaces, then capped off with a deep desaturated navy blue PVD for a dark and oceanic matte look. The concave bezel insert shares this blue shade, but adds a dynamic range of accents with its Carbonium carbon composite construction and bright white diving scale with safety orange accents. This dynamic orange tone reappears for the rubberized orange crown guards, visually breaking up the case side and injecting a touch of dramatic contrast. Ulysse Nardin rates the case of the Diver X Skeleton for a respectable 200 meters of water resistance.
Ulysse Nardin carries over the central “X” motif of the Diver X line with the Diver X Skeleton but carves away nearly everything else to showcase its reworked in-house movement. This multi-part centerpiece functions as much of the bridge assembly for the movement itself, and the brand emphasizes its multi-part construction with several visual layers and a mix of blue PVD finishing shot through with vibrant orange accents. The beveled rectangular indices and distinctive paddle hands of previous Diver X models make an appearance here in the same PVD blue for a cohesive look, and the brand further integrates the internal and external looks with a bezel-matching blue Carbonium cover for the mainspring barrel at 12 o’clock. Ulysse Nardin visually balances this element at 6 o’clock with the intricate and airy silicon balance, with its Ferris wheel-esque arrangement of nickel flyweights.
Inside the Ulysse Nardin Diver X Skeleton beats the in-house UN-372 automatic movement. Using the Skeleton X line’s UN-371 movement as a base, the UN-372 adds an X-shaped winding rotor to the skeleton design. Outside of the skeleton flourishes, finishing for the UN-372 remains somewhat spartan, without embellishment to distract from the silicon escape wheel, anchor, and balance assembly. The power reserve stands at 96 hours at a slightly low 21,600 bph beat rate. The Ulysse Nardin Diver X Skeleton is paired with the brand’s modern and sporty rubber strap in a choice of either matching midnight blue or a bold diving orange for added visual impact
Combining its aggressive modern diver design language with an intricate skeleton dial and an attention-grabbing colorway, the limited edition Ulysse Nardin Diver X Skeleton delivers one of the boldest and most dramatic offerings on the brand’s current menu. Only 175 examples of the Ulysse Nardin Diver X Skeleton will be made to commemorate the brand’s 175th anniversary in 2021. The Ulysse Nardin Diver X Skeleton

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Ulysse Nardin Trilogy 41mm

Cross-industry collaborations tend to be a bit hit-or-miss, especially when the co-branding of the product is somewhat half-baked. What is more interesting, however, is when two brands from very different commercial worlds sit down and put their heads together to come with something that effectively blends their regular products’ aesthetics while simultaneously harnessing the technical attributes for which each company is known. This can result in a new and novel proposition for both parties. The Ulysse Nardin Hourstriker Phantom Limited-Edition Watch created in conjunction with Devialet is an excellent example of this kind of partnership bearing palatable fruit.
On the surface, a luxury speaker company and a luxury watchmaker don’t seem to have too much in common aside from the word luxury. However, there is more than one thing binding these two brands together. First is a bizarre familial link between the two: Emmanuel Nardin, one of the founders of Devialet, is a direct descendant of the Ulysse Nardin family. Second is the pursuit of excellent sound: Devialet through its market-leading speaker systems and Ulysse Nardin through its mastery of striking movements.
Real technical substance underpins this joint venture. Both Ulysse Nardin and Devialet put their research and development teams to work on this project with a simple goal: To create a watch with unrivaled acoustic performance and sound quality.
The watch takes its name — Phantom — from Devialet’s flagship product, The Phantom. A new generation of high-definition connected speakers, The Phantom can kick out sound up to 108 dB SPL (that’s pretty loud in layman’s terms). By sharing their experiences in their respective industries, Ulysse Nardin and Devialet have managed to get the output of the Ulysse Nardin Hourstriker Phantom Limited-Edition Watch (reference 6103-132) up 85 dB to 100mm (remarkable for the watchmaking industry). You can hear this refined sound either every 30 minutes (on the hour and half-hour) or on command by depressing one of the two case pushers. The second pusher can be used to switch the 30-minute chimes off, should you need a bit of quiet.
One of the hardest things for any brand concerned with making a striking mechanism with exceptional audio clarity to master is keeping the case wearable and robust. Here, Ulysse Nardin Hourstriker Phantom Limited-Edition Watch has excelled by keeping the diameter of the polished titanium case down to 43mm. As one would expect for a striking watch, the water resistance is only 30 meters, but, in truth, this is one kind of watch I wouldn’t want anywhere near water at all, considering the caseback features eight perforations for improved sound delivery.
So how have they done it? What have they changed to achieve such a loud and crisp sound? The self-winding UN-610 movement has a few tricks up its sleeve to go along with a sufficient 42-hour power reserve. Most notable is an alteration to how the “timbre” (the piece that is is struck by an internal hammer to emit a sound) is fixed in place.
When the timbre is struck it causes vibrations in the air around it, resulting in sound being created. Normally, these vibrations occur within the very limited air supply within the watch. The sound is effectively trapped inside the watch. What Ulysse Nardin Hourstriker Phantom Limited-Edition Watch and Devialet have done, is set that sound free. In the UN-610 caliber, the timbre’s heel is attached to a system of torsion arms, which react to the vibrations around them, essentially forcing the sound out of the case, via transmission arm communicating these vibrations to a thin membrane that sits on the underside of the watch. The membrane’s large surface area acts as an amplifier, displacing a much larger amount of air than one would normally have to play with inside a watch case. Truthfully, this mechanism’s theory is comparable to that of a loudspeaker and its cone and membrane.
The handsome and (visually) striking dial design is inspired by Chladni’s figures, which are shapes formed by the materialization of vibratory waves (anyone who had an old Windows media player will get the idea). This particular pattern is reminiscent of the protective net placed over the tweeters in Devialet’s speakers. The unusual orientation of the Arabic numerals is a nod to the way a Naval compass might be printed and a link to Ulysse Nardin’s nautical history. The Ulysse Nardin Hourstriker Phantom Limited-Edition Watch comes on a black alligator strap fastened by an ardillon buckle.