The Ulysse Nardin Diver Deep Dive watch hands-on
Professional diver's watches are getting extremely popular again. After the boom of hyper-watches with super complications, from both standard and independent brands (which actually fueled this fashion) some years ago, it seems now all the watchmakers to be focusing on diver's watches. We are currently witnessing a second youth of high-end scuba diver's watches that used to be extremely popular between the end of the 60s and the beginning of the 70s.
However, it is not about filling catalogues with new products before the summer season through just a new version of diver's watches from a sports collection - a move that could be easily mistaken for this new trend - but it is rather about going back to investing in the crafting of tool watches. A very active trend, when the brand involved has a consolidated history and a strong bond with the marine world, as in the case of Ulysse Nardin. However, we need to make a distinction - it is one thing to craft a diver's watch that can be used up to depths of 300m or 200m, but it is a different story when you're willing to create a watch that can withstand the pressure of a 1km high water column.
The origins of the Ulysse Nardin Diver Deep Dive
As far as I remember, Ulysse Nardin has never crafted a 1000m diver's watch before and with its Ulysse Nardin Diver Deep Dive, the brand joins the club of those manufacturers that can craft hyper-professional diver's watches. From the product point of view it makes sense, because if you are part of the haute-horlogerie sector and you have the same pedigree as Ulysse Nardin, you must have a pure sports watch in your catalogue that is able to speak the same language as the Ulysse Nardin Marine Tourbillon among the classic sports watches.
Moreover, history tells us that of the marine chronometers that we can find on old ships were first created in Le Locle. These ships are today exhibited in the best museums across the world and many of those chronometers that you could find on-board are collectibles that you can find in antique shops - as it happened to me in a Milan store.
The style of the Ulysse Nardin Diver Deep Dive
The Ulysse Nardin Diver Deep Dive is the quintessence of all the aesthetic traits that identify the models of the Diver collection - titanium, bi-material made straps, uni-directional rotating bezel with wide grooves (12 indentations for a quick grip while wearing diving gloves) and rubber inserts. On the Ulysse Nardin Diver Deep Dive all these features have been re-designed and details have been taken to a higher level, both to distinguish the flagship timepiece from the other models within the same range and to adequately communicate its positioning on the diver's watches market.
The Ulysse Nardin Diver Deep Dive only comes in a 300-piece-limited edition and it features a prestigious titanium case; this adjective actually refers to the quality of the manufacturing and of all its interesting details (bevels, hollows, perfectly crafted slotted surfaces). It looks like this timepiece just came out of a CNC machine cutter. The opaque color of titanium increases the feeling of high-tech product, while the red accents on the case and the blue dial contrast perfectly with each other (in my personal opinion).
Some of these accents are shaped as a hammerhead shark, like the one that was engraved on the crown protection system positioned at 2 o'clock - a fairly atypical arrangement that is probably linked to the comfort of use and that gives a distinct personality to this diver's watch.
The case-back is beautiful and it sports the frontal image of a (polished) hammerhead and is sealed by 6 small screws.
A timepiece designed for saturation diving
In Le Locle they really managed to mix well the wow effect that is typical of a flagship product with functions: the Ulysse Nardin Diver Deep Dive is waterproof up to 1000m and is equipped with a helium release valve (it is located at 9 o'clock and it sports a screw-down crown). This feature becomes necessary when diving in saturation of mixed gases (oxygen-helium). There has been much discussion about the need to drill a diver's watch's case and I am fully in favour of those brands that are able to craft a watch without the need to insert such a valve in a case.
In my experience, I can say that there are two different schools of thought - I fully admire the skills of some brands to create single-piece cases that prevent helium pressure from getting its tiny particles inside the case, but it is also true that this type of architecture involves a significant increase in the thickness (servicing is more difficult too), which, on this Diver, is still maintained within an acceptable range if compared to the 46mm-wide (but light) case.
I am still quite critical when it comes to the bezel - despite using it on a prototype, I found it too hard to operate and far from the smoothness of those 120 micrometric clicks that are now quite common. It is not a negligible detail on a product of this type, which comes conversely with quite an interesting caliber - an automatic in-house built caliber with 48 hours of power reserve and a wheel train (spring, lever and escapement) made of silicon. This is an original solution that, on paper, fully pays tribute to precision (anti-magnetism means better isochronism), reliability (it requires less lubrication) and intellectual leadership, because Ulysse Nardin itself introduced silicon in watch making and it crafted both the lever and the escapement using this specific material.
Yes or no?
The Ulysse Nardin Diver Deep Dive was presented last January and is available, as said, in 300 pieces - therefore a real limited edition priced at CHF 12,000 (close to the EUR10K threshold, as long as Ulysse Nardin does not want to consider its threshold price, in currency, independent of the market). This timepiece is a strong diver's watch that you either love or hate, but it is not as extreme as you might think. Its family feeling with the Diver collection of the brand is quite evident, if you do not love it, it is because you are not too passionate about the style of Ulysse Nardin diver's watches - a generally strong, colorful and personal style.
It is all about choices - it is a diver's watch that was born to be noticed and it features a very good technical data sheet and a specific use. It has an aspirational look and feel that is missing in standard diver's watches with a classic pedigree and this is the emotional lever that will further push the purchase of this timepiece.
(Photo credit: courtesy of Watchonista)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®