The Ulysse Nardin Marine Tourbillon watch hands-on
I have often told a particular story when writing about Ulysse Nardin. When I was young, maybe between 14 and 15, I started become passionate about timepieces, but, strangely enough, my passion didn’t ignite by following the brands that we all know, but it was being fuelled by a niche brand instead. When I am talking about “niche” brands, I am not referring to minor brands by prestige or flair, but, on the contrary, I am referring to special brands that don’t follow the conventional trends, but rather create them and that also have a peculiar personality and a rich history.
Ulysse Nardin was a name that my dad (a doctor with a passion for mechanics only second to mine) used to repeat in a somehow compulsive manner. The exact and precise measuring of time is vital in a surgeon’s world, where precision and swiftness to operate are of paramount importance inside a surgery room.
I started to get to know this brand through the words of an involuntary “brand ambassador”, from whom I inherited my passion for being precise and meticulous, doing things properly and for everything that floats above standards. Moreover, my dad used to be an avid reader of history and geography books, and used to love – and still does – Ulysse Nardin for its famous and big Marine chronometers.
Today, after a transition period, this manufacturer has eventually found its correct positioning within the Kering Group and within the market too; it stands next to another historic manufacturer and is able to fully express its potential, no matter if it is through a multi-awarded Regatta or the Marine Deck (two antipodean complicated watches that perfectly show us what the development team in Le Locle is capable of achieving). If one of the collectors that follow Horbiter® were to ask me, as it often happens, which collection best represents this brand in the social imaginary, I would have no hesitation in saying that it is the Marine collection.
This timepiece is the wrist-apt transposition of the big navy chronometers that used to be utilized on the deck of ships and Ulysse Nardin was among the only few brands in the world specializing in this specific sector. In my opinion, with its Ulysse Nardin Marine Tourbillon, Ulysse Nardin managed to synthesize one of the most fascinating complications in the world within an even more fascinating version; the flying tourbillon. The complication is coupled with an enamelled dial crafted using the “Grand Feu” technique that very few manufacturers still apply and with an entirely in-house built calibre.
I didn’t use the term “manufacturer” in the previous paragraph for no reason, since Ulysse Nardin entirely manufactures the cages, the wheels, the screws and the spiral of its UN-128 calibre, thanks to its capability that only a selected bunch of vertically integrated manufacturers can boast and it also true that, quite often, they also boast economies of scale that Ulysse Nardin doesn’t have. Moreover, we shouldn’t forget that the first silicon-made spiral produced in series on a timepiece was manufactured in Le Locle and, therefore, Ulysse Nardin can proudly boast such a first; a breakthrough in the world of mechanic watch-making 2.0.
It is almost reductive to list the technical features of the Ulysse Nardin Marine Tourbillon without talking about the big re-designing effort of this product that Ulysse Nardin carried out, in particular on its Marine collection that I have already mentioned before when I wrote about the Ulysse Nardin Marine Chronograph Annual Calendar. The case of the Marine is now simpler, less elaborate than in the past, the dial is neat and almost relaxing with its Roman numbers that remind us of the brand’s classic roots and the big flying tourbillon located at 6 o’clock that fills most of the lower half of the dial, reaching, in tangency, the centre of the dial.
It is a clear reference to the big seconds counters that appear on the Marine chronometers. The only low is probably the presence of too many writings on the dial, whose double sword-shaped hands represent yet another distinctive feature of this brand. The small 60 hour power reserve counter is located at 12 o’clock and I have to congratulate the designers for leaving the dial perfectly symmetric and for not inserting any date window; a feature that is not really relevant on a tourbillon and that is also quite not in fashion either.
Another distinguishing feature is the on-view movement; an automatic calibre that almost fills the 43mm case and sporting the unmistakable winding rotor decorated with an ocean blue coloured medallion and two anchors on the sides that ideally hold the peripheral part. If you consider what the watch-making masters used to do with the Dual Time Manufacture some years ago, you will realize what a good habit it is and how relaxing it can be to enjoy the beautiful manufacture of the calibre during a little break when you are not wearing your watch around your wrist. How much do you think the Ulysse Nardin Marine Tourbillon could cost? The positioning of a tourbillon is generally quite high, although, in this case, the case is made of steel, but it is still incredible to find out that Ulysse Nardin managed to position this complicated timepiece below the 30,000 euro psychological threshold.
There is no renouncing to anything when it comes to this watch and its “Grand Feu” decoration is a perfect example of that. It is, without a doubt, the best tourbillon proposal available on the market and it comes from a renowned brand too; if you are thinking of purchasing a perpetual calendar and you know what a tourbillon is, you cannot miss this opportunity or, at least, consider it as one.
From my personal point of view, the choice to craft the Ulysse Nardin Marine Tourbillon in steel is quite a smart one, as it makes it more wearable; there is no way you could wear a golden tourbillon with the same simplicity as you could wear this classic sporty watch. Is this then the new tourbillon for all? Maybe it is and it was about time one came around, if you think what length same brands have gone to keep this complication - involuntarily and strategically - confined within its special boundaries.
(Photo credit: Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®