Ulysse Nardin Watchmaking History: From Marine Chronometers To Innovative Advances
Ulysse Nardin Watchmaking History: From Marine Chronometers To Innovative AdvancesRoberta Naas2020-01-03T09:04:48-05:00
Founded in 1846 in Le Locle, Switzerland, Ulysse Nardin is one of the finest Swiss luxury watch brands on the market today. Now owned by the Kering Group, UN has regularly been on the cutting edge of technological advancements since its inception.
In this guide, you will learn about Ulysse Nardin as we cover the following topics:
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Images: Ulysse Nardin & Roberta Naas
Ulysse Nardin Overview
Always forging forward, Ulysse Nardin is known as a pioneer that has secured thousands of patents and unveiled a host of firsts. Ulysse Nardin’s early years are firmly rooted in the world of Marine Chronometry.
As early as 1906, the brand was making marine chronometers fro the US Naval Observatory and others around the world. During the latter half of the 20th century, the brand continued its adventurous spirit, but also turned to the skies for inspiration.
It unveiled the famed Trilogy of astronomical watches and secured patents for highly unusual repeaters, sonneries, and automatons.
Today, the brand continues to explore new materials and new watchmaking methods. In fact, the brand has deftly mastered the art of blending rich historical craftsmanship and intriguing innovation.
Born into a watchmaking family, Ulysse Nardin followed in his father’s footsteps and focused on precision watchmaking throughout his youth. By the time hewas 23 years old, he was opening his own eponymous company with the desire to create outstanding horological timepieces.
Nardin was obsessed with being the best and most precise watchmaker of his era. In 1860, he even purchased an astronomical regulator clock (that had been built by Jacques-Frederic Houriet) so that he could more accurately calibrate the timing of his pocket chronometers.
Unfortunately, Ulysse Nardin died in 1876 at the age of just 53. The company helm was then passed on to his son Paul-David Nardin, who won a Gold Medal at the Paris Universal Exhibition in 1878 for his pocket and marine chronometers.
In 1893 at the Chicago World’s Fair, the brand won the first prize in the Marine pocket Chronometer category. As such, the fate of the brand as a trusted maker of chronometers was forever sealed.
Paul-David Nardin went on to perfect chronometer movements and also secured several patents throughout the final decade of the 19th century.
By the year 1900, he had begun fitting his chronometers with tourbillon escapements, and a decade later received his third patent for a chronographic timing wheel. In 1903, Paul-David also introduced the first Swiss lever escapement (replacing the detent escapement).
By mastering miniaturization of many of the components, Ulysse Nardin could create smaller chronometers that overall had greater mobility on board ships.
The brand began supplying more and more watches to the military and was consistently winning chronometer competitions from astronomical observatories around the world.
With this in mind, Paul-David further pursued his father’s desire to break into the American market. Therefore, he sought to become on of the official suppliers of the US Navy for on-board chronometers.
In 1904, US President Theodore Roosevelt announced a competition for “Torpedo boat Watches.” The competition was held a year later and the US Navy found the Ulysse Nardin Chronometers to be highly dependable.
Within a couple of years, Ulysse Nardin was delivering watches – with casebacks engraved with the watch number and the words “U.S. Navy” on them. It was the beginning of a decades-long relationship between Ulysse Nardin and the US Navy.
During the 1930s, Ulysse Nardin unveiled its split-second pocket chronograph that could measure to tenths of a second. Throughout the ensuing decades, Ulysse Nardin continually won awards for its chronometer watches.
Under The Ownership Of Rolf Schnyder
In 1983, the new era of Ulysse Nardin began. It was then that Rolf W. Schnyder and a small group of investors purchased the Ulysse Nardin brand. A year later, Schnyder turned to scientist and master watchmaker Dr. Ludwig Oechslin to execute his ideas in watchmaking.
In 1985, Ulysse Nardin unveiled the first in a trilogy of astronomical watches: the Astrolabium Galileo Galilei.
From then until 1995, Oechslin worked with Ulysse Nardin to create some of the most coveted watches in the world, including the trilogy watches: Astrolabium Galileo Galilei, Planetarium Copernicus, and the Tellurium Johannes Kepler.
Also during that time period, the Limited Edition San Marco minute repeater with jaquemarts was unveiled. This opened the doors to a whole new category of complication for the brand.
Ulysse Nardin In The 21st Century
As the 20th century gave way to the 21st century, new horizons in watchmaking were upon us. Ulysse Nardin was once again ahead of the new ideas/new materials trend.
Consequently, they unveiled the now-famed Freak in 2001, a revolutionary 7-day tourbillon carousel watch holding several patents for technology. In fact, since the 21st century ushered its way upon us, Ulysse Nardin has been among the most creative watch brands on the market.
While the brand unveiled Westminster carillon tourbillon jaquemarts watches, it also released the musical Sonata watch that was seven years in the making.
The patented self-winding caliber was the first wristwatch to offer a melodic chime alarm sound and setting. It also featured a countdown mechanism that allows the wearer to set the alarm up to 24 hours in advance, which was developed by Dr. Ludwig Oechslin.
By 2006, Ulysse Nardin had begun its quest to become a fully vertical Manufacture. That year it released its first in-house-made caliber, the UN 160. From there, new calibers were on the horizon.
Additionally, because Schnyder was a visionary, he set his sites and developing new and important materials for use inside the mechanical watch movements. In 2007, Ulysse Nardin unveiled the Freak DIAMonSIL®, a patented Dual Ulysse Escapementmade of diamond and silicium.
Unfortunately, in 2011, Rolf Schnyder died. However, his leadership, his willingness to think differently and to explore and excite others with the brand’s creations, lived on.
The company remained independent for about three more years and was run by long-time CEO Patrik P. Hoffmann along with Schnyder’s wife.
During that time, the brand developed half a dozen important newmovements, launched the Marine Chronometer manufacture movement and acquired the Swiss dial and enamel artisan house of Donze’ Cadrans SA.
In 2014, Ulysse Nardin was sold to its current owners, the Kering Luxury Watches and Jewelry Group. That same year they unveiled the new UN-334 manufacture movement for the Dual Time Manufacture watch.
Since then, Ulysse Nardin has developed new and revolutionary watchmaking components. The brand released prototype and concept watches as well as announced a five-year warranty. Additionally, they began an all new marketing and advertising campaign, and re-established its roots with new collections.
In the past couple of years alone, the brand has unveiled a revamped Marine Chronometer collection, new Diver Chronometers, Torpilleur Military watches that pay tribute to military and US Navy involvement and more.
The Innovision 2 concept watch was even unveiled from which subsequent firsts in watchmaking have already begun appearing in Ulysse Nardin watches. In fact, the brand just announced its flying escapement technology.
Key Ulysse Nardin Watch Collections
Pillars include the Marine collection of chronometers, the Diver line, Executive series and its complex editions, the Freak and its many extensions, and the Classico collection.
Highlights also include the Premier collection of yacht-inspired watches such as the newly unveiled MegaYacht watch. This particular watch also houses the UN-631 caliber chocked with 504 components.
Furthermore, it features a one-minute flying tourbillon, moon phase indication, tidal indication and coefficients, and a power reserve system with 80 hours of reserve, among other things.
Just recently, the brand unveiled its Freak Next Concept watch and the innovative new flying oscillator, created in cooperation with Sigatec, a company that Ulysse Nardin co-owns and that specializes in silicon watch components.
Ulysse Nardin remains intimately involved in the worlds of sailing and diving. In a mode deigned to excite and excel, Ulysse Nardin holds many surprises in store for us—but rest assured, they will all perfectly fit the DNA of the brand.
Until then, you can head to the official Ulysse Nardin website to learn more about their current collections. Alternatively, learn more about other brands, watchmaking as well as how to properly use them with our own resources: