For budding watch collectors keen on taking a step further into the world of luxury horology, here is a name worth exploring: Ulysse Nardin. The Swiss brand, which celebrates its 175th anniversary this year, is not your typical household name but its reputation as a superlative watchmaker is unparalleled.
Take, for instance, the seven new additions to the Marine Torpilleur “Chronometry since 1846” capsule collection. With their solid variety of complications and classical design codes that echo historical marine chronometers, these creations present a simple and accessible entry point into high watchmaking. Combine that with the romanticism behind the brand’s storied legacy and its technological and horological prowess, and it is not hard to understand why the collection as well as the brand should speak to people of all ages.
Ulysse Nardin launched the aforementioned Marine Torpilleur models to celebrate this milestone anniversary. The collection was first launched in 2017 as a thinner, lighter variation of the brand’s flagship Marine Chronometer. Aptly named after the torpilleur – a small, fast torpedo boat of the late 19th century that can easily outmanoeuvre larger ships – this watch was positioned as a more contemporary model and designed, naturally, to capture the attention of a younger audience.
Those familiar with the brand know of its deep ties with the marine and nautical world. Established in the golden age of maritime travel and exploration, brand founder Ulysse Nardin set out to master the making of not just complex pocket watches, but also marine chronometers to aid navigators at sea.
At a time when there was no electronic or communication equipment, the marine chronometer was of absolute importance – crucial to navigating long sea voyages by providing accurate time readings, as well as guidance in terms of a ship’s position.
Function aside, it was also an instrument of status. The pocket marine chronometer is the captain’s watch, a mark of his rank both on and off the shore. Ulysse Nardin’s pocket chronometers became the most coveted of all, and acquired a reputation for being prized by naval officers and merchant captains from around the world.
The “Chronometry since 1846” capsule collection of the Marine Torpilleur comprises seven models – a varied, limited-edition line-up that demonstrates the brand’s prowess in watchmaking as well as the range’s versatility. While retaining all the familiar stylistic features synonymous with the Marine Chronometers, such as the fluted bezel, Roman numerals and double counters, UlysseNardin has taken the concept even further by introducing complications, including a moonphase indicator, an annual calendar chronograph and a tourbillon into the mix.
All the watches feature an in-house movement and a silicium escapement, a revolutionary horological technology pioneered by the brand in 2001, while each variation is distinctive in its functional capability. Together, they form a handsome selection with their dressy and neoclassical aesthetic.
Marine Torpilleur 42mm
The most accessible models of the new range are the Marine Torpilleur Blue Enamel and the Marine Torpilleur Panda. The former features a midnight blue Grand Feu enamel dial, created by the master artisans at the brand's enamelling workshop in Le Locle, Switzerland. On the other hand, the latter bears a white dial contrasted with dark-blue sub-dials, which explains its name and its resemblance to the lovable bear. The Marine Torpilleur Blue Enamel is a limited edition of 175 pieces, while 300 pieces of the Marine Torpilleur Panda are available.
Marine Torpilleur Moonphase 42mm
There is a good reason why Ulysse Nardin has been producing moonphase watches since the end of the 19th century. Understanding how moon phases control the tides was an essential part of astral navigation back then, which made a watch with a moonphase indication an invaluable tool on board a sailing vessel. The first with such a complication in the collection, the Marine Torpilleur Moonphase is available with a white or blue dial, each a limited edition of 300 pieces.
Marine Torpilleur Annual Chronograph 44mm
Fitted with two dial variants – varnished white and matte blue – the Marine Torpilleur Annual Chronograph features an improved version of the annual calendar system created by the famed watchmaker extraordinaire Ludwig Oechslin for a 1996 Ulysse Nardin perpetual calibre model. All settings are adjustable - forwards and backwards - via the crown, which means setting the time and date is now easier. Limited to 300 pieces for each dial variant.
Marine Torpilleur Tourbillon Grand Feu 42mm
The pinnacle of the anniversary range is undoubtedly the Marine Torpilleur Tourbillon Grand Feu, a model of understated elegance and mechanical magnificence. Under its rose gold case and Grand Feu enamelled dial is a flying tourbillon powered by the proprietary calibre UN-128, which also features the silicon-bladed Ulysse Anchor Escapement. The impressive constant force escapement is also used in the Ulysse Anchor Tourbillon, which won the Tourbillon Watch Prize at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève award ceremony in 2015. There are only 175 pieces.
Bound to the sea: Ulysse Nardin and its modern-day links
As a watchmaker historically linked to the sea, Ulysse Nardin understands the need to play its part in protecting the oceans of the world. The brand demonstrates its commitment to environmental and social responsibility by actively helping conserve wildlife living in the sea.
Besides ensuring that its watch-production conditions are in line with the principles of sustainable development, it has been looking at innovative ways to boost sustainability while making watches of exceptional quality.
A good example is its R-strap, which is woven with a polyamide yarn made from recycled fishing nets. Inspired by his work to promote awareness of ocean pollution, the brand had also appointed famed long-distance swimmer Ben Lecomte as an ambassador of this eco-friendly watch strap.
Ulysse Nardin also reinforces its ties to the sea by consistently aligning its name with prominent figures around the world whose professions are associated with the ocean. Besides Lecomte, some of those who have become friends of Ulysse Nardin include free divers Alessia Zecchini and Fred Buyle, kite surfer Alex Caizergues, sailor Sébastien Destremau, and polar explorer and photographer Sebastian Copeland . All intrepid explorers of the oceans and the world, the brand shares their vision about nature and adventure.