A brief history of Ulysse Nardin's time New Marine Torpilleur models celebrate 175 years of innovation

A brief history of  Ulysse Nardin's time  New Marine Torpilleur models celebrate 175 years  of innovation

Ulysse Nardin head of brand heritage Massimo Bonfigli.

As head of brand heritage, Massimo Bonfigli is absorbed in Ulysse Nardin's 175-year history.

If he could do some time travelling, the native of Neuchatel would go back to 1878 and congratulate Paul-David Nardin on winning a gold medal at the Paris Universal Exhibition for his pocket and marine chronometers.

“I would have loved to work with Paul-David Nardin, Ulysse Nardin’s son. He was a brilliant man, who contributed to the improvement of chronometry. He was himself an exceptional watchmaker, but also an excellent businessman,” said Bonfigli.

Chronometry has been a domain of the company since 1846, when it was founded by Ulysse Nardin in Le Locle, Switzerland. He developed precision navigational marine chronometers along with complex pocket watches, for an era of ocean exploration and international trade.

The founder’s premature death in 1876 prompted his son to take the helm of the family business. Paul-David Nardin further built his reputation as a master of marine chronometers, winning competitions for horological excellence and commissions for his indispensable navigational tools.

A brief history of  Ulysse Nardin's time  New Marine Torpilleur models celebrate 175 years  of innovation

By 1900, he had made nine pocket chronometers fitted with tourbillon escapements to improve accuracy.

“When I started in 2000 at Ulysse Nardin, I was amazed to discover the precise mechanical timepieces made by the company at the end of the 19th century,” said Bonfigli.

Ulysse Nardin supplied over 50 navies, geodesic institutes and astronomical observatories, and its pocket chronometers were among the most coveted and prized by naval officers and merchant captains around the world.

The expertise is guaranteed by being showered with awards. In 1975, the Neuchâtel Observatory released its last official publication regarding chronometer performance from 1846 to 1975. According to this report Ulysse Nardin obtained 747 first prizes for its deck watches, pocket chronometers and wristwatches, as well as many other accolades.

Today, from Le Locle and La Chaux-de-Fonds, the Manufacture of Freedom advances its haute horlogerie through four pillars: Marine, Diver, Blast and Freak.

Its 175th anniversary and heritage in chronometry are celebrated with the Marine Torpilleur collection.

A new-generation chronometer for contemporary explorers, the Marine Torpilleur was launched in 2017. It was named after small, fast torpedo boats, whose agility ensured that they could easily outmanoeuvre bigger ships.

A brief history of  Ulysse Nardin's time  New Marine Torpilleur models celebrate 175 years  of innovation

Marine Torpilleur Panda with two dark eyes on a white varnished dial.

Regarding marine animals, the shark represents the brand’s spirit of exploration.

“The image of the shark corresponds to a free explorer in a tough world. The shark is a majestic animal which is at the top of the food chain. It fits perfectly with the image we wanted to convey,” said Bonfigli.

Ulysse Nardin is involved in shark and ocean conservation, and the 175th anniversary watches are compatible with R-straps made from recycled fishing nets.

Housed in stainless steel cases, the commemorative models include Marine Torpilleur Panda, two versions of a chronograph with an annual calendar, and two versions with a moon phase complication.

“The new Marine Torpilleur models share the design codes and maritime DNA, such as a fluted bezel, a double counter, Roman numerals and cathedral hands, and an in-house manufactured movement,” he noted.

A brief history of  Ulysse Nardin's time  New Marine Torpilleur models celebrate 175 years  of innovation

Marine Torpilleur Annual Chronograph with a white varnished dial.

A limited edition of 300 pieces, the 42mm Marine Torpilleur Panda features two dark-blue counters against a varnished white dial. Opposing the power reserve indicator at 12 o’clock, the counter at 6 o’clock housing the seconds hand bears the insignia “Chronometry since 1846”.

The 42mm Marine Torpilleur Moonphase and the 44mm Marine Torpilleur Annual Chronograph are also available in 300 pieces each.

The moon phase versions boast a blue sun-brushed PVD or a white varnished dial, with the power reserve indicator at 12 o’clock, and the small seconds and moon disc at 6 o’clock.

The annual chronographs differ with a blue matte PVD or white varnished dial while a chronograph counter and an annual calendar with small second counter are positioned at 3 and 9 o’clock.

A brief history of  Ulysse Nardin's time  New Marine Torpilleur models celebrate 175 years  of innovation

Marine Torpilleur Moonphase with a blue sun-brushed PVD dial. Ulysse Nardin

The in-house manufactured movements of the Marine Torpilleur Panda and Marine Torpilleur Moonphase feature a balance spring in silicium while the escapement wheel and anchor are in Diamonsil.

Ulysse Nardin was the first to develop an escapement made of silicium — a superlight metalloid, whose properties make it suitable for use in micromechanical precision, such as in watchmaking. The innovative brand then first introduced Diamonsil, a cutting-edge combination of diamond and silicium, in haute horlogerie.

“The heritage in chronometry is combined with the house’s cutting-edge technologies,” Bonfigli said. “This reflects our desire to always progress and to always question what has been achieved. Since 1846, this spirit is still alive at Ulysse Nardin today.”

Minutiae matters

Ten years ago, Ulysse Nardin enriched its métier d’arts with the acquistion of Donzé Cadrans, an independent enamelling company in Le Locle. Ulysse Nardin was born there in 1846 while master enamelist Francis Donzé founded his workshop in 1972.

The Swiss watchmaker’s 175th anniversary is marked by two 42mm Marine Torpilleur timepieces boasting in-house enamelled dials rendered by ancestral grand feu technique mastered by Donzé Cadrans.

Available in 175 pieces each, the stainless steel Marine Torpilleur Blue Enamel and rose gold Marine Torpilleur Tourbillon Grand Feu feature the codes of traditional Ulysse Nardin Marine Chronometers such as cathedral hands and Roman numerals.

At Ulysse Nardin, tourbillon chronometers trace back to the end of the 19th century, when the company made pocket chronometers fitted with tourbillon escapements to compensate for errors due to the effects of Earth’s gravity on a movement.

Its avant-garde haute horlogerie reinvented the regulator, with the resulting constant-force Ulysse Anchor Escapement incorporated into the mechanism of the Ulysee Anchor Tourbillon, a winner at the GPHG 2015.

The commemorative Marine Torpilleur Tourbillon Grand Feu is equipped with an in-house manufactured movement featuring the flying tourbillon with the Ulysse Anchor Escapement, as well as blade technology.

The sapphire crystal caseback reveals the automatic movement while on its black enamelled face, the flying tourbillon works it magic at 6 o’clock, opposing the power reserve indicator at 12 o’clock.

A brief history of  Ulysse Nardin's time  New Marine Torpilleur models celebrate 175 years  of innovation
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