Category: Ulysse Nardin Watches


Ulysse Nardin Blast Moonstruck

In 2009, Ulysse Nardin organized a press trip to Nice, to visit the Nice Observatory, which is located on Mont Gros, 372 meters above the Mediterranean Sea. The occasion was the launch of Ulysse Nardin’s latest astronomical watch: the Moonstruck, designed by horologist Dr. Ludwig Oechslin. Oechslin had been an essential partner to Rolf Schnyder in the resurrection of Ulysse Nardin as a brand and had created (among other things) the famous Trilogy Of Time watches, each of which featured a different group of astronomical complications.
The Ulysse Nardin Blast Moonstruck was a somewhat cleaner design than the Trilogy pieces but was still a very complex watch. It was what’s called a tellurium – a watch that shows the positions of Sun and Moon relative to Earth, and it had an indication for the tides and the phases of the Moon, as well. The Trilogy Of Time Tellurium Johannes Kepler, its predecessor, showed a lot more information but nobody would ever accuse it of being an exercise in minimalism. In addition to the positions of the Moon and Sun, as seen from the Earth, you also got indications for the Head and Tail Of The Dragon (the two points in the sky where the orbit of the Sun and the slightly tilted orbit of the Moon appear to intersect) and you even got an indication for the day/night boundary on Earth’s surface, which shifts, thanks to the inclination of Earth’s axis, over the course of the year (and which gives us the seasons). It’s one of the most interesting watches of the last fifty years (if you ask me) but it does look like something that might have been worn by H. G. Wells’ Time Traveler.

The original Ulysse Nardin Blast Moonstruck was deliberately designed to be easier to read, and easy to use, despite the amount of information it displayed. The latest version of the Moonstruck, launched earlier this month, is part of the Blast collection, and it updates the original design with an angular, darkly modern 45mm case, in black ceramic and black DLC titanium – making for a lighter and appropriately nocturnal rendition of the original design.
The original Moonstruck watch had an extremely detailed, hand-painted enamel miniature of Earth, including the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, as seen from a point of view above the North Pole. In 2017, Ulysse Nardin came out with the Executive Moonstruck (which sounds a little like the title of a 1980s rom-com) which added a world time function. The rendering of Earth – still as seen from above the North Pole – switched to one on the dial itself, and in the Moonstruck Blast, Earth is etched directly on the underside of the domed sapphire crystal.
The crystal also carries a date ring, and on the outer edge, a cities disk with reference cities in 24 time zones. All these are fixed in position; neither the Earth nor the date ring or cities ring, rotate.

There’s no chapter ring for the hours and minutes, so you have to read the time from the position of the hands alone but despite that, this is probably the most legible rendition of the Moonstruck, with very large, sword-shaped hour and minute hands filled with Super-LumiNova. The hour hand can be set ahead or back in one-hour increments, with the two pushers set into the left-hand side of the case. The date is read off the fixed month ring, from a small white triangular hand, pointing inward.
The disk for the Sun carries numerals for 1 to 24 hours, and rotates once every 24 hours, with the Sun disk itself representing 12 noon at the city to which it’s adjacent, and the other hour numerals showing the time in the cities to which they are adjacent. The Sun disk has an outer and inner flange – the outer seems like a conventional day/night separation of a 24-hour disk, but I couldn’t quite figure out what the inner, darker flange was supposed to represent. I think, after some consideration, that its oval shape is supposed to represent the effect of the Sun’s gravitational field on the tides, as its shape matches that of the oval tide indicator on the Moon disk – about which more in a minute. The two pusher system for moving the hour hand forwards or backwards in one-hour jumps is one of the easiest ways to adjust the local time in a dual time-zone watch. While it adds a little to the bulk of the case, it also saves you the trouble of unscrewing or otherwise fiddling with the crown (Patek Philippe has used this approach on several occasions).
A standard world time complication works through the use of a pusher that changes the local-time city at the 12:00 position, while at the same time changing the position of the hour hand. Although the Moonstruck Blast’s system is different, it’s still a perfectly serviceable world timer.

The Sun is made of a lustrous semi-precious material called bronzite, which despite the name isn’t bronze at all, but rather, a bronze-colored type of naturally occurring magnesium silicate. Ulysse Nardin says this is intended to reproduce the mottled surface of the Sun, which has a somewhat grainy texture when seen through a telescope or from a satellite. This is thanks to upwelling monstrous columns of superheated gas called convection cells, and I think reproducing them in an astronomical watch is probably a watchmaking first of some sort.
Like the Sun disk, the Moon disk rotates around the Earth once every 24 hours, clockwise. Now, if you’re feeling sharp, you might be wondering how the heck the changing position of the Moon with respect to the sun, which is what gives us the phases of the Moon, can be represented if both disks rotate once every 24 hours? The answer is that while the Moon disk overall, rotates once every 24 hours, it also shifts counterclockwise slightly every day – “by an angle corresponding, in degrees, to 1/29.53 of a lunar month to occupy a new position in relation to the Sun,” says Ulysse Nardin. (Seen from the Earth, the Moon moves about 13 degrees along its orbital path every day.) This means that over the course of an entire lunar month, the moonphase aperture will display a new moon once every 29.53 days, which is a close approximation to the actual average synodic month (the time between new moons, as seen from Earth) of 29.53059 mean solar days. The fact that the Moon disk changes position slightly every day also means that you can use it to show the so-called “age” of the Moon. Usually “Moon Age” means the number of days since the last new moon. The Moonstruck’s Moon disk shows the number of days between each new moon and full moon, which can be read off from the number on the Moon disk, which is adjacent to the Sun. Normally the phase of the Moon is shown by disks rotating through an aperture on the dial. In order to represent both the phase of the Moon as well as its position relative to the Sun in a moving aperture, the aperture rotates over a five-lobed sinusoidal Moon disk placed underneath it – a smart, economical solution to a very complicated problem.
Tides come about as a result of the pull of the Moon’s gravity, which pulls up the water underneath it into a so-called tidal bulge. There is a corresponding tidal bulge on the opposite side of the Earth, as well, which seems counterintuitive – however when we last wrote about tide indications, Community member Orangespoon was kind enough to provide a link to a very concise explainer from NOAA (who should know, if anyone does). As with the other indications on the Ulysse Nardin Blast Moonstruck , reading the high and low tides is very simple once you know where to look. Right under the Moon aperture, and directly opposite it on the Moon disk, are two bulges that correspond to the actual positions of the high tide bulges in the Earth’s oceans. The low tides are shown by the flattened areas of the disk, at 90 degrees to the high tide bulges.

The relative positions of the Moon and Sun can even tell you if the high tide is a spring (unusually high) tide, or a neap (unusually low) high tide. If the Moon aperture is either adjacent to the Sun or opposite it, you have a spring tide; if they’re separated by 90 degrees, you get a neap tide.
Understanding the how and why of each of the indications and being able to interpret what they mean takes a little bit of indoctrination, but once you know what each of them represents and how they interact with each other, the watch really comes together as a single gestalt, rather than as an aggregation of complications. The unified experience it provides is one of the very, very big differences between it and many other astronomical complications. Okay, let’s see what we’ve got. The Moonstruck, above, is showing us the following: 10:10 local time (Caracas); noon in St. Georgia; the 13th of the month; age of the Moon, 11 days since the last new moon; high tides in Dhaka and Mexico City (if Mexico City got tides, which it doesn’t, at over 3,000 meters above sea level); low tides in London and Auckland. Astronomical complications are usually done in fairly traditional ways, broadly speaking – even the perpetual calendar, which is an astronomical indication inasmuch as its cycles depend on the mismatch between the mean solar day and the length of the year (which is to say, the rotation of the Earth on its axis and its orbit around the Sun) doesn’t generally get more frisky than a retrograde hand here and there. In fact, a lot of the time, the pleasure of an exercise in tradition is the whole point of an astronomical complication. In terms of design, Dr. Oechslin’s work for Ulysse Nardin Blast Moonstruck really stands alone, and not just in terms of design, either – his inventions are absolutely chock-full of ingenious mechanical solutions, which often remarkably simplify the mechanics of what a lot of the industry reflexively accepts as necessarily complicated.
The great Breguet collector, Sir David Salomons, once wrote that ” … to carry a fine Breguet watch is to feel that you have the brains of a genius in your pocket.” If you’re in a joking mood you could reply that that sounds like one hell of a dry cleaning problem but his point, taken seriously, is a big part of the joy of owning and using a uniquely complicated watch, as well. May Dr. Oechslin’s brains stay where they belong – but boy oh boy do you feel their power when you have a watch like the Moonstruck on your wrist.

Ulysse Nardin Freak X 43mm

Let’s cut to the chase. At the time of writing, new stainless steel Rolex Daytona watches on eBay or Chrono24 are available from $24,500. This means at least some folks out there are paying this much (or a whole lot more) for what actually is a great watch at its $13,150 retail price. I’ll refrain from passing judgment over these lost souls or calling them outright mad for paying such extortion-style premiums to just be another person with a Daytona. Rather, I will do my part by showing them what they are missing out on: the Ulysse Nardin Freak X, for example, a historically important, amazing-looking watch designed and built to make even the most hardcore Rolex advocate drool — given they do actually like watches. The Freak X is a watch that retails for $21,000 in titanium and $24,000 in carbon, as pictured here. So, should you skip the never-ending line to crowned royalty and become a Freak instead? Read this and judge for yourself.
The Ulysse Nardin Freak well and truly was an absolute freak of a watch, one that shocked conservative watch lovers, industry leaders, and media. And it did so not just by the unusually honest name. Its bringing down of conservatism in watch design empowered such creative minds like Max Büsser, Martin Frei, Felix Baumgartner, Stephen Forsey, and many others. How so? Since its launch in 2001, the Freak and its inside-out movement layout has forever changed what can be done in the realms of ultra-high-end watchmaking. It destroyed age-old “rules” of luxury watchmaking with just as much force as the steel Royal Oak did some thirty years before it — and that’s true even if Ulysse Nardin isn’t as shameless about elbowing out the Freak’s deserved recognition as Audemars Piguet is when it comes to its bread-and-butter Royal Oak.
Historically, the rulebook had only allowed flat-looking, albeit mechanically complicated, watches to carry big price tags and bigger brand names. Ulysse Nardin Freak X and the Freak paved the way for the extremely novel haute horlogerie creations of Cartier, Hublot, Richard Mille, Jaeger-LeCoultre (Extreme L.A.B, anyone?) and many, many others. Watch and movement designs that had been an absolute no-no became an absolute must for even the fanciest and Frenchest of names in the business.
Conceived by Carole Forestier-Kasapi (who then went on to become Head of Cartier’s Haute Horlogerie department) and realized by Ludwig Oechslin, Rolf Schnyder, and the rest of the Ulysse Nardin manufacture who also deserve credit, the first Freak was far from perfect. It actually had the end of the center axis protrude through the front sapphire crystal (hardly a luxurious solution, to say the least). Plus, it was bulky, expensive, and, yeah, a freakish-looking watch. But over the years, the Freak showed relentless evolution and showcased some of the pioneering innovations of Ulysse Nardin in material technology and watch design, alike. Oh, and also in price reduction, this borderline uncharted territory in Swiss luxury watch development. Ending a long run of ever-cheaper Freak models, the Freak X will likely forever be the cheapest Ulysse Nardin Freak with the aforementioned starting price of just above $20,000. Now you know why this collection is a true freak in more than one way in the eyes of the rest of the industry.
The first impression the Ulysse Nardin Freak X watch makes on you depends heavily on the types of watches you are frequently exposed to. Just because you are in the $20k market for a watch doesn’t necessarily mean you frequently encounter horological exotica because it, by definition, is rare and hard to come by. Compared to run-of-the-mill, popular luxury watches of this price segment by Cartier, Rolex, Omega, and even most by Hublot, the Freak X is, well, incomparable. It is because, well, just look at it. That being said, when compared to six-figure exotics such as those heavy-on-the-eyes creations by Urwerk, Richard Mille, and other outlaws, the Ulysse Nardin Freak X is nigh-on timid. It is for its compact size, light weight, comparably streamlined design, and low-key color palette. It has 12 lumed hour markers over a round dial as opposed to three indices randomly thrown around an amoeba-shaped face. You wind it through a regular crown instead of negotiating a function selector and rotating a component that probably shouldn’t at all be moving on a quality timepiece. Last, but not least, it sits on your wrist with a light touch rather than looking and feeling like a device used to disarm Russian atomic reactors.
First impressions are a mixed bag, though — so much so that, even days into wearing it, I am yet to make my mind up about the Freak X vibe — and that’s all the more true when it’s so oddly combined with a Carbonium case and an alligator strap. In this pictured configuration, it looks more like a watch that I hastily put on a strap I had laying around than a timepiece carefully orchestrated by an army of designers.

We all should appreciate the fact that this more restrained look is likely to resonate better with prospective buyers who want horological exotica without the in-your-face vibe exhibited by just about every other alternative. To a more subdued point, it’s also important to note that many outlandish watches make the mistake of having every component taken to the max in terms of design, which just takes away from the centerpiece of a given watch. In other words, I am glad the strap isn’t something off-the-wall and that there aren’t 10 different colors and fonts on the dial. However, this cardboard-like, extra thin alligator strap in blue (next to a monochrome watch head) just looks off to my eyes, even at first sight. Fortunately, Ulysse Nardin offers some other cool-looking straps, plus the convenient lug design means you can place any other conventional strap on the Freak — something I would certainly recommend doing to better complement the watch head. And, again, Ulysse Nardin offers a host of other iterations including a red and black cased version – although too many of them err too far on the side of caution and conventionality, I think.
Let’s get a bit more personal. Wearing the Ulysse Nardin Freak X fills me with what I could best describe as a sense of pride, such that is scarcely sourced from the simple act of wearing a watch. Not to mention that I am fully aware it’s just a review loaner, not a piece I can call my own. Still, that’s the overwhelming sensation I get from both the importance as well as the novelty factor of the Freak. In essence, the Freak is characterized by its massive minute hand with an inverse gear track on its outer edge and a flippin’ awesome space-age balance wheel in silicon on the other. That’s the Freak, and there’s nothing else like it. And it’s not an also-ran in the dimension of “crazy haute horlogerie” but the very concept that has opened the portal leading us into said dimension. As much as I appreciate a technically complex rattrapante or a beautifully made tourbillon, there is a vibe of effortless badassery from the Freak that is unmatched by those arguably fragile and filigree complications.
I do have some complaints, though. The Ulysse Nardin Freak X — to my tired watch journalist eye that has seen positively (and negatively) outlandish watches of all sorts — is a bit too timid and, again, in most of its case-dial-bracelet configurations, a bit of a hodgepodge. To be fair, to every friend and relative I have shown it to, even fellow watch lovers, found it to be jaw-drop awesome. I can see it in their reactions and, believe you me, they have grown accustomed to me handing them some extraordinary timepieces of the years. Still, if you look at the entire range, there are far too many black or dark blue dial options with zero bright dials thrown into the mix (with the exception of the all-white piece) that has possibly taken things too far in the other directions. Sure, the overwhelming majority of luxury watches have black, dark blue, or other conservative dial colors, but these do no favors to the Freak X as they only serve to disguise the over-the-dial assembly and make its details and construction more difficult to appreciate. They do look tasteful and overall well-balanced, but the nine-reference collection arguably should have had at least some brighter alternatives.
A prime example of this is just how epic (and how much more alive, complicated, and expensive) the Freak X limited edition for The Hour Glass appears, as captured in the wild by WatchesbySJX. Even the brown alligator strap looks beefed up (pardon the pun) and a better match on that. Some small tweaks like this, I believe, could introduce successful versatility to the Freak X range and better highlight just how special it truly is.
Although far from perfect, the Ulysse Nardin Freak X in Carbonium feels good on the wrist owing mainly to its light weight, its 43mm case diameter (that wears very much on the small side of 43mm), and its relatively slim case profile. The Carbonium case segment is only 7.5 mm thick, topped by a domed and stepped bezel finished off by the domed (a.k.a. “boxed”) sapphire crystal. Make no mistake, this isn’t a thick watch made to look thin with the additional stepped bezel and sapphire wizardry. It genuinely is a positively slender watch without any of the annoyances associated with a bulky design, such as constantly getting caught on things or hung up against the edge of a sleeve. The watch head is very light, indeed, which is always a plus as far as real-world wearability is concerned.

Carbonium is “a new generation of material entirely sourced from the French aerospace transformation sector. Composed of two-thirds of intermediate modulus carbon fiber and one-third of high-temperature epoxy, Carbonium brings its structural properties and a totally unique aesthetic to the parts obtained.” The phrase “totally unique” is a bit of a stretch, as it is very much comparable to other forged carbon cases, but what is cool as that Ulysse Nardin sources Carbonium from Lavoisier Composite, which recycles and “upcycles” these from carbon used in the construction of civil commercial aircraft.On the minus side, the Freak X does like to wobble around the wrist even with a proper tight fitting of the strap – which isn’t how you’ll want to wear it, at least not in the beginning. First of all, the eerily smooth inside of the leather strap makes it prone to sliding over the skin. The second criticism with the strap is the stubbornly stiff padding near the lugs that forces the strap against the wrist, making it a lot less compliant in following the curvature of the wrist. Right after receiving the piece, I had to store it with the straps up rolled up tight to improve their flow around the wrist, but even then the first inch on either side down from the lugs remained just too stiff for comfort. It takes a fair bit of extra effort to bend the padded section to a more compliant shape which, frankly, shouldn’t be a case on any watch – and yet it still is on the overwhelming majority of padded straps, not just those on the Freak X.

To be fair, during daily wear, the Ulysse Nardin Freak X had, more often than not, proven to be a comfortable watch to wear. Its lightness and, once you get there, its comfortable fit around the wrist often had me check if I still had the watch on – and that’s a trait of only truly comfy watches. Some minor adjustments could ensure that the Ulysse Nardin Freak X is comfortable to wear right out of the box.

Ulysse Nardin Diver Norrøna Arctic Night

If anybody outside the watch world were to ask what some of the biggest trends in watchmaking are today, the answer would undoubtedly include ‘collaborations’ and ‘sustainability‘. Ulysse Nardin is no stranger to collaborations, and for its latest Diver, it teams up with Norwegian outdoor sportswear brand Norrøna to produce the Ulysse Nardin Diver Norrøna Arctic Night. Sheathed in dark sustainable materials – or at least materials with a lower carbon footprint – the Ulysse Nardin Diver Norrøna Arctic Night is a limited edition of 29 pieces and comes with a GoreTex Pro Norrøna jacket to accompany you on your next Arctic adventure.
Many watch brands have jumped on the sustainability sledge these days and want the world to know they are doing their bit to fight global warming. Long associated with marine chronometers, Ulysse Nardin’s portfolio has always steered on a nautical path with classical renditions like the Marine Torpilleur or more contemporary 300m diver watches in the Diver family. The Ocean Race Diver, which provides the base of this watch, was introduced six months ago and made of innovative, recycled materials, representing the brand’s commitment to the preservation of ocean life. With a 60/40% composition of recycled fishing nets and Carbonium for the case and caseback combined with recycled stainless steel for some of the components, the brand claims the watch reduces its environmental impact by 40% compared to traditional cases.
Norrøna, founded in 1929 by Jørgen Jørgensen and still a family-run business, specialises in durable outdoor equipment for Norway’s harsh environment (including wetsuits for cold water Arctic surfing!) and has a goal “to be the most responsible outdoor company” by 2029. To give a real-life action-worn face to the watch, Ulysse Nardin and Norrøna also count on Børge Ousland, a Norweigan explorer, a former deep-sea diver and Navy Seal, as a partner. You’ll be pleased to know that Ousland also served as a consultant in the development of the arktis Norrøna jacket included with the watch.
The dark palette of the watch, with its mottled grey and white bezel, is inspired by Norway’s deep fjords and volcanic rocks. The Ulysse Nardin Diver Norrøna Arctic Night robust 44mm case with a water resistance of 300 metres uses an assortment of Carbonium – the same material used for the fuselage and wings of aircraft, with a 40% lower environmental impact than other carbon composites since it makes use of offcuts (leftovers) – Nylo, recycled fishing nets and recycled stainless steel. The structure of the case is built as follows: the caseband and caseback are made of 40% Carbonium and 60% Nylo; the stainless steel container is made from 80 recycled automotive parts; the mottled decoration on the bezel is made of 100% Carbonium; the strap is made from 100% recycled fishing nets; and the components of the manufacture movement are sourced in Switzerland within a 30km radius (to cut down on carbon emissions).The black sandblasted dial features the classic double X-shape embossed in the centre with a power reserve indicator at noon and a running seconds counter at 6 o’clock with a circular date window and Norrøna’s Viking logo in the centre. The short, thick indices are treated with Super-LumiNova and indicated by lumed hour and minute hands, while the markings on the dial, sub-dials and unidirectional rotating bezel are picked out in a contrasting shade of grey.
The smoked sapphire caseback with Norrøna’s Viking logo reveals the UN-118 automatic manufacture movement. The Ulysse Nardin Diver Norrøna Arctic Night UN-118 was the brand’s first in-house base calibre and made its debut inside the Marine Chronometer Manufacture of 2012 and was fitted with cutting-edge nanotechnology in the form of a DiamonSil escapement (alliance of silicium and artificial diamond) and a silicium hairspring. The movement uses 50 jewels, runs at a rate of 28,800vph and provides 60 hours of power reserve.

ULYSSE NARDIN MARINE TORPILLEUR TOURBILLON

Ulysse Nardin turned 175 this year, and I’m not sure whether that fact surprised me or not when I opened a recent press release and read about it. The company is old, no doubt, and I’ve seen a number of their older marine chronometers and mid-century dress watches. But so many of its meaningful advancements are bound up in the mechanical Ulysse Nardin Marine Chronometers watch renaissance that was itself, at least partially spearheaded by the company’s longtime champion, the late Rolf Schnyder. In honor of the anniversary, UN is releasing the new Chronometry collection, which connects the company back to its historically significant role as a maker of marine chronometers. And of these new watches, a beautiful, grand feu enamel dial is the showstopper.
The layout of that dial, which comes via UN-owned Donzé Cadrans, is a familiar one to anyone who’s seen the company’s watches. The Ulysse Nardin Marine Chronometers hours and minutes come from the central axis, and a power reserve indicator occupies a slightly unusual position up at 12. The caliber UN-128 tourbillon is down at 6 for a symmetrical look. And the tourbillon has the Ulysse Nardin Anchor escapement, which uses bucking silicon blades to reduce friction and the need for additional lubricant. Ulysse Nardin has long been at the forefront of using silicon in its watches, and this tourbillon is a part of that legacy. I like the look the of the Torpilleur range and how it’s been executed in this new watch within the Chronometry Collection. The watch combines a vintage-feeling design inspired by Ulysse Nardin Marine Chronometers and a grand feu enamel dial with with one of the more sophisticated escapement technologies we have seen in recent times. That dichotomy feels wonderfully representative of Ulysse Nardin as a watchmaker.

Ulysse Nardin Blast Tourbillon X 45mm

Popular trends within the watch world drive focus to certain designs and styles, increasing the demand for examples that come in small-batch quantities. It’s a recipe that world-renowned watchmakers follow to ensure success, while delivering their best version that competes with other brand. The horology pioneers at Ulysse Nardin specialize in creating the perfect balance between mainstream design and complex innovation, using its vast collection to capture the attention of the watch community as a whole. Stepping into the world of vibrant rainbow bezels, Ulysse Nardin is proud to announce the Blast Tourbillon X Rainbow as the newest addition to its line of luxury timepieces. The Ulysse Nardin Blast X Rainbow features a robust 45mm case design crafted from black DLC titanium, which includes a black DLC stainless steel bezel embedded with 38 rainbow gemstones.
A skeleton dial design beautifully highlights the meticulous inner workings of the watch, focusing on the 12 matching gemstone hour markers and exposed tourbillon. Ulysse Nardin builds its one-of-a-kind dial configuration on an “X” baseplate that commemorates the brands innovative collection. Delivering power to the Blast Tourbillon X Rainbow is Ulysse Nardin’s in-house UN-172 skeleton movement, using a flying tourbillon and 25 jewel caliber construction to achieve an impressive 72-hour power reserve. A transparent sapphire backcase presents a secondary view of Ulysse Nardin’s magnificent craftsmanship, along with special engravings on the outer portion that signify the limited edition release from the watchmaker. Incorporating a touch of elegance, Ulysse Nardin fits the Blast X Rainbow on a genuine large-scale black leather strap and black DLC titanium self-deploying buckle. The all-new Ulysse Nardin Blast Tourbillon X Rainbow is limited to only 50-pieces and currently available through an authorized dealer for $87,900. Check back into duPont REGISTRY for more upcoming luxury watch news and releases.

Ulysse Nardin Lady Diver Rainbow

Gem-setting isn’t typically the first thing you think about when you think about Ulysse Nardin. However, perceptions are always open to change. So, do these bejeweled beauties shown in Geneva this week indicate yet another strong direction for the Le Locle-based brand founded in 1846? Only time will tell.
The complex, skeletonized balancing act of geometric forms typical of the Ulysse Nardin Blast dial, including an eye-catching platinum micro-rotor at 12 o’clock, gets a colorful, harmonizing frame that tends to elevate and soften the overall presentation in the new 45mm Blast Rainbow. A total of 50 rubies and sapphire baguettes in a Roy G. Biv color spectrum adorn the bezel and hour indices of this otherwise all-black execution (via its black DLC titanium case, black polished ceramic upper case, waterproof black velvet rubber or black alligator strap, and black DLC titanium/ceramic deployant clasp). An automatic flying tourbillon at 6 o’clock counterbalances the chromatic uniqueness with some precision horology. Finally, the new piece is powered by the UN-172 movement. This movement leans heavily into silicium technology, especially in its escapement and balance spring, and delivers 72 hours of power reserve.
Part of the color story of the new Ulysse Nardin Lady Diver Rainbow models debuting at Geneva Watch Days is that you can get your hands on either an all-black or an all-white version. But that is only the beginning of the hue-heavy message. As the next generation of the Lady Diver, first introduced in 2019, these new 39mm timepieces defy the term “tool watch.” Their specs, however, check all the boxes: a rugged stainless steel case (black-toned stainless for the black version), 300-meter water resistance, a workhorse UN-816 automatic movement, and a unidirectional numbered dive bezel…Well, sort of numbered. While the bezel sports numerals for the important dive intervals (0, 15, 30, and 45 minutes), it also sports an incredible rainbow display of 40 precious gems (ruby, aquamarine, topaz, tsavorite, and sapphire). Plus, there are the 11 diamonds serving as hour indices. Of course, as befits a Ulysse Nardin Lady Diver Rainbow watch, 12 o’clock is indicated with a lumed bar index. The white version sports a shimmering silver dial that plays well with the surrounding jewels and is offered on a structured rubber strap or white alligator strap. Perfect for a Bond villainess, the black version brings on the full-pop of the gemstone colors with an inky dark black dial, and either a black structured rubber or black alligator strap completes the story.

Ulysse Nardin Diver Chronograph “Great White”

There are few watch brands so strongly associated with sharks as Ulysse Nardin Diver Chronograph “Great White”. Over the past decade, the Le Locle-based maison has launched a host of shark-inspired timepieces (including last July’s Diver Lemon Shark) and used the sharp-toothed fish to impressive effect in its advertising campaigns.

On top of that, it has partnerships with shark experts, divers, universities, and non-profits to help track and protect this misunderstood oceanic predator.

To mark global Shark Awareness Day, which was on Thursday, July 14th, Ulysse Nardin has doubled down on its commitment to shark conservation by announcing three new partnerships in the field of shark advocacy, teaming up with 1% for the Planet, Shark Trust, and Mike Coots.

Want more? The brand has also unveiled a new shark watch fit for the deep: The Ulysse Nardin Diver Chronograph “Great White” 44mm Limited Edition. And as part of the brand’s new partnership with 1% for the Planet, one percent of sales proceeds for this eye-catching diver – and all other Ulysse Nardin “shark” watches – will be donated to global projects focused on safeguarding the future of sharks.
As many of you know, Ulysse Nardin boasts a rich heritage of making marine chronometers. So, tapping into this historical link with the ocean, the brand began to make its first shark-inspired timepieces over a decade ago. Thus, between 2010 and 2016, the Ulysse Nardin Diver Hammerhead Shark time-and-date and chronograph watches hit the spot with collectors, with each edition selling out at a rate of knots.

Then, on becoming Ulysse Nardin CEO in 2017, Patrick Pruniaux conducted an audit of the brand’s assets and saw the success that the Diver Hammerheads enjoyed. Recognizing that the mystery, assertiveness, and quirky attributes of sharks (sharks don’t sleep) struck a chord with the brand’s predominantly male collectors, the former Apple executive sensed an opportunity.
Together with Chief Product Officer Jean-Christophe Sabatier, Pruniaux began developing new shark-related collections, including the chronometer certified Diver Great White and time-and-date divers dedicated to the Blue Shark and Lemon Shark.

The success of these watches inspired the Ulysse Nardin marketing team to explore the appeal of sharks further.
As a result, in 2018, the company introduced a new, visually arresting #FreakMeOut ad campaign that saw a Great White shark juxtaposed with famous urban environments such as Manhattan and Shanghai. And its think-out-side-the-box message chimed with collectors, proving to be yet another winner for the brand.
With sharks having been kind to Ulysse Nardin, Pruniaux wanted to engage the brand in a sustainable and eco-conscious way, the heart of which was a serious and concrete commitment to learning more about sharks and protecting them. After all, rather than the fear-inducing maneaters depicted in movies like Jaws, sharks are essential apex predators and crucial for maintaining the natural order and balance of marine ecosystems.

Yet, the global population of sharks and rays has crashed 70 percent during the last five decades due mainly to overfishing. In that time, Pacific reef shark populations have crashed by 90 percent, while Mediterranean Sea shark populations have dwindled to the point where more than 90 percent of shark species have become extinct.
So, recognizing the crisis, in 2020, Ulysse Nardin began the first of its “shark” partnerships, providing financial support to a non-invasive tagging campaign in the middle of the Atlantic. Carried out by Dr. Jorge Fontes and in association with the University of the Azores and Belgian free diver Fred Buyle, the project traces migratory and behavioral patterns of the highly threatened blue shark.

In the same year, the brand began financing another tagging campaign, this time focusing on great white sharks off the coast of Massachusetts, in association with Ocearch. A global non-profit, Ocearch has developed a sophisticated shark-tracking app for collecting and sharing data about the links between sharks, humans, and environmental health.
In the process, Ulysse Nardin Diver Chronograph “Great White” acquired two new, unconventional brand ambassadors: A male and female great white shark christened Ulysses and Andromache!
And so, to the watch that Ulysse Nardin launched to coincide with Shark Awareness Day and the brand’s announcement of its new shark partnerships: The Ulysse Nardin Diver Chronograph Great White 44mm. How does this 300-piece limited edition pay tribute to the Carcharodon Carcharias, that most famous of sharks?

For one, its sandblasted gray dial is meant to evoke the skin of this animal. Against that gray background, the Super-LumiNova-filled paddle hands and indices stand out nicely, as do the small seconds, date wheel, and chronograph sub-dials, which feature alternating dashes of royal blue and white.
Then, there is the solid caseback of the brushed Grade 5 titanium case stamped with a shark motif (there is an additional shark insignia, in Super-LumiNova, on the white rubber strap). At 44mm, it is not a small case, but its heft is minimal thanks to the use of lightweight and resistant titanium.

Screw-down chronograph pushers help to give a dive-grade water resistance of 300m, while the notched, unidirectional rotating bezel looks the part with its white grooved and rubberized insert and lumed “0.”

The overall aesthetic is bright and fresh. Plus, it’s totally in line with the brand’s previous reference dedicated to this shark: the Diver Great White.

Ulysse Nardin Diver Chronometer

Why do so many watch brands have freedivers as ambassadors? After all, the dive watch came about, and was used for decades, to track elapsed bottom time while the person wearing it breathes compressed air, specifically to avoid overstaying no-decompression limits or to time deco stops. Yet for years we’ve seen many brands tout their relationships with such apnea luminaries as Carlos Coste (Oris), Herbert Nitsch (Breitling), Guillaume Néry (Ball and now Panerai), Tanya Streeter (TAG Heuer), Tudor (Morgan Bourc’his) and of course, Jacques Mayol (Omega). At first blush, it seems illogical. After all, freediving involves going deep on a single breath, in which the risk of decompression illness is negligible and elapsed time is typically less than a couple of minutes. Freedivers are also proud of their sports’ minimalism. Whereas scuba diving is all about the equipment – heavy tanks, buoyancy vests and regulators – freediving requires nothing more than a mask at its most basic, maybe a wetsuit and set of fins if you’re not quite as ascetic. I doubt most freedivers even bother to glance at the time while underwater, much less wear a watch.
The answer to my own question is likely that, since very few really use a watch anymore for scuba diving, watch companies might as well seek their underwater wrist models from the more aesthetically beautiful sport. Scuba diving is complicated, cluttered with unwieldy hoses and straps. Freediving is sleek and athletic, the human form in graceful silhouette against the blue. There is a purity of form that suits a well designed watch and the notion of stripping down to the basics – fins, a mask, a watch – has appeal to everyone from avid watersports enthusiasts to tropical holiday-makers, not to mention the confusing and arcane “rules” and training of scuba.
The latest luxury brand to sign an elite freediver as an ambassador, is Ulysse Nardin, with the Belgian, Fred Buyle, wearing their latest Diver Chronometer on his wrist. I was recently invited to the French Riviera to experience UN’s new trio of dive watches, meet Fred Buyle, and do some freediving in the Mediterranean.
Just last year, in Bermuda, I had a chance to dive with the previous iteration of Ulysse’s dive watch, the Marine Diver (in Artemis Racing Edition livery) and the new Ulysse Nardin Diver Chronometer doesn’t stray too far from its predecessor. Still present is the trademark bezel with oversized bezel rider tabs, the power reserve and small seconds, and the rubber strap with its uniquely integrated metal link. However, it has been streamlined, simplified, and cleaned up. Gone is the wave textured dial and the skeleton hands. The concave bezel hashes are bolder, more sporty, the crystal is domed, and the rubber strap does away with a folding deployant clasp in favor of a simpler and more “dive friendly” pin buckle. It is more evolution than revolution and Ulysse was smart not to reinvent what was an already recognizable design.
There are three versions: a blue or black dial “standard” version, a “Monaco Yacht Show” limited edition (with black surface treatment, and gold bezel and crown), and the all-white “Diver Great White” limited edition. The watches are all housed in 44-millimeter titanium cases and powered by the in-house UN-118 calibre, which is visible through a sapphire caseback on all but the Great White edition, which has a solid back engraved with the watch’s namesake Carcharodon carcharias. The chronometer-certified self-winding movement boasts 60 hours of power reserve and strong anti-magnetic properties, thanks to the silicon balance.
Of the new Ulysse divers, I found the blue and black versions most appealing. Though they all share the same basic form and movement, the simpler ones work best, in my opinion. Titanium is a smart choice for dive watches, especially at 44 millimeters, which pushes the limits of size. The concave bezel and domed crystal are cues seen on vintage divers, though overall this is a refreshingly modern take on the dive watch, in a sea of “heritage,” retro competitors. I used to wonder about the purpose of the integrated metal link on the rubber band, but after wearing it for a while, I realized that it articulates the strap past the bony side of the wrist. Many thick rubber straps on luxury divers can chafe at this spot, but the Ulysse divers are supremely comfortable. That said, I can do without the additional branding engraved on it, and especially the cheesy shark and “Monaco” that are found on the limited editions. Equally off-putting to my eye was the “Great White” on the dial of the white limited edition, and its caseback engraving reminded me of the smiling shark in “Finding Nemo.”
I’ve done a bit of freediving in the past, but I’m more comfortable exploring the subaquatic world with a tank on my back. My past experiences learning the finer points of the sport from those far better than me (Carlos Coste, Morgan Bourc’his) have involved lessons on yogic relaxation, breathing technique, and body position, all with the aim of going deeper down a weighted rope, pushing personal limits. But Fred Buyle, who once was a world record holding competitive diver, takes a more Zen approach. He left the competitive side of the sport behind and focuses more on using freediving as an unintrusive way to explore underwater, interact with marine animals, most notably sharks, and as a means to silently shoot underwater photography, all without the noisy gush of scuba exhalations. It’s refreshing, since that’s the way most of us mortals will freedive as well, dipping 10 or 20 feet down to explore a coral head while snorkeling, for example, not chasing a depth tag for a world record.
In the Mediterranean Sea off of Cap d’Antibes, not far from where Jacques Cousteau first dipped his toes into the “silent world,” I traded duck dives with Buyle, descending to a bed of sea grass 25 feet down to eye schools of tiny fish through the dappled sunlight that filtered down. I wore a wetsuit to ward off the chill of the autumn sea, and to counteract the buoyancy, a weight belt with enough lead to let me sink, but not enough to make floating on the surface difficult. I wore the blue Diver Chronometer, and glanced at it underwater a few times to assess its legibility. But let’s not kid ourselves, the merits of most luxury diving watches these days is as a beautiful companion that survives where you wear it.
During a press conference on the trip, Ulysse Nardin CEO, Patrick Priniaux (a keen diver himself) asked Buyle what purpose a watch has for a freediver. Buyle said that it is the minimalism of a mechanical watch that appeals to him. He doesn’t wear a digital dive computer, and said the sweep of a seconds hand more closely mimics the passage of time while underwater. Practiced sound bite? Perhaps. But I could relate to Buyle’s sentiments, with a slightly less tangible take. We watch enthusiasts wear divers because it lets us take our passion, our hobby, anywhere, even into harsh environments like deep under the salty sea. That little capsule of human ingenuity, dry and safe despite the pressure around it, evokes a sense of calm when the sweep hand is viewed through a dive mask 30 feet underwater when the lungs start to burn from the buildup of carbon dioxide. And then there’s the small thrill of stepping off the inflatable skiff, stripping off the wetsuit, and walking right into the bar afterwards with bragging rights on your wrist.

Ulysse Nardin chose to introduce the new dive watches in the Mediterranean to coincide with the Monaco Yacht Show, an annual showcase of mega-yachts in the world’s most famous marina and the day after diving, I was walking the docks ogling multimillion dollar watercraft, whose tenders likely cost more than my house. This was an appropriate place to debut the new watches. Though the Ulysse Nardin Diver Chronometer is a sportier take on UN’s underwater watch, it still feels more like a “dress diver,” better suited on a tanned arm holding a cocktail in a chair on the teak deck of a sleek yacht than strapped over a wetsuit sleeve tagging sharks.
As I strolled the show, passing 300-foot yachts with nine-figure price tags, I came upon a lowly tugboat, its aft deck strewn with rusty oil drums, a derrick and coiled lines. It felt out of place, a working boat among the idle rich, a Seiko dive watch among a marina of Ulysse Nardins. Truth be told, my tastes tend to run towards more “blue collar” divers, the Citizen Aqualands and Doxas of the world, with their no-deco bezels, depth gauges, and rippled rubber straps, but there in Monaco, I could see the appeal of something a little more refined. As the definition of the dive watch changes, there’s room for all kinds, and while the Ulysse Nardin Diver Chronometer likely won’t be strapped over my drysuit sleeve for my next Great Lakes shipwreck dive, I can respect it for expanding the reach of by far my favorite watch genre.