Ulysse Nardin’s history may be rooted in seaborn chronometers, but its latest timepiece takes design cues from the lines of stealth aircraft via a skeleton construction highlighted by a striking mix of materials.
The new Blast Tourbillon Blue & Gold was an exercise in the UN spreading its wings. It heralds the first time a fusion of 18-karat rose gold with blue PVD-treated titanium. The latter—used on the bezel, inner index ring, the flying tourbillon cage and the company’s perennial “X” motif (this time a double X) set beneath a rectangular structure featuring the brand’s logo—offers a strong contrast to the silver-hued components of the UN-172 automatic movement. “It is one block of gold which is machined and manufactured into the case and then satin-finished, polished with an edgy design so there is a lot of light and reflection on top of being able to see through the sapphire crystal glass,” said Ulysse Nardin’s North American brand president, François-Xavier Hotier at a press dinner in Manhattan this week.
A more trained eye might zero in on the purple silicium escapement of the flying tourbillon (operating at a frequency of 2.5 Hz) at 6 o’clock. Ulysse Nardin was the forerunner of using silicon technology (which it calls silicium) in the watches. It was first employed in the company’s avant-garde Freak watch in 2001, where two silicium escapement wheels replaced steel due to its ability to lessen friction, improve accuracy and reduce the need for repairs during the timepiece’s lifetime (the company now offers five-year warranties as a result). As of 2006, Ulysse Nardin invested a 50 percent stake in Sigatec, a Swiss manufacturer of silicon that now provides the material to several other watch companies.
“You have a lot of know-how in this watch,” said Hotier. “There is a lot of verticality. There is a platinum rotor at 12 o’clock and a tourbillon with a silicium escapement at 6 o’clock. There are 137 parts and it’s a true openworked timepiece. It’s a lot of UN.”
That level of expertise will set you back $67,000 and at 45 mm it is also a lot of watch. But thanks to the construction of the case and the flexible rubber strap (which has a velvet-like finish on top), it wears more elegantly on the wrist than one might suspect. It is also, perhaps, a signal of the direction of things to come from the brand as it repositions itself in 2023 after it was sold off by luxury conglomerate, Kering in January of last year. It now operates, alongside Girard-Perregaux, as an independent company operated by Sowing Group SA.
“It took a lot of work to get where we are and somehow from last year until now, we look at ourselves and we are very proud of where we are today,” said Hotier. “We have the best partners and our collections are just fantastic. We’ve been very successful business-wise and we also entered a new chapter; we came back recently to where we come from—to being an independent, integrated manufacture.”