Section 1 - History
Founded in 1846, the watchmaker Ulysse Nardin is a luxury Swiss watch manufacturer that during its activity specialized itself in the production of extremely accurate marine chronometers. Now part of the Kering Group, the company is still operating in the same building headquartered in Le Locle, Switzerland since its inception.
Ulysse Nardin created the company when he was 23 years old, and already an accomplished watchmaker, having studied under the guidance of his father Leonard-Frederic Nardin, and then under two accomplished master watchmakers, Frederic William Dubois and Louis JeanRichard-dit-Bressel.
His focus on precise timekeeping did not go unnoticed. during the 1862 International Exhibition in London, Ulysse Nardin was awarded the Prize Medal in the category of "complicated watches and pocket chronometers" - a prize that was the highest distinction for watchmaking in the United Kingdom. And a few years after, the company began a long cooperation with the Neuchâtel Observatory, which became the main body for testing its marine chronometers.
By the 1870s, the company’s chronometers were used by over 50 military and civilian navies, making the company the world leader in the field.
But even this record was not enough to withstand the challenges of the quartz crisis, and the company was sold in 1983. Luckily, the buyer who bought it, Rolf Schnyder, decided to revive the brand with the cooperation of the master watchmaker Ludwig Oechslin, so to produce complicated timepieces of its own making, with in-house movements and innovative materials.
In 2014, the Kering group bought the company, but did not change its mission: today Ulysse Nardin aims to compete in the luxury niche, with timepieces that find a place among the best of Swiss horology, as the watchmaker has always been - and still is - on the forefront of watchmaking technique. Its advances in the use of silicon components, and the proprietary Dual Force escapement, have been pioneering the development of contemporary horology.
Section 2 - Iconic pieces
Under the guidance of Oechslin, the watchmaker has launched many beautiful timepieces, but due to the discreet nature of Ulysse Nardin, and the fact that it is virtually unknown outside the ranks of the hardcore watch fanatics, they are not usually known to the big public, representing some true gems in watchmaking quality.
The Marine line, which includes the Marine Regatta chronograph, is one of the more diffused, and a very popular collection between sailing aficionados. The Regatta has an interesting countdown function, perfect for timing the turns in a regatta race.
The Freak model, launched in 2001 and still in production, is a highly conceptual timepiece which contains a revolutionary 7-day carrousel-tourbillon without crown or hands, which indicates time by rotating on itself.
Other notable watches include the so-called Trilogy of Time, represented by three amazing timepieces, the Astrolabium Galileo Galilei, the Planetarium Copernicus, and the Tellurium Johannes Kepler. They are as complicated as they are beautiful: to make the cloisonné dial of the Tellurium the company needs “fifty-four separate processes, twelve baking operations and more than fifty hours of work by a skilled craftsman to transform a draft sketch on a small metal disc into a unique work of art - each and every Tellurium is unique” - as Oechslin revealed in an interview.
1 - Marine line
The Marine collection is a modern homage to its watchmaking tradition of manufacturing high-precision marine chronometers, in a unique look that is a blending of new materials and functions displayed in old design elements, such as the Roman numerals.
The calibers of the Marine collection display great ingenuity and feature interesting solutions that are quite difficult to find in competitors’ timepieces.
You can find reserve charge indicators, chronographers with the above-mentioned countdown function, annual calendars, up to a (gorgeous) flying tourbillon.
2 - Diver line
A brand specializing in marine chronometers could not miss a diver’s line. The Diver collection is the result. It is suited for casual diving - even if we suspect that most of the time, these beautiful watches will spend their time being worn in meeting rooms.
The models range from the regular timepieces to chronographs and range from a definitely 1960s vibe to pieces that display a futuristic look, due to their use of advanced materials.
3 - Dual-Time line
The Dual-Time collection is dedicated to the modern international executives and their needs, and its impeccable design is one of the most typical of the watchmaker, with the GMT complication showing the second time zone through a window at nine.
Apart from this design feature, the timepieces show a very flexible character, becoming more of less formal through a vast array of hands, dials, and hour marks, apart from the components of the cases, making this line suitable for almost every need.
The collection is also available in the Executive versions, featuring an integrated wristband.
4 - Classico line
Between the offerings of the watchmaker, the Classico represents the “classic” dress watch, with its neverending charm and eminent wearability. As for every quintessential dress watch, the Classico one offers timepieces of every kind, from the most simple to the most precious, with cases from stainless steel to platinum with diamonds on the bezel.
Section 3 - News
Ulysse Nardin, though not under the limelight for most, is going places. Apart from being one of the main innovators in the use of silicon parts in watches, it is now growing its own diamonds.
Well, growing and diamonds seem not two of the most logical companions, but this is what it happens. The technical qualities of diamonds, and their possible applications in watchmaking brought the watchmaker to fund several R&D projects, one of which was to crystallize a thin film of diamond over other components - mainly silicon-based - to further reduce friction and improve mechanical strength: two qualities very precious in the world of watchmaking.
So, Ulysse Nardin has fulfilled, with modern technology, the dream of the Medieval alchemists: creating diamonds in a lab.
Section 4 - Gossip/Style
Jun 2019 - You will not find the usual VIPs wearing a Ulysse Nardin watch, as the brand is literally flying under the radar for most.
However, there is a very notable exception: that is, the currently richest man in the world.
And we are talking about Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, who has been frequently seen wearing a Ulysse Nardin Dual Time.
Jul 2014 - If I ask you to name a famous basketball player, most possibly one of the first names would be Michael Jordan. The 6-time NBA champion, 6-time NBA Most Valuable Player, 14-time NBA All-Star, 10-time NBA scoring champion is a sports legend, and also, displays a fine taste in watches as well, with a preference to the lesser mainstream ones.
At the presentation of his sneakers collection in cooperation with Nike, Michael wore a Ulysse Nardin Sonata in white gold, featuring a chiming alarm, a big date, a second time zone, and a countdown mechanism, on a white gold bracelet.
Section 5 – Current Most Popular Models
The Marine and the Dual Time lines steal the scene here.
The typical Ulysse Nardin owner is a man of refined tastes, who enjoys a blend of different design trends mixing old and new, and is not afraid to express his assertive character.
This is indeed one of the main characteristics of these two lines, which set them apart from the usual luxury timepieces.
The fact that they are available on a wide array of options for the cases and the wristbands or bracelets make these two lines even more appealing and suited to every wearer.
The true watch connoisseurs cannot do anything but marvel at the more exclusive models of the Le Locle-based manufacturer. The Freak is decidedly innovative, and a true attention-getter. And the three Trilogy of Time members are Haute Horlogerie in its purest form - and would represent an amazing addition to every watch lover’s timepiece arsenal.
Section 6 – Current Approximate Price List By Line/Model
The Marine line
||Stainless steel, Gold
||Date/day and power reserve, chronograph with a countdown function and tourbillon
The Marine line starts with the basic Marine Chronometer, featuring a reserve indicator and a small seconds dial at six. This model, in stainless steel, is available around the $7,000 mark, rising up, for the Torpilleur model in rose gold to around $12,500.
The Regatta Chronograph with its countdown function in stainless steel is available at about the same price level, that is, $13,000.
The top of the line is the Grand Deck Tourbillon, which comes in three versions: platinum rose gold, or white gold (in very limited editions), and includes such interesting complications as a minutes hand shaped like a ship’s mast and actioned by thin wires to a gorgeous flying tourbillon. Prepare to separate yourself from over $200,000 for the pleasure of wearing one.
The Diver line
The Diver collection is the modern attempt of the company to combine interesting, attractive designs and perfect functionality and durability.
Like any diver’s watch, the bezel is rotating. The case comes in different materials, from the most traditional like stainless steel or precious rose gold to the most technical titanium, sometimes protected by a layer of technical rubber.
||Luxury Sports Watch
||Stainless steel, gold, titanium, diamonds
||From date/day to chronograph
The prices for Divers are quite affordable, especially if compared with other competitors. The base Maxi Marine Diver in stainless steel starts at $3,900 on a rubber strap. It features easy to read dial and indexes, and water resistance of 300 m (30 bar). A metal bracelet costs a bit more.
You might find a similar model for Ladies, which is available also in rose gold with diamonds, from around $9,000.
Limited editions such as the Black Sea series would cost more than the regular ones - about double, that is, $7,500. The chronograph Artemis Racing is among the rarest and is available for around the $10,000 mark. Even more so, the Hammerhead, which is available in stainless steel, rose gold and bimetal, and which quotations can rise up to $35,000.
The Dual Time line
The Dual Time takes the tradition of the watchmaker and puts it into a shape that is both inspired to the traditions of the Fifties, yet displaying a very modern twist.
The interplay of the dials and the hands give this collection a character that is playful and very assertive and perfectly accompanies its wearer.
||Stainless steel, gold, diamonds
||Date, calendar, GMT
The base models in stainless steel start from $3,000 upwards, while the gold models start from the $11,000. The Ladies collection follows a similar trend, and also offers models with diamonds on the bezel as well, starting from $3,000 and topping $10,000 for the most precious models.
The Classico line
The Classico is the watchmakers interpreting of the dress watch. It is available in various kinds and models, so to be worn in every kind of situation. From the basic models in stainless steel to the most elegant ones in gold with diamonds, the Classico maintains perfect wearability.
||Every kind of function depending on the model
The stainless steel models start from $3,500 and rise up to around $7,500 for the gold versions, and the Ladies models are priced similarly.
There is a special series featuring enameled dials with various figures. This line, in gold, starts from around $17,500
Section 7 – Related Blog Post
Today we are talking about watches that are relatively affordable. Many of the reviews I do showcase very expensive watches. I keep getting asked by our readers and YouTube subscribers to come down to earth a little bit and showcase some more affordable watches. Read More...
Section 8 – Q & A
Why are Ulysses Nardin watches so expensive?
Manufacturing a good chronometer implies a very good use of materials and techniques, apart from the official certification issued by COSC (which is costly). It is next to impossible to manufacture a COSC certified chronometer from a poor quality movement. UNs also adhere to the strictest variety of the COSC standard, equivalent to a “superlative chronometer” - that is, twice more precise than standard COSC.
Indeed the quality of their calibers is amazing: technically, they are among the best of the business - and they manufacture their own. The calibers are in-house and employ innovative technologies based on the use of silicon covered by a thin layer of synthetic diamonds - meaning that they are way better than many of their competitors.
How does a Ulysse Nardin watch compare to a Rolex watch?
Rolex makes traditional watches in the millions and their quality is superlative and impeccable. Many, many people also say that their products are dated and boring and primarily have value because of their incredible marketing which provides them status.
Ulysses Nardin could not be farther from that both in culture, temperament or volume. When I think of UN I think of Avant Gard unique timepieces with a quirky link to their marine chronometer history. UN also makes incredible animated watches and ultra-high Horology pieces also in the vein of extreme quirkiness. They make very few watches compared to the venerable Rolex. Some of their Lower end watches use much more pedestrian movements but most if not all of their high-end watches are true works of art.
Where are brands like Ulysse Nardin and Zenith positioned in the watch universe regarding quality, finish, accuracy, and resell value?
Using a scale of 6 different quality segments, I would position Ulysse Nardin in the lower High-End segment and Zenith one notch slightly below, between the High Middle and the High-End segments.
Ulysse Nardin and Zenith both have a rather “industrial” level of finish, their accuracy is top-notch, and the resell value is nothing worth speculating on.
Ulysse Nardin is positioned as an underdog of movements and complication modules, and they made history with their astronomical watches, perpetual calendars and time zone watches developed in collaboration with Ludwig Oeschlin, who has a knack for designing complex displays with simple mechanical solutions. They were one of the Pioneers of using silicon to make some regulating parts of a mechanical watch.
What are the most underrated and overrated watch brands?
Unfortunately, some of the most overrated brands are some of the most well-known brands that are living more off their reputation than their goods.
- Patek Philippe
- Vacheron Constantin
- Audemars Piguet
- A. Lange & Sohne
- Seiko and Grand Seiko
- Ulysse Nardin
- Jaeger le Coultre
- Glashutte Original