Ulysse Nardin Classic Sonata Watch For 2017 Hands-On

Ulysse Nardin Classic Sonata Watch For 2017 Hands-On

Ulysse Nardin Classic Sonata Watch For 2017 Hands-On Hands-On

For 2017, Swiss Ulysse Nardin updated one of their less-known but very capable watches into something that I feel finally gives the Classic Sonata watch the attention it deserves. The two new models are the reference 672-05/92 and the 673-05/90. For many people, this is the first time they will be paying attention to the Ulysse Nardin Sonata, and here is why. Visual design is everything. There are watches out there which have incredible movements or complications that will rarely see the light of day on a wearer's wrist because of something that is perhaps amiss in the visual design. The Sonata has been part of Ulysse Nardin's collection for quite some time, with a truly compelling and distinct movement, yet it also had a design that many might warmly comment is "quirky and acquired."

Ulysse Nardin Classic Sonata Watch For 2017 Hands-On Hands-On

Ulysse Nardin Classic Sonata Watch For 2017 Hands-On Hands-On

For some people, the "original" Ulysse Nardin Sonata might be more to their liking, offering the particular eccentric flavor of the impressive watchmaker who never seems to resist doing their own thing. When the Kering Group purchased Ulysse Nardin (which was previously privately held) in 2014, I was rightly concerned that the maverick nature of the company perpetuated by its late owner Rolf Schnyder would be lost. Ulysse Nardin was and still is run by Patrik Hoffmann - a direct protege of Schnyder - who had every intention of maintaining the brand's direction. Intent alone is not always enough to stall the whims of a large corporate owner who might have very different ideas for the trajectory of their new acquisition - regardless of what made the brand great to begin with.

Ulysse Nardin Classic Sonata Watch For 2017 Hands-On Hands-On

Now about three years after the acquisition by Ulysse Nardin by Kering, you do see a shift in the brand's direction, but also not a serious reversal of the company's truly innovative spirit. Hoffmann confided to me that it does take considerable persuasion and regular communication with Kering to allow the brand to invest and innovate as it desires, but that he was winning the campaign to keep Ulysse Nardin quirky and cool. With that said, he admitted Kering offered valuable advice and direction, helping to fill the brand's lineup with refined products and more which you might consider beautiful in a mainstream way. Thus, the Ulysse Nardin brand circa 2017 is actually (in my opinion) a success story of merging the true independent spirit of a luxury watch brand laboring to remain interesting and relevant in modern times, with a slew of products which are more traditionally beautiful for a slightly more mainstream appeal.

Ulysse Nardin Classic Sonata Watch For 2017 Hands-On Hands-On

Ulysse Nardin Classic Sonata Watch For 2017 Hands-On Hands-On

A fantastic example of this effective blend of values is the updated Sonata, which I feel always had potential despite a visual design that never quite made it appealing for those seeking a more refined design. Inside the Ulysse Nardin Classic Sonata is a fantastic in-house made movement known as the caliber UN-67. The movement has a range of useful technical features such as a silicon escapement and other components in the regulation system produced from silicon such as the patented hairspring. The automatic movement operates at 4Hz (28,800bph) with a power reserve of 42 hours.

Ulysse Nardin Classic Sonata Watch For 2017 Hands-On Hands-On

Ulysse Nardin Classic Sonata Watch For 2017 Hands-On Hands-On

To easily explain the complications, I'll say that it offers the time, a big date indicator, dual time zone with dedicated "forward and backward" pushers, and a unique alarm system which combines a traditional alarm with the chiming sounds of a minute repeater. Note that there is also a dedicated power reserve indicator in the alarm-setting dial that allows you to know if the alarm spring has power in it. All of this is laid out rather logically and attractively on a balanced but asymmetric dial.

Ulysse Nardin Classic Sonata Watch For 2017 Hands-On Hands-On

Ulysse Nardin Classic Sonata Watch For 2017 Hands-On Hands-On

I'm not a big fan of traditional mechanical alarm complications because the way they sound is not particularly attractive to me - despite that they do get your attention. I recently reviewed the updated vintage re-release Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Memovox here. While being visually attractive and offering an authentic re-creation of a traditional alarm-equipped mechanical movement, the resulting sound from most mechanical alarm watches is a harsh vibrating buzzing sound. Yes, this noise is loud and gets your attention, but that's sort of counter-intuitive in today's age when mechanical watches are supposed to be the beautiful-looking and -sounding friends on your wrist. The majority of people who actually need to be reminded by an alarm will no doubt rely on their mobile phones or other electronic devices. Mechanical alarms will be used for other, more pleasant purposes.

Ulysse Nardin Classic Sonata Watch For 2017 Hands-On Hands-On

Ulysse Nardin Classic Sonata Watch For 2017 Hands-On Hands-On

So what the Ulysse Nardin Classic Sonata does is totally ditch the harsh buzzing alarm sound for the chimes produced by a hammer hitting a gong, identical to the system used to make chimes in sonnerie or minute repeater watches. Thus, Ulysse Nardin designed the Classic Sonata with an "alarm with cathedral gong" system. This demonstrates that Ulysse Nardin isn't just trying to say they too are producing a traditional complication, but that they are watch lovers like their customers seeking to refine a complication that is comparatively uncommon today.

Ulysse Nardin Classic Sonata Watch For 2017 Hands-On Hands-On

Think about it: the alarm is an actually useful complication but very rare in modern mechanical watch offerings. It is arguably more useful than a chronograph for many people, but is for the most part exotic and rare. In my opinion, the reason for that is because they just aren't pleasant to listen to - and Ulysse Nardin's solution to that problem in the UN-67 movement was to make the alarm worth listening to. I think they totally succeeded.

What do you think?
  • Thumbs up (40)
  • I want it! (18)
  • I love it! (18)
  • Classy (11)
  • Interesting (10)
  • Julian Chan

    That’s actually a really beautiful watch. Bit on the thicker side but otherwise really nice.

  • IanE

    Quirky, if relatively restrained, Ulysse-Nardinery! Love it – though I think I prefer the first generation with its really mad dial and hands!

    • Mark1884

      I concur, prefer the first gen dial & hands.

  • ??????

    Must be fun to play with 🙂

  • I can’t see how you can set the alarm within a 24 hour period (since the alarm register hands at 1 are 12 hour). Hope I’m wrong though – an alarm for 3 PM that goes off at 3 AM would be pretty irritating. I suppose the +/- adjusters affect the 24 hour “dual time” display – which is a shame as for a traveler’s watch, adjusting the primary time display is more useful when changing timezones. These gripes aside, this is a lot of watch tech for an all things considered reasonable price.

    • IanE

      Yes – I was wondering that: the older models (or at least those I have seen) had a 24-hr countdown sub-dial as well as the 12-hour setting sub-dial, so that one could use the former to get the right setting on the latter. [On reflection, you will probably know that, given your watch erudition!]

    • IG

      You sleep until 3pm? Hawaiian lifestyle…

      • No, I try to get up by noon so I can get that afternoon nap going without delay. Good to wake up at 3 PM to check email before starting that pre-dinner nap.

  • It’s like a fashion model, but with a mole… on both cheeks, her forehead, and one eyelid. Not wholly unattractive, but enough detractors to spoil it.

    Like many watches, the movement dictates the feature layout. Here the way everything seems too close for comfort or intruding on the other, drives me to distraction. The big date all smashed into the dual time sundial looks terrible. The random looking asymmetry, and how details spill into the chapter ring make the whole face appear tossed together wherever things could be crammed.

    It’s more sedate looking now, but certainly not beautifully designed.

  • SuperStrapper

    Are UN the kings of excellence in asymmetry? Quite possibly. Kudos for having the sand to release a chiming watch in steel, as everyone who makes a chiming watch should.

    • Mr. Snrub

      Quite possibly indeed. I also think Graham has a certain flair for it.

  • BrJean

    Too much is going on on the dial and around the dial… but I’m feeling relaxed looking at these amazingly decorated rotors.

  • Tony NW

    One thing articles like this seem to be missing is a relative comparison of the most important complication or feature. For example, just drawing from my own set of personally-owned watches, Ariel could have included…

    * The Seiko BellMatics, which were quite a bit more musical. They set with a rotating bezel, not a fourth hand, also, and have the crown at the normal position, with a pusher around 2.
    * That most alarm complications, including the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Memovox he referenced, are essentially mild updates of the original A.Shild movement. You can recognize these by the crowns at roughly 2 and 4, and by that hard buzzy sound… but you can FEEL it which is important.
    * That affordable clones were done by Poljot (Russian) and Seagull (Chinese.) You can still find them on eBay.
    * For a Quartz analog alarm, the Traser Big Date Alarm combines that and Tritium, using an Ronda Startech (yes, swiss) movement.

    If this is too broad for a single-model review, perhaps this type of thing would make a good article/post?

  • Mark1884

    I always liked UN and the Sonata is another winner. While it may not be my choice as a next watch, I appreciate the complications and atypical design. Not too many mechanical alarms out there.
    Did I miss something…. what is the case size and price??
    Wish that the fingerprints and grime were wiped off watch for photo’s. Especially pic #12

  • Sheez Gagoo

    Wonderfull. Much, much nicer than the other UN alarm clock, which was in my humble opinion a massive design fail. This one is a beauty.

  • Yojimbo

    the black/brass (apparently rose gold) look does it no justice. Visually the other is off the charts.

    • Wait, is that a purchase option now?

      • Raymond Wilkie

        It’s the latest executive order.Keep up they are coming thick and fast 🙂

        • Who do I have to take out to get an ALS?

          • Raymond Wilkie

            Anyone on the FBI most wanted list.

          • Sounds difficult. How about a Janis Trading?

          • Raymond Wilkie

            Most folks go for the easy option : )

          • Yojimbo

            if we can kill a Janis Trading rep and get a watch, surely we get double if we take out some of the other sponsored posts

    • Levon

      “but if they want me to kill a few Syrian refugees I’m in”

      That is an offensive post.

      Disappointing to find this here.

      • Yojimbo

        grow the fuck up, it was a backhanded remark on classist society

        • Ariel Adams

          Let’s keep the profanity to face to face interactions. There are plenty of other ways of responding to this without having to get so hostile.

          • Levon

            Really Ariel, that’s the best you can say? I’ve been viewing your watch report videos and visiting the site for years. Very sorry to see you tacitly approve this sort of language/expression. The original post is offensive, never mind the childish response.

            What about “backhanded remarks” like “.. but if they want me to rape a few blond girls from LA I’m in” .. or “.. but if they want me to kill a few blacks from Tulsa” .. , how about targeting jews or handicapped? Would you be ok with that? If not, why?

            Don’t want to interject race/politics into this site? But it’s ok to vilify middle-eastern people in the disguise of “backhanded remarks”.


            There’s a reason my moniker is a deliberately bland name that doesn’t reflect my race or ethnicity. There’s enough hostility directed at it without inviting it. Clearly, on some sites it’s more acceptable than others.

          • Levon

            the black/brass (apparently rose gold) look does it no justice. Visually the other is off the charts, I’d never drop that money on a watch, but if they want me to kill a few Jews I’m in

            “not offensive, a backhanded remark on fascist society” .. to paraphrase user Yojimbo

          • Yojimbo

            I don’t appreciate being called a racist, I’ll try to contain the profanities

  • Raymond Wilkie

    There are certain features on this piece that don’t excite me too much ( it’s a bit pointy ) but i’m niggling. This is really beautiful.

  • Shawn Lavigne

    i like UN, but this one is jumbled.

  • Mischa

    The alarm has always been my favourite complication, and UN have really made a wonderful piece here. Very interesting, amazing finish, very reasonable price (a lot of money, but not expensive for what it offers). It’s just that logo… it gives it a snob look that I could never really wear on my wrist.

  • Sevenmack

    The movement finishing is gorgeous. The dial, though simple in finish, is lovely, especially the dual time and alarm subdials. The hands are exquisite. A fine effort by UN.

  • Gokart Mozart

    Lovely watch, I think UN make some great watches, and an alarm is one of my most favourite complications, probably after the seconds hand.

    I am curious though there is almost a $20K difference in price and the two watches have different movements.

    The gold one is the UN067 with 109 jewels, and the steel one is the UN153 with 53 jewels. Are they both gong alarms, or just the gold one? What is the difference? I need to spend my Monopoly money and don’t want to make the wrong choice.

    • Pete L

      I think a couple of the steel case back photos are in there in error – from a chronograph UN rather than the Sonata.

  • Pete L

    Classic looking piece and something a bit different.

  • Larry Holmack

    If I ever win the lottery, UN is going to get a substantial order from me!!! I love the rose gold and black version!!! I think right now I have 5 of their watches on my lottery dream list!!!

  • otaking241

    UN is another brand that I’m not sure knows what it wants to be. Near as I can tell the only unifying design element between its watches is the big placard bolted to the side of the case with the production number–not exactly exemplary of a cohesive design language.

    Looking at the dial on this watch I see way too much JLC DNA in the subdial layout, fonts and overall presentation. JLC would have done a better job with the lugs, crown and other buttons, though.

  • Chris MoJo

    Very nice piece with interesting and practical complications. If I had the budget I would certainly be tempted to pick one up!

  • Bert Kanne

    Why is the watch face supposed to look correct with the overlap of the lower left corner of the date window and the on/off hand going over the circular line?