In 2013 Ulysse Nardin has begun producing their own in-house made chronograph movements with the caliber UN-150, adding to their roster of in-house movements and serving as a base for the Marine Chronograph Manufacture watch collection. With a limited edition model featuring an in-house made enamel, as well as a broad range of standard models, the caliber UN-150 sees a full deployment in the Marine watch collection for this year.
Just one year ago, Ulysse Nardin officially unveiled its first “large volume” in-house made movement with the caliber UN-118 (hands on here in the Marine Chronometer Manufacture watches). The UN-118 was the subject of many years of development pretty much starting back when Swiss ETA announced that it was going to make its movements unavailable to most watch brands outside of the Swatch Group. The Group which owns ETA, after a series of legal battles with the Swiss government, decided it wanted to dramatically decrease supply of ETA movements to outside brands, and keep most of them for Swatch Group brands. Their message to many of the Swiss brands that once relied upon ETA movements (even as base movements) was “make your own movements.”
So Ulysse Nardin worked on doing just that, though in-house movements aren’t new to them. All of the top-end Ulysse Nardin pieces already contained in-house movements. Having said that, the industrial needs to make a select amount of very complicated movements is very different (and arguably much more doable) than producing more basic mechanisms in larger quantities. Both designing and producing movements in-house is a rather expensive and tricky feat.
The basic Ulysse Nardin Marine Chronometer watch never simply relied on an ETA movement, but rather used ETA movements (mostly the 2892 automatic) as a base. They would then install their own modules over them. In comparison to many other independent brands, Ulysse Nardin was actually in a pretty good position to try and fully produce in-house made movements. The UN-118 automatic contained a technology Ulysse Nardin acquired known as DIAMonSIL. A contraction for “diamond and silicon,” it is a diamond-coated silicon which has the benefits of silicon without the fragility and brittleness.
DIAMonSIL was very exciting but it does not appear to be in the UN-150 movement. There are a few potential reasons for this, but I am not going to guess as I don’t know the exact answer. Having said that, the UN-150 does employ silicon in the form of the hairspring as part of the oscillator assembly. Overall, the movement not only has a great look but should also perform as most modern chronographs do. It is a 4Hz (28,800 bph) movement with a power reserve of 48 hours. Functions are pretty standard; it displays the time, date, and has a 12 hour chronograph. While the movement is produced in-house by Ulysse Nardin, it actually came to them serendipitously as an acquisition.