In 2015, Ulysse Nardin introduced the first in-house movement used in their Classic collection with the Classico Manufacture watch, an elegant and subdued piece from the brand that can make some very creative and avant-garde designs. Now we see the use of the UN-320 movement in this Ulysse Nardin Classico Manufacture 170th Anniversary Limited Edition, a watch that’s a far cry from the less conventional Grand Deck Marine Tourbillon watch announced at Basel this year, but fetching in its own right. Limited to just 170 pieces, one for every year of the Swiss brand’s existence, this piece will be in stainless steel and fitted with a Grand Feu enamel dial made by Ulysse Nardin-owned Donze Cadrans.
Since 1846, Donze Cadrans has long upheld the distinction of being one of the world’s foremost experts in enamel dialmaking. In fact, it was their expertise in this highly specialized, labor-intensive process that enabled the brand to weather the quartz crisis. Nowadays, the famed enamelworker is a part of the Ulysse Nardin family of brands that lays exclusive claim to these special dials, but that does little to change the fact that these are still amongst some of the finest in the world. The Classico Manufacture will be fitted with a “Grand Feu” enamel dial, a process which yields a beautiful dial of exceptional durability, but it’s also one of the most difficult decorative techniques to master in watchmaking.
Grand feu, or “great fire,” is a generic term for pure enamel powder that’s fired in a special kiln at temperatures higher than 1100 degrees Fahrenheit (600 degrees Celcius) – the point where the powder (basically a crushed glass comprised of silica, red lead, and soda) liquifies and fuses to the dial’s base. Once cooled, the process is repeated with a new layer of enamel – anywhere from four to ten times to produce the desired color and thickness. Any dial motif or decoration is then applied in the form of oxides, which are fired at even higher temperatures to permanently fuse to the topmost enamel layer, resulting in an ultra-smooth finish and rich colors that routinely resist fading.
The spirit of the marine chronometer is well-represented in enamel on the Ulysse Nardin Classico Manufacture 170th Anniversary Limited Edition, as the milky white dial delivers a superb contrast to the azure blue numerals and crisp blued hands. Even the railroad-style minute chapter ring is faithfully carried over from the original source material, making a textbook case for the utilitarian design being a summation of very subtle, albeit well-executed details. The 40mm-wide stainless steel case has anti-reflective coating on the crystal and an exposed caseback showing the movement. We don’t have a picture of the case back yet, but below is a shot of the rose gold version, so just picture that in stainless steel for now, and we’ll get you real images as soon as we can.
At the heart of the Ulysse Nardin Classico Manufacture 170th Anniversary Limited Edition’s 40mm stainless steel case is Ulysse Nardin’s UN-320 – an entirely in-house-developed caliber with a 48-hour reserve, and a silicium hairspring and anchor escapement designed to deliver better stability and accuracy. And with so much ado about date windows these days, it’s nice to see the UN-320 boasting a very conservative aperture tucked inside the small seconds counter at 6:00. One characteristic of the movement is that the date can be adjusted both forward and backward – a boon for those who reserve wearing a watch like this exclusively for special occasions and can thus fully expect to be adjusting the date before heading out.
If you’re planning to make a run at one of the 170 pieces of this special Ulysse Nardin Classico Manufacture 170th Anniversary Limited Edition, look for it at official Ulysse Nardin retailers for the price of US$8,500. ulysse-nardin.com