August 26, 2015
by Rob Nudds
It might surprise you to learn that the Ulysse Nardin Classico Manufacture will be the first watch in the brand’s Classico range to feature its own in-house movement. The Ulysse Nardin Classico Manufacture is a simply styled watch, with a pleasingly restrained dial that features central hour and minute hands, a going seconds sub-dial at 6 o’clock, and a small, round date window within the seconds sub-dial. Let’s take a quick closer look at this new release.
As expected on a restrained “Classico” watch, the hours are marked by applied thin gold lines, while 12, 3, and 9 o’clock are indicated by slender Roman numerals. All of the markers are applied, in contrast to the sub-dial surround, which is sunk into the dial. This multi-levelled approach creates a bit more interest in a dial that could otherwise appear plain. In addition to the gold markers, the dial of the Ulysse Nardin Classico Manufacture is marked with small luminous dots. On the cream dial, these white dots are almost invisible in daylight, but come alive after dark, making this piece usable no matter the time.
There’s a fine line between plainness and successfully executed classicism, and I think the Ulysse Nardin Classico Manufacture strikes a good balance. The dial is finished in a slightly iridescent frosting, which is continued by the edge of the sub-dial, before giving way to a concentric circular ridge pattern. There may not be much going on, but the subtle shifts in patterning or depth give just enough visual engagement to make this watch face desirable. Getting this right, or even bothering to use the different patterns in a creative but tasteful way is essential to any good design.
The established Ulysse Nardin anchor logo is also applied in the same material and fashion as the hour markers, creating a satisfying link between all the necessary dial elements. The gold hands themselves are of a simple, traditional shape with bold luminous inserts. They are excellently weighted and look very elegant against the reserved backdrop and within the slick case that is designed to catch eyes, not cuffs.
The 40mm case is made of 18ct rose gold and stands just 9.6mm from the wrist. The classically styled housing is polished with no sharp edges – perfect for being worn under a shirt cuff. The front and back crystals are both sapphire, with the dial-side crystal treated with an anti-reflective coating for enhanced clarity. The watch is held on your wrist by a leather strap, brown for the cream dial variant, and colour-coded blue for the blue dial model. The strap is fastened by a tang buckle, which I think is a good choice for a watch this classical in style.
So when you turn the watch over in your hands, what do you see? Through the sapphire case back, the new in-house UN-320 movement is visible. The rotor weight dominates the aperture and is rendered from matching rose gold and sports a black Ulysse Nardin logo against a nicely patterned background. The UN-320 features a silicium hairspring and an anchor escapement. It has automatic winding and has a power reserve of 48 hours. The case is water resistant to 30 meters, but it’s not a watch that is designed for active wear.
The bi-colour movement has rhodium plated bridges, finished with a circular Geneva wave. The proliferation of blued screws (with three visible screw heads attaching the rotor bearing to the automatic device framework) and the meatiness of the red jewels (of which there are 39 in total), gives this in-house calibre a real sense of colour. In addition to the chunky jewels, the pivots that can be seen poking through appear refreshingly robust.
It doesn’t seem that Ulysse Nardin have attempted to do anything too flashy with the design of this movement, and they should be applauded for their restraint. Its one unusual complication is the ability to set the date both forwards and backwards, which is something that has become almost a trademark feature of Ulysse Nardin by now. It will probably save you a handful of seconds a year, unless you wear this watch as an occasional piece, in which case, this extra function becomes quite useful. For a brand that makes its hay by launching crazy, mind-blowing machines, the Ulysse Nardin Classico Manufacture is a very welcome addition to a range that was in need of some mechanical modernisation. It will carry a price tag of $14,500. With a versatile in-house calibre in their pocket, expect Ulysse Nardin to roll out the UN-320 and its derivatives across a range that should become more desirable for its presence. ulysse-nardin.com