Cross-industry collaborations tend to be a bit hit-or-miss, especially when the co-branding of the product is somewhat half-baked. What is more interesting, however, is when two brands from very different commercial worlds sit down and put their heads together to come with something that effectively blends their regular products’ aesthetics while simultaneously harnessing the technical attributes for which each company is known. This can result in a new and novel proposition for both parties. The Ulysse Nardin Hourstriker Phantom Limited-Edition Watch created in conjunction with Devialet is an excellent example of this kind of partnership bearing palatable fruit.
On the surface, a luxury speaker company and a luxury watchmaker don’t seem to have too much in common aside from the word luxury. However, there is more than one thing binding these two brands together. First is a bizarre familial link between the two: Emmanuel Nardin, one of the founders of Devialet, is a direct descendant of the Ulysse Nardin family. Second is the pursuit of excellent sound: Devialet through its market-leading speaker systems and Ulysse Nardin through its mastery of striking movements.
Real technical substance underpins this joint venture. Both Ulysse Nardin and Devialet put their research and development teams to work on this project with a simple goal: To create a watch with unrivaled acoustic performance and sound quality.
The watch takes its name — Phantom — from Devialet’s flagship product, The Phantom. A new generation of high-definition connected speakers, The Phantom can kick out sound up to 108 dB SPL (that’s pretty loud in layman’s terms). By sharing their experiences in their respective industries, Ulysse Nardin and Devialet have managed to get the output of the Ulysse Nardin Hourstriker Phantom Limited-Edition Watch (reference 6103-132) up 85 dB to 100mm (remarkable for the watchmaking industry). You can hear this refined sound either every 30 minutes (on the hour and half-hour) or on command by depressing one of the two case pushers. The second pusher can be used to switch the 30-minute chimes off, should you need a bit of quiet.
One of the hardest things for any brand concerned with making a striking mechanism with exceptional audio clarity to master is keeping the case wearable and robust. Here, Ulysse Nardin has excelled by keeping the diameter of the polished titanium case down to 43mm. As one would expect for a striking watch, the water resistance is only 30 meters, but, in truth, this is one kind of watch I wouldn’t want anywhere near water at all, considering the caseback features eight perforations for improved sound delivery.
So how have they done it? What have they changed to achieve such a loud and crisp sound? The self-winding UN-610 movement has a few tricks up its sleeve to go along with a sufficient 42-hour power reserve. Most notable is an alteration to how the “timbre” (the piece that is is struck by an internal hammer to emit a sound) is fixed in place.
When the timbre is struck it causes vibrations in the air around it, resulting in sound being created. Normally, these vibrations occur within the very limited air supply within the watch. The sound is effectively trapped inside the watch. What Ulysse Nardin and Devialet have done, is set that sound free. In the UN-610 caliber, the timbre’s heel is attached to a system of torsion arms, which react to the vibrations around them, essentially forcing the sound out of the case, via transmission arm communicating these vibrations to a thin membrane that sits on the underside of the watch. The membrane’s large surface area acts as an amplifier, displacing a much larger amount of air than one would normally have to play with inside a watch case. Truthfully, this mechanism’s theory is comparable to that of a loudspeaker and its cone and membrane.
The handsome and (visually) striking dial design is inspired by Chladni’s figures, which are shapes formed by the materialization of vibratory waves (anyone who had an old Windows media player will get the idea). This particular pattern is reminiscent of the protective net placed over the tweeters in Devialet’s speakers. The unusual orientation of the Arabic numerals is a nod to the way a Naval compass might be printed and a link to Ulysse Nardin’s nautical history. The Ulysse Nardin Hourstriker Phantom Limited-Edition Watch comes on a black alligator strap fastened by an ardillon buckle. The retail price for this model, which will be limited to 85 pieces, is CHF 72,500. Learn more at ulysse-nardin.com.