Held back from SIHH until the 2019 Miami Yacht Show for its official debut, this is the ref. 6319-305 Ulysse Nardin Marine Mega Yacht watch. In my view, the Marine Mega Yacht watch is the spiritual successor to the still-very-cool Ulysse Nardin Grand Deck Marine Tourbillon (aBlogtoWatch hands-on here) — as both are yacht-themed with boat owners as the target consumer. They are both “mega watches” in originality, complex execution, and price. Mega watches like the Marine Mega Yacht are actually relatively uncommon these days — perhaps not rare, but compared to the 2012 market, there are few really ambitious top-shelf toy mechanical wristwatch creations being made these days, with the exception of a few successful brands such as Richard Mille.
Compared to many Richard Mille watches, the Ulysse Nardin Marine Mega Yacht would be a relative bargain with its 44mm-wide solid platinum case, entirely new 504-piece movement, and just over $300,000 USD retail price. Let’s take a look at this new release and see what Ulysse Nardin felt it took to impress some of the most difficult consumers in the world. Many in the luxury world know that boats (large or small) are incredible time and budget sinks. A large percentage of the value of a ship is spent in simple storage, maintenance, and operating fees, not to mention fuel and the costs of human labor. Yachts are some of the most serious luxuries available, and it makes sense that their owners not only like living the good life, but also don’t have to fret to awfully hard when it comes to making a decision about a rather distinctive and lifestyle-validating, several-hundred-thousand-dollar wristwatch.
The Marine Mega Yacht watch begins with a Ulysse Nardin Marine-style case. This case is comfortable and on-point, but it does relate to one of my few small gripes about this watch. For all the originality of the movement and the dial, I find it a bit odd that Ulysse Nardin used a rank and file (in design) Marine case. Yes, the 44mm-wide case has some differences (such as the side window for the crown function indicator), but for the most part, it is the Marine case we all know and love. I’m just saying that, for a watch of this grandeur, part of me wanted to see a bit more originality in the case, as well as the rest of the movement. Over the dial is a domed AR-coated sapphire crystal, and the case is water resistant to 50 meters. The case comes attached to a deep blue alligator strap.
Inside the watch is a movement Ulysse Nardin calls the caliber UN-631. Manually wound with 80 hours of power reserve, the point of the UN-631 is to be visual and mechanical art, as the watch movement and dial blend together. From a functional standpoint, the UN-631 movement does a few interesting things and should be an absolute joy to watch in operation. Ulysse Nardin has, for a long time, known how to make movements that are fun to play with and watch. This element of their movement design culture continues today in full strength, apparently under the still-fresh ownership of the Kering Group (which also owns Girard-Perregaux and Gucci). Kering might not own as many watch brands as some of the larger luxury groups, but I feel more confident about their direction than I do about the others in the watch industry.
From the caseback you can view the rear of the movement, which has a new design architecture I’ve not noticed before in a Ulysse Nardin watch. One can view the tiny chains used for two parts of the movement, including the winding system and the power reserve indicator. Given the Ulysse Nardin brand logo (which is an anchor), this is the first Ulysse Nardin watch I can think of in which an anchor serves a functional purpose on the dial. Here a miniature modern-style boat anchor serves as the hand for the power reserve indicator on the dial, with a small chain seemingly pulling it up or letting it down. The presentation is both clever and thrilling in its celebration of the high-end boating theme of the product.
On the side of the case is the window of the function selection indicator for the crown. This has a Chadburn telegraph-style look to it and feels quite logical in how it works. I hope this is a design element we see more of in watches. Windows on the sides of cases (which has been done before) are really effective when presented well. At about 12 o’clock on the dial, you’ll see some fancy conical gears and related movement architecture that is part of the patented winding system in the UN-631 movement. I’m not sure if it solves a functional problem, but it will be much more fun to watch in action, as compared to winding most other traditional mechanical watches. Remember, a big part of the appeal of the Marine Mega Yacht watch is the animation of the dial.
Speaking of dial animation, it wouldn’t be a mega yacht watch without a tourbillon. Having said that, I applaud Ulysse Nardin’s restraint in not putting “tourbillon” in the official name of the “Mega Yacht” watch. The flying tourbillon in this watch is viewable through an open window at 6 o’clock on the dial with a new ship propeller-style cage. It’s a nice look and, given that both propellers and tourbillons spin, it makes for context-appropriate wearing in any boating scenario.
My favorite complication in the UN-631 is the moon phase mixed with tide chart complication. This is a very clever solution to the problem of wanting to show a clear tide chart, along with showing how phases of the moon can affect it. It begins with a drum-shaped indicator connected with the spinning moon phase, which indicates whether the phase of the moon indicates spring or a neap tide. The moon is produced to be a three-dimensional sphere complete with tiny texturing to make it look like that of the actual moon (despite forgivable scale issues). Half the moon (the dark side) is coated in blue PVD. Along a roughly 160-degree arc on the side of the moon phase window is a tide chart disc with its own window. This offers a clear view of whether the tide is high or low, as well as whether it is going up or down. It is rather rare to see tide charts on mechanical watches, and I not only respect that Ulysse Nardin chose to include one (again, in the right context), but also that they sought to actually innovate on it. No, this isn’t going to be a scientific-quality tide chart, but it is a wonderful addition to a boating-themed mega timepiece that just happens to be called the Marine Mega Yacht.
From a visual standpoint, the dial of the Marine Mega Yacht watch is really well done, but some might see it as bordering on kitschy. It does, after all, celebrate excessive living with the bow of a mega yacht on its dial blasting through blue enamel-painted waters. What saves the poise of the Marine Mega Yacht watch (despite the inelegant nomenclature) is the sheer confidence of the design and the warranted exclusivity of its mechanics. This is also a timepiece that promotes an enormous amount of wealth in the hands of very few — in a political time when such messages are not always appreciated by the masses. In a way, Ulysse Nardin is brave for doing “business as usual” in a time when many colleagues have arguably clammed up with fear. Inactivity will, in the long run, be many of Ulysse Nardin’s competitors’ failures when judged by history. The ref. 6319-305 Ulysse Nardin Marine Mega Yacht watch will, no doubt, find sufficient (and rightly enthusiastic) buyer interest around the world as a limited edition of just 30 pieces, with a retail price of $310,000 USD. Visit ulysse-nardin.com to learn more.