November 17, 2017
by Jason Swire
Marine chronometers have always been a strong part of Ulysse Nardin‘s brand identity. Throughout their 152-year history in Le Locale, Switzerland, the brand has supplied accurate marine chronometers to over fifty of the world’s navies. For the upcoming SIHH 2018, Ulysse Nardin have announced three new watches in the marine chronometer style: the Classico Manufacture Grand Feu, the Marine Tourbillon Blue Grand Feu, and perhaps the most interesting model of the lineup, the Ulysse Nardin Marine Torpilleur Military limited edition.
The Classico Manufacture Grand Feu is available in two variants, a black enamel dial with white Roman numerals and the more traditional white enamel dial with black Roman numerals. Both offer strong legibility thanks to the high degree of contrast, and are designed in a classic marine chronometer style with railroad minute track, small seconds sub-dial at 6 o’clock, and broad leaf-shaped hands. A date indicator is tucked away at 6 o’clock within the small seconds sub-dial.
The standout feature of the Classico Manufacture Grand Feu is that enamel dial. These dials are crafted at Donzé Cadrans, a specialist luxury watch dial enameller. Donzé Cadrans was founded in 1972 by Master Enameller Francis Donzé in Le Locle, Switzerland, and was acquired by Ulysse Nardin in late 2011. The process for producing a Grand Feu enamel dial requires a high degree of specialized skill, and is only possible from a dedicated facility such as Donzé Cadrans. aBlogToWatch contributor Zach Piña describes this process very well when discussing the Ulysse Nardin Classico Manufacture 170th Anniversary Limited Edition here.
Powering the Classico Manufacture Grand Feu is the UN-320 manufacture movement, which offers a rapid date correction mechanism both forwards and backwards, silicium (silicon) hairspring and anchor escapement, and a 48-hour power reserve. This escapement has been entirely produced in-house by Ulysse Nardin, and we’ve covered this technical innovation in detail here. The stainless steel case is 40mm wide and offers 30m of water-resistance. A sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating covers the watch face, with a matching sapphire exhibition caseback. Both versions of this watch will come with an included leather strap with tang buckle.
The next model being announced by Ulysse Nardin is the Marine Tourbillon Blue Grand Feu, which combines a guilloche blue enamel dial with a finish much like that seen on the Classico Manufacture in blue (hands-on here) with a 60-second flying tourbillon escapement, visible through a cut-out in the dial at 6 o’clock. The cage, wheels, screws, and hairspring of the flying tourbillon are produced entirely in-house by Ulysse Nardin. A power reserve indicator is also visible at 12 o’clock with the French terms “BAS” for low, and “HAUT” for high, which provides a good dial balance by mirroring the tourbillon at 6 o’clock. The Ulysse Nardin Marine Tourbillon Blue Grand Feu is powered by the caliber UN-128, an in-house designed movement featuring a silicium escapement and hairspring and offering a 60-hour power reserve.
The Marine Tourbillon Blue Grand Feu is cased in stainless steel and is 43mm wide, with a fluted steel bezel providing a decoratively sporty touch and complementing the dial’s guilloche pattern well. The crown is covered with rubber to make operating it easier, and is protected by crown guards protruding from the side of the case. The watch is water resistant to 100m, which would make it well suited for water sports (although brave is the wearer who goes diving with a tourbillon). An alligator strap with folding clasp completes the package, although I would have preferred to see a rubber strap or bracelet here to emphasize the marine theme.
Lastly, we come to what I feel is the star of the show, the Ulysse Nardin Marine Torpilleur Military watch. Unlike the previous two models, this watch does not feature a Grand Feu enamel dial. It is also the largest watch of the three, with a 44mm steel case in a sand-blasted finish. What distinguishes the Ulysse Nardin Marine Torpilleur Military from its compatriots is that this could be considered a “true” marine chronometer, in the sense that high accuracy, strong legibility, and an over-engineered movement take precedence over all other concerns for this timepiece.
The Ulysse Nardin Marine Torpilleur Military is very similar to a previous Torpilleur model we covered recently, sharing the same movement and even the same name, with the addition of “Military” being the key differentiation. This Military version is 2mm larger than the previous model, opts for Arabic rather than Roman numerals, and lacks both the date and power reserve complications. The small seconds track at 6 o’clock features a red serial number ranging from 1 to 300, as the Ulysse Nardin Marine Torpilleur Military is a 300-piece limited edition. Just underneath the serial number are the initials C.W. which stands for “Chronometer Watch.”
The Ulysse Nardin Marine Torpilleur Military is powered by the UN-118 in-house movement, which features an escapement in DIAMonSIL, a combination of silicon with man-made diamond. This extremely hard but light material is the result of a collaboration between Ulysse Nardin and Sigatec in Sion, Switzerland, who specialize in the manufacture of micro-mechanical silicon components. This DIAMonSIL escapement operates with basically no friction, requires no lubrication, and should provide extended service intervals and greater accuracy over time. The silicium oscillator of the UN-118 movement is also produced in-house by Ulysse Nardin and features a patented inertial balance wheel with screw adjustment.
Reinforcing the accuracy theme of the Ulysse Nardin Marine Torpilleur Military, this watch has achieved both a Chronometer Certificate from Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC), as well as the brand’s own Ulysse Nardin Certificate. First introduced in 2012, the Ulysse Nardin Certificate is a seven-day process and tests the watch based on the following criteria:
The Ulysse Nardin Marine Torpilleur Military also differentiates itself from the previous non-limited edition with a stamped caseback, featuring a Torpilleur boat, which is the French term for a destroyer. These were agile, fast warships used in both World Wars, although the connection between a small long-distance warship and a 44mm watch with 50m water-resistance is ambiguous at best. The previous version could at least claim to be a little smaller than most of Ulysse Nardin’s other marine chronometers at 42mm.
The brand is touting the Ulysse Nardin Marine Torpilleur Military as a bolder interpretation of their previous Torpilleur model, designed in a manner evocative of pocket chronometers favored by sea captains in the 19th and early 20th centuries. An oversized screwed-down crown with the Ulysse Nardin logo should make for easy operation, and the fluted bezel provides a point of interest on the otherwise no-nonsense case. Two versions of the Ulysse Nardin Marine Torpilleur Military are available, an eggshell dial with brown leather strap and white contrast stitching, and a black dial with orange numerals, black leather strap, and orange contrast stitching.
These three watches by Ulysse Nardin each offer something different. The Classico Manufacture Grand Feu provides a relatively affordable way to acquire a beautiful enamel dial, with a well-proportioned case and classic marine chronometer styling, and is available for a USD price of $8,800. The Marine Tourbillon Blue Grand Feu offers the additional luxury of a guilloche enamel dial with a beautiful flying tourbillon, as well as increased water resistance for those who want to use their “marine” tourbillon watches for, well… marine things, and has an asking price of $28,000. And, the Ulysse Nardin Marine Torpilleur Military offers high chronometric performance and a number of technical innovations, making it perhaps the purest example of a true marine chronometer. The Marine Torpilleur Military is also the most affordable watch in this lineup, with an asking price of $7,900. ulysse-nardin.com