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Ulysse Nardin Marine Tourbillon Watch Review

Ulysse Nardin Marine Tourbillon Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

The Ulysse Nardin Marine Tourbillon is a sensible daily-wear watch that includes an affordable (relatively speaking) in-house-made tourbillon movement in the long-standing and successful Ulysse Nardin Marine watch collection. No one actually needs a tourbillon, but it feels good to wear one. The wristwatch tourbillon is a product category that requires little introduction to watch collectors and even those who only tangentially know about the luxury wristwatch market have heard that “tourbillons mean money.” In 2019, tourbillon still means “money,” but thanks to a lot of aggressive competition, a Swiss tourbillon no longer requires as much money. What was once a roughly $100,000 purchase ordeal is now available from serious brands like Ulysse Nardin for under $30,000.

TAG Heuer currently has the claim for the least expensive Swiss-Made tourbillon in watches that include their Heuer 02-T Tourbillon Automatic Chronograph movements. Ulysse Nardin’s entry-level tourbillon watches are a bit more expensive, but these are totally different products for different customers and wearing occasions. That said, I can confidently place both the Ulysse Nardin and TAG Heuer tourbillon watches in the category of high-quality but well-priced Swiss-Made tourbillon products.

Ulysse Nardin Marine Tourbillon Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

An extremely fair question is, “Well, what do you get if you pay a lot more for an even higher-end tourbillon?” Is there any reason to still spend over $100,000 on a tourbillon when some are available for less money? It really depends on what you are looking for. What you generally tend to get with more expensive tourbillons is more exclusivity (fewer made, harder to make, etc…) and more hand-finishing and craftsmanship. This is actually a good opportunity to bring up one of my few qualms about the Ulysse Nardin Marine Tourbillon and that is the fact that the movement place right under the tourbillon cage is not finished (at least not attractively so). Having that piece of metal under the tourbillon polished or other decorated by hand would be an example of what you can expect for more money. It does appear that Ulysse Nardin’s tourbillon cage itself has some hand-polishing, but, overall, with a much more expensive tourbillon, you should be able to find a lot more finishing. Compare this with something from Greubel Forsey, for example.

Ulysse Nardin Marine Tourbillon Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Does a lower-priced tourbillon mean a sacrifice in performance? No, actually. In fact TAG Heuer and Ulysse Nardin’s tourbillon movements are the ones I would trust way more than most tourbillon movements, and, in fact, some of these lower-priced Swiss tourbillons have excellent performance. I am more or less sure that you get Chronometer-level performance out of the Ulysse Nardin in-house-made caliber UN-128 automatic tourbillon movement, which lives inside the Marine Tourbillon. The movement uses a reliable silicon balance wheel and boasts over two days of power reserve, operating at 4Hz. At the least, having a tourbillon in this movement doesn’t ask the user to make any functional or performance sacrifices to wear one. For this reason, and because I believe this is a relatively accurate movement, I consider the Marine Tourbillon to be suitable for daily wear.

Ulysse Nardin Marine Tourbillon Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

The 43mm-wide Marine-style case comes in steel and is a look that Ulysse Nardin has been perfecting for years. This particular Marine Chronometer-style dial layout is based on the ship clocks the brand used to create long ago. Such dials were typified by having a power-reserve indicator under 12 o’clock, as well as a subsidiary seconds display over 6 o’clock. Because the Marine Tourbillon has a flying (no top bridge) tourbillon window, it replaces the standard subsidiary seconds dial (and still manages to count the seconds because the tourbillon cage makes one full revolution every 60 seconds).


Ulysse Nardin Marine Tourbillon Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

The dial is produced in white grand feu enamel — which is a great part of the value proposition in the watch. On it are printed black Roman numerals with matching black-colored hands. That Ulysse Nardin matches the hand color to the hour markers is slick, it and makes for a very masculine but classic look for the dial. The slight hint of red gives it a little sporty touch — even though this is, in style, a dressier watch. The dial is easy to see through the glare-free AR-coated flat sapphire crystal, though with the 43mm-wide,100-meter water resistant steel case, this could double for light sport watch duty, no problem. In a very real sense, this watch has a design intended for adventure.

Ulysse Nardin Marine Tourbillon Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews Ulysse Nardin Marine Tourbillon Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Thematically, the Marine Tourbillon has one foot in the world of haute horology and another in modern sport watches. Some might call it a show-off casual watch and others might call it a sports status item. Ulysse Nardin did an admirable job of making sure you know the watch has a tourbillon, without removing the handsome sensibility the Marine dial is known for. The core in-house-made automatic movement is reliable, being produced in other styles and, in this watch, being outfitted with a tourbillon.

Ulysse Nardin Marine Tourbillon Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

For someone equally interested in being under-the-radar and having a status watch, the Ulysse Nardin Marine Tourbillon certainly fits the bill for the right user. I could never say exactly who that user is, although I find myself going for this watch anytime I want a “conservative-plus” look. The watch is available on three strap choices, including the Marine Tourbillon ref. 1283-181-3/E0 on a rubber strap with titanium (not steel) buckle at $27,900 USD. Then there is the ref. 1283-181/E0 on a black alligator strap, which has a retail price of $28,000 USD.

Ulysse Nardin Marine Tourbillon Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

I prefer the bracelet — mostly because one is offered. The three-link steel bracelet is simple in design and high-quality in construction. It merges well with the shape of the case and offers a very comfortable wearing experience (though the strap options are nice, as well). Ulysse Nardin also offers the steel bracelet for a pretty reasonable price (just $700 more than the alligator strap version): ref. 1283-181-7M/E0 at a retail price of $28,700 USD. Learn more at the Ulysse Nardin website here.

Necessary Data
>Brand: Ulysse Nardin
>Model: Marine Tourbillon (ref. 1283-181-7M/E0 as tested)
>Price: $28,700 USD
>Size: 43mm-wide
>When reviewer would personally wear it: When wanting to not call too much attention to myself but at the same time to be noticed as successful.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Marine chronometer dial-style watch fans who feel they can splurge a bit and opt for the tourbillon versions of the Marine versus the mere automatic version.
>Best characteristic of watch: Pretty much everything is done quite well with overall good attention to detail and consistently harmonious design elements. Dial is legible, case and movement are well made, and the price is pretty reasonable.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Noticeable lack of finishing under the tourbillon cage seems like a missed opportunity.



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  • Swiss_Cheese

    $28k Isn’t too bad considering that a similar steel sport tourbillion – Royal Oak T, an Overseas etc, you’re looking at north of $100k. Even something like a Laureato Tourbillon won’t leave you with much change from $100k, the only real competitor I can think of is that TAG Carrera which from memory was under $30k. Also once these hit the secondary market, as with UN tradition, they’ll be 1/2 price.

    All that being said, I’m not a fan of tourbillons outside of those horological dick swinging super complications watches. I also have a slightly sour taste in my mouth for UN from a certain set of mermaid watches…

  • Mikita

    Ugly cut-out ruined the dial. Not only it collapses with the mounting hole for the handset (!!), but it doesn’t even have a proper beveling, so looks rough. Same model without a cut-out for me.

  • SuperStrapper

    While that bracelet do es look nice, something about it just doesn’t match the watch for me.
    I do like the watch though. Hard to not like any UN product really. I’d have preferred that watchmaking muscle and dial real estate put toward something more useful and interesting, say a big date readout, etc. But then I guess you couldn’t call it a marine tourbillon, could you?

  • I assume you meant silicon balance spring, not “wheel?”

    • Sheez Gagoo

      Escapment wheels are done in silicon as well.

      • Thank you. It looks like polished steel in the photos.

    • SuperStrapper

      Lots of parts are made from the material now, and UN is (still) leading the way.

      • Thank you. It certainly looks like polished steel in the photos. To clarify, the balance wheel, the round thing with the four variable-interitia screws, is made of silicon?

        • SuperStrapper

          No. Both the escapement wheel and lever are made of “DIAMonSIL” which is a proprietary material that is some kind of diamond (carbon) and silicon alloy. Not balance wheel.

          • Yes, well..*ahem*…the author wrote “The movement uses a reliable silicon balance wheel….”

  • Raymond Wilkie

    Before I begin. Just incase anyone is wondering this piece is 12.1mm.

  • IanE

    Hmm, there’s always a price to pay for luxury on the cheap. Anyway, tourbillons are so yesterday!

  • Sheez Gagoo

    Not bad. But will be half the price grey in six months.

  • Jared

    I like the logo on the bracelet, something different from the typical lets put a logo on the clasp that everyone else does

  • mach2guy

    Glad I’m not rich enough to even consider this watch. My thoughts? Ugly dial. Roman numerals should have been left with the early Roman Empire.

    • Raymond Wilkie

      Does this include any watch using Roman numerals?

  • anonymous

    Ariel – please learn how to properly pronounce French words, like “tourbillon”, “Ulysse Nardin”, “Cartier”, etc.. I’m not trying to insult, but to help you improve your presentation – and most (non-Americans) would think you sound like an uneducated American. (…and I’m English Canadian)

    • Raymond Wilkie

      Americans can’t really pronounce French. It’s not just Ariel. I’ve noticed it forever. Words like double entendre and the one that annoys me most is panchant which comes out as pension. They can’t get rid of the American twang.

  • The huge space between the bracelet’s links is so ugly: it seems an old worn bracelet.

  • AlbieC

    I’ve long been tempted by UN’s Marine series… but those rubberized crowns always kill it for me… Such a temporary-seeming part (rubber anything) on something that should feel permanent (expensive watch).

    • SuperStrapper

      I’ve always felt the same way. Years ago Breitling and some others were inlaying divew bezels with rubber and I was positive they wouldn’t hold up at all. I’ve never once seen one in the metal, not in the wild or under glass at an AD.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    I like it but it needs a kick up the back side. This is a wad of cash for what is a pretty boring looking watch. I feel they have been a little lazy here, seems like they are resting on their laurels with this one and hoping their client base is going to snap it up anyway. There was a time when showing the tourbillon was a game changer. something wonderful to look at and it still is in a way it still is but it doesn’t do anything for me here. The whole looks lacks a certain je ne sais quoi.

  • egznyc

    Not really much discussion or photos featuring the exhibition case back, but it’s an attractive look. More than can be said for the front IMO. I do like the 100m WR on this, which makes it really versatile. I can go diving in my tourbillon. Yeah, right …

  • Pete Yo

    I have been a big fan of UN for a long time. Can’t wait to see where this ends up selling for on the grey market. I agree that the movement cage is a little plain, but that is what I like about this style watch. A lot of performance without the useless fancy bling. Now, if I can just remember where I buried that 28k.

  • Mikita

    For me it’s also hard to understand the appeal of p*rn watches. Okay, you have some p*rn image on your dial or even a moving p*rn scene – what for? Just go watch p*rn if you want and calm down.

  • Jon Heinz

    I’d rather have a more “conventional” lug design to facilitate more strap options. However, everything else is quite easy on the eyes here. Very clean execution, nothing I’d change on the dial.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    It absolutely isn’t Dénes.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    Wow. Perfect pitch is quite a talent ( 1/10,000 ) . Has nothing to do with the spoken word though. You threw a few variables into the mix.

  • Swiss_Cheese

    For me there are many levels of sour:

    1/10 – Reminiscing about the time such-and-such did something slightly unusual but good on them for trying – ain’t my style though. < UN Belongs here.

    5/10 – What on Earth were they thinking, who okayed this? < Hublot occasionally finds itself here.

    10/10 – There are few watches that I've seen that have been dragged out of the depths of hell to earn this spot.

  • Jon Heinz

    Agreed…though once you get to a certain price point, social/economic status plays an increasing part. My philosophy is most likely shaped by my budget and simply removes the last two words from the sentence. If someone notices my watch, my preference is that it’s a fellow watch geek.

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