September 10, 2013
by Ariel Adams
Out of the many watch brands we visited at Baselworld 2013, Ulysse Nardin stood out as having one of the most impressive and rich assortment of new watches. Among those, were wild new Freak watches (two of them), a new in-house made chronograph movement (and watches to put them in), as well as this new limited edition Skeleton Tourbillon that also has a totally in-house made movement. “Skeleton” and “tourbillon” are two terms that seem to go particularly well together when it comes to timepieces. Mix being able to see the guts of a movement, with a movement you want to see… and oftentimes you have a recipe for success.
Ulysse Nardin will produce two versions of this limited edition watch in ritzy 18k rose gold as well as pricier platinum. Lower-budget watch lovers really get nothing even close to this stuff, especially when it comes to marvelous skeletonized movements. It is as if you have to choose between a $100,000 plus Swiss masterpiece with a tourbillon… or a $100 Chinese-made watch you want to hide from people who may know better. Actually, if you want a budget skeletonized movement you can look for something with a cut-up UNITAS in it, but stuff like the Ulysse Nardin Skeleton Tourbillon are in a totally different league.
For Ulysse Nardin this watch is a first. Not their first in-house made movement of course, nor their first tourbillon, but rather their first in-house made skeletonized tourbillon. The movement was designed from the ground up to be skeletonized – meaning that Ulysse Nardin didn’t just skeletonize an existing movement. The new movement is the caliber UN-170 and it has an impressive power reserve of 170 hours. No power reserve indicator unfortunately, but that is a long time. So with a more or less week long power reserve you can just remember to wind your Skeleton Tourbillon Manufacture watch each Sunday night. In fact, Ulysse Nardin did something clever with regards to this. The mainspring barrel is engraved to say “170 Hours Power Reserve.” This is important because it allows you to recall at anytime how much power the watch has. Most people will either forget or never be told the power reserve length when they get a watch. So Ulysse Nardin is making sure that years from now you will recall this fact.
At the 6 o’clock position we have a tourbillon, and I mean really at the 6 o’clock indicator. This movement is large enough to fill up most of the 44mm wide case. The tourbillon is further a flying tourbillon, meaning that is has no connected top bridge. In addition to that, Ulysse Nardin has included a silicon escapement – which isn’t surprising given that they were a silicon watch part pioneer, and own a company that makes silicon parts. I love the bridge work on the movement, especially in terms of their design, and the brushed surface with polished beveled edges. The design is modern, but deeply respectful to the look of antique pocket watch movements.