Ulysse Nardin Swiss Luxury Watches Complete Guide Review
The high-end Swiss Ulysse Nardin make watches that are memorable, besides the calibers and complications, for their exquisite, artistic appearance. The mechanics vs. visuals dichotomy transpires in the brand's renown: among its most popular collections is the mechanically perfected Marine Diver, followed by the oriental Kremlin and Genghis Khan painterly pieces.
In a few words, no other luxury brand takes such a fluid, fearlessly exotic, and at the same time aesthetically consummate approach to watch design. It comes then as no surprise that a symbol signifying control over the element of water – an anchor, the ultimate marine instrument – adorns the brand's logo.
Ulysse Nardin was started in 1846 by a young man carrying the same name; after a few decades the company became the world's leading manufacturer of marine chronometers, equipping navies across the planet. As the demand for mechanical precision instruments decreased due to technological progress, the company extended its focus to diver and complication watches, as well as rare enamelled and decorated museum pieces.
Ulysse Nardin is a true mechanical watchmaker. The brand produces in-house a wide range of calibers, from the most basic automatic (self-winding), usually used in the smaller jewelry pieces, to the most complicated. Complications include perpetual calendar, GMT, dual time, alarm (sonata cathedral), minute striker and hour striker, tourbillon, chronograph, and more.
The three astronomical pieces – Astrolabium, Planetarium and Tellurium – form UN's (and possibly the industry's) most exceptionally complicated collection. The complexity and depth of information provided is mind-boggling – positions of the stars, eclipses, moon sets and rises, perpetual calendars – and attests to Ulysse Nardin's watchmaking prowess.
Ulysse Nardin dedicate an entire section of their website to presenting brand philosophy. They state outright – and here they differ from other Swiss high-end luxury brands such as Vacheron Constantin, Jaeger LeCoultre, Blancpain, Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, and others – that mechanical watches will never be as accurate as quartz ones. A bold yet sober assertion.
The most notable, and at the same time elusive design quality in Ulysse Nardin watches must be the fluidity. It reveals itself everywhere: the case, the font of the calendar numerals, the shape of the hands, the way all these elements combine and interact, and more. It would be unfair to say that the timepieces are “beautiful” – it's too general of a description. However, after having reviewed in-depth several leading (above mentioned) high-end companies, I tend to think that Ulysse Nardin make the most beautiful, in the strict aesthetic sense, watches.
Ulysse Nardin manufactures and continues to manufacture dozens of collections and subcollections, many of which were at some point discontinued. In this review I will focus on the most familiar and popular lines, the links leading to dedicated reviews:
Dual Time collection conciliates two major Ulysse Nardin qualities: confident, exotic stylishness in everything concerning the visual appearance (dial composition and decoration, case design, large, legible indexes), and mechanical complication, namely the titular home time display. Watches encase automatic movements, and come in classic round or rectangular (the Quadrato line) shape.
Michelangelo watches – including chronometers and chronographs – feature tonneau shaped cases with a twist: the horizontal sides of the case continue slightly to form scroll-like lugs. This design architecture gives the collection a mark of originality and character that's further reinforced by the imposant combo of the oversized Roman and the lucid Arabic numerals. Complications include dual time, big date, perpetual calendar (Perpetual Ludovico line), and the previously mentioned chronograph.
Marine Collection collection must be Ulysse Nardin's most familiar and popular. It alludes directly to the brand's roots on the one hand, and offers highly functional, technologically advanced marine precision instruments on the other. Lines include Maxi Marine Chronometer, Marine Chronometer, and Maxi Marine Diver, all offering a range of water related functions: luminous hands, water resistance, screw down crowns, and more.
Ladies watches make up an aggregative collection that adapts existing designs – such as dual time and diver – for smaller wrists, embellishing the pieces with luxurious materials (diamonds, mother of pearl, and others). Caprice and Golden Dream are two unique ladies jewelry models that effortlessly compete with Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin feminine counterparts.
Complicated watches embody Ulysse Nardin's engineering capabilities. The scope of the complications is as wide as that of the design that envelopes them: such old-fashioned like models as Triple Jack or Circus minute repeaters allude to the distant past, while the mind-boggling, ultra-complex Freak seems to presage the future (or one version of the future, perhaps a steam punk one). More conventional pieces contain perpetual calendar, GMT, alarm and other complications, sometimes combined in a single watch.
Macho Palladium 950 shows how seriously Ulysse Nardin take their futuristic styling credentials: not only do they cast the cases from rare Palladium, they also fill them with officially certified chronometer movements. This collection aims to reinvent basic wrist watch characteristics (nothing is taken for granted – numerals, hands, bezel), and stands out as a provocative reminder that new things can still be done in the industry.
Enamelled watches (Kremlin, San Marco) reflect the company's artistic traditions, particularly that of enamel cloisonne – a rare, and at some point extinct craft. As the names in parenthesis indicate, Ulysse Nardin revive enamelling using the technique to reference the brand's reliance on architectural principles in its watch design.