Haute Time Review: Ulysse Nardin Marine Chronometer Manufacture Limited Edition

The Ulysse Nardin Marine Chronometer is a watch that hearkens back to the company’s history as one of Switzerland’s best known marine chronometer manufacturers; a ship’s chronometer is used to determine the longitude of a vessel at sea by comparing the local time to the time at a particular point of reference (the Prime Meridian, which runs smack through the middle of the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England. The Ulysse Nardin Marine Chronometer watches have always had an undeniable visual appeal, but with this year’s Marine Chronometer Manufacture, Ulysse Nardin’s taking its Marine Chronometer watches into new waters –and charting a new course for the company as a whole.

The Marine Chronometer Manufacture is one of the most beautiful versions of the watch that Ulysse Nardin has ever produced. The hands and dial are both gorgeously traditional in execution, and the fired enamel dial has been created for Ulysse Nardin by one of the best known dial makers in Switzerland: Donzé Cadrans, which has recently been acquired by Ulysse Nardin, giving the firm an in-house capability in the manufacture of the rare enamel dials for which Donzé Cadrans is famous. The power reserve indicator is squarely in the ship’s chronometer tradition as well. But despite the great beauty of the watch, the real news is inside: the Marine Chronometer Manufacture is powered by Ulysse Nardin’s newest in-house selfwinding movement, calibre UN-118.

It’s a movement worthy of the high precision heritage of the ship’s chronometer.  The movement contains the latest fruit of Ulysse Nardin’s partnership with the specialist micromechanical laboratory known as Sigatec, with whom Ulysse Nardin has developed special silicon fabrication and diamond coating technologies. The escapement components–the parts of the watch that actually keep time, and whose precision is essential for accuracy–are in DiamonSil (for Diamond and Silicon) and the balance spring is also made of silicon.

The term “manufacture” is used in modern watchmaking, when referring to movements, to denote one that is made by the company whose name is on the watch. Many watch companies source some or all of their movements from third party suppliers, the largest of which by far is the Swatch Group of companies, whose ETA movements and escapement components by Nivarox are present in an enormous number of Swiss-made timepieces. The practice of using an ebauche–a movement supplied by another company–is actually a Swiss watchmaking tradition hundreds of years old, and the quality of ETA and other Swatch Group movements is unquestionably high, but both as a manifestation of independence and skill, and as a powerful draw for connoisseurs looking for a distinctive and exclusive mechanism, the Ulysse Nardin Marine Chronometer Manufacture, and the calibre UN-118, are some of the biggest news of the year from the world of watchmaking.

The Ulysse Nardin Marine Chronometer Manufacture, as shown, is a limited edition in rose gold with a black crocodile strap, housing the new manufacture movement calibre UN-118.  $36,800.

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