No one said that luxury watches had to be conservative in their design, yet there is a fine line between something that is avant-garde versus a piece that comes off as trying too hard. Often luxury timepieces that try too hard to break the mold, also break their appeal. It is just quite difficult to introduce cutting-edge design ideas in an industry steeped in so much tradition.
For many brands, modern implies futuristic—a road that can easily lead to design irrelevance in just a few years. However, Ulysse Nardin has embraced an approach to stand out from the status quo with a model that is both modern and technical looking.
With the Ulysse Nardin El Toro, they just might have created a look—that while not appealing to all connoisseurs—has a very technical design that will still feel fresh years from now. The key seems to be mixing classic and futuristic elements, while designating a new way of indicating information on the dial. While the multicolored, multi-layered face of the El Toro watch looks intimidating at first, it is actually quite useful, offering practical daily information as well as the finer details demanded by serious watch lovers. The automatic winding Ulysse Nardin caliber UN-32 movement is COSC chronometer-certified (for accuracy) and features the time, GMT time, and a perpetual calendar. As is the case often with Ulysse Nardin, just having these various complications present is not enough; it must add its own twist for classic executions of these functions.
For example, the second time zone function features a quickset function whereby pressing either the right or left ceramic pushers located on the lower sides of the case, allows for adjusting of the hour hand by plus or minus one hour. This easily allows for tracking a second time zone with incredible ease, while the 24-hour format GMT hand keeps track of your home or reference time. Those who are familiar with other GMT watches will appreciate just how convenient this function is. Looking at the perpetual calendar, you will find easy-to-read windows (not tiny dials) displaying important information. At the top is a large date indicator framed by a stylized window, and lower on the dial there is day, month, and year windows all on the T-shaped plate. Exposed on the watch dial are the discs that maintain these functions. Having a year indicator on a perpetual calendar is rare enough, but here Ulysse Nardin has opted for a more efficient two-digit year indicator. Also on the dial is a subsidiary seconds dial (cut in half that uses both sides of the hands to indicate the second). Note the Cotes de Geneve striping polish on the dial.
Case style (43mm wide) is borrowed from last year’s highly innovative Ulysse Nardin Moonstruck watch. The interesting design is available in 18-karat rose gold or platinum. The bezel and pushers however are in a glossy black ceramic and quite durable. With legibility being of concern on such a wild dial, Ulysse Nardin opted for two very large skeletonized hour and minute hands with large lume tips, the size of which match cohesively with the spacey looking 12 and 6 o’clock hour markers. Together the dial and case design make for something actually innovative and intriguing. Instead of immediate interest and then dismissal, this is the type of design with a lasting curiosity, kept near by the usefulness of the watch that embodies it.
- 43mm 18K red gold or platinum case with ceramic bezel
- Big date window
- Month indicator window
- Day of the week indicator window
- Two-digit year indicator window
- GMT hand
- Ceramic pushers to adjust GMT 24 hour hand (+ or -)
Limited to 500 pieces and priced at $49,800 in red gold and $59,800 in platinum. www.ulysse-nardin.com.
Ariel Adams is the Haute Living Watch Editor and also publishes the luxury watch review site aBlogtoRead.com.