When Ulysse Nardin presented its novelties during the Watches & Wonders 2021, I was blown away. The brand releases represent the past, the present and the future, capturing in an eloquent way the values for which Ulysse Nardin stands: heritage, evolution, responsibility. From the novelties, something stands out, literally… The Ulysse Nardin UFO – a table clock derived from the brand’s marine chronometry heritage with a name inspired by the unknown, by the future…
Ulysse Nardin UFO was launched in celebration of the brand’s 175th anniversary. As usual, UN amazes with an original concept, completely unexpected (as they also proudly say) to underline how cool the brand actually is. The brand introduction of the unidentifiable floating object sounds like this:
175 years ago, Ulysse Nardin was renowned for its incredibly accurate and extremely reliable ships’ watches and marine chronometers These were prize-winning machines, scooping up the first prizes in the chronometry competitions of both Geneva’s and Neuchâtel’s observatories Forty-five admiralties were kept on course, navigating the high seas thanks to Ulysse Nardin’s superlative craftsmanship.
So how to celebrate the future of the brand, while staying true to the desire to make the best time measuring tools, which was the challenge Ulysse Nardin set himself in 1846 “Reissuing a watch from the past by reusing vintage codes was not part of our creative intentions for this anniversary object. On the contrary, we wanted to reverse the trend and make a leap forward of 175 years, rather than a leap backward. We always look ahead We wondered what a marine chronometer designed in 2196 would be like,” explains Patrick Pruniaux, CEO of Ulysse Nardin
With this explanation, the true meaning of this table clock starts to have a contour in my mind. I have stated several times that Ulysse Nardin is a brand that actively and responsibly acts toward the future. And all this without forgetting its origins. This UFO is the perfect example.
The clock combines ultra-modern techniques with the expertise of the moment’s artisans using traditional craftmanship.
Experiencing the future – Ulysse Nardin UFO
When the UFO was launched, I could not really comprehend its dimensions. I had difficulties placing the object in a real situation (size, weight, feel/impression). I have seen the clock in the video presentation, including the box and still could not really have a grasp of what actually is (besides a table clock, of course). So when the chance emerged, I had a moment of pure happiness (Thank you Stephy and Ulysse Nardin).
The UFO comes in a cubic wood box, weighting something around 10Kg (or 22lbs). The vintage look is emphasised by the leather handles combined with an old chest like construction. Opening it, you are greeted by the first modern materials – the support and shock-absorbing foam. And there it is…
The beast is heavy – 7.2Kg (or 15.9lbs), rising up to 26.3 cm (10.4 inches). And if you are asking how it is possible that a piece of light aluminium and 3mm thick glass dome to weigh so much – there is a catch. To stay in the upward position, Ulysse Nardin used a simple principle (experience from the marine chronometers maybe?): adding a heavy tungsten mass, so the centre of the gravity/mass/inertia will be very low. The UFO is able to swing up to 60° from its axis with an amplitude of 120 degrees without falling. The radius of the aluminium base dome forces a relatively low speed of the swing. Just have a look at the video from the article’s beginning.
Perfection in imperfection
While the star of the table clock is evidently the mechanism, there is an element without which the entire thing will have almost no sense – the glass tube. With extreme joy, I can tell you that the artisan is just 26 years old (Always happy to know and find about young talents mastering ancient techniques. They are quite rare these days). But Romain Montero’s expertise reaches beyond its age. He is able to have 1-of-3 trials suitable/usable glass dome. One dome needs half a day. Considering the skill necessary to create 75 (76 more precise – with the Only Watch piece taken into account), his mastery is more than noteworthy.
Romain Montero says – “The biggest challenge was the overall aesthetics of the glass tube To get 50 spotless glass bells, I had to blow out three times the number, 150 bells You need to blow gently as if you want to make a soap bubble. Even so, the glass is imperfect at the base and is sensitive to micro-vibrations during blowing, but there is beauty in those imperfections and small flaws,”… “From the moment you heat the glass, you disrupt the atoms It’s the heat that creates the disruption It’s inevitable. This creates weaknesses in the material that can lead to spontaneous breakage, which is not what you want. You need to release the tension to achieve perfection.”
What dreams are made of
For such a far-reaching work, Ulysse Nardin collaborated with another heavy heritage loaded brand – L’Epee 1839. They are ones of very few that still create clocks on regular basis and have extensive experience gained in fantastic collaborations with several brands.
The clock’s movement is able to display three separate/independent timezones and power reserve. The extraordinary mechanical architecture is able to tick for as long as an entire year. The specification can be achieved due to the six barrels construction and an ultra-low 0.5Hz escapement.
The clock also features a deadbeat second complication that adds a lot of charm to an already special piece. Above it, can be seen the 49 mm balance wheel manufactured in brass. This is a hypnotising duo.
Producing this 663 components work of horological art requires a lot of time. Only one of the three trapezoidal dials requires 3.5 hours to be manufactured. I don’t know the exact amount of hours dedicated to only one clock but since every piece can be considered unique to the manufacturing challenges, I would say that the price is fully justified.
The clock is accompanied by a key used for winding and setting of the time zones. The aluminium base presents four apertures: one for winding the clock (forty wind up turns to reach the full 365 days of power reserve) and the other three to set the independent times.
The Ulysse Nardin UFO is available in a limited series of 75 pieces, plus the Only Watch version. The serial number is engraved on a screwed plate placed at the base of the, let’s say, the main timezone.
Don’t be fooled by the size of the Ulysse Nardin UFO. Even on these generous dimensions, the tolerances are extremely low. Having a glass dome artisanally produced that fits perfectly on top is just an example of how precise the work must be. The entire construction is not only original but also beautiful. This art object celebrates Ulysse Nardin‘s anniversary, reminding us about the brand’s marine heritage but also demonstrating its modern capabilities in design and production.
This gorgeous instrument is a nice trophy for any home or office. It is capable not only to be a practical time measuring object but also a fun to play with clock. The motto “Manufacture of freedom” applies fully: you can remove the dome and study closely the exceptional mechanical work, play with the time zones or simply have it there to give it a swing from time to time. Ulysse Nardin UFO will fit in any environment, becoming an integrated part of your life. With its rounded glass, polished and matt finishes, the UFO will have its own character but be part of the family.
Ulysse Nardin demonstrates once again that they are a manufacture of the future. Using the knowledge gained in the past to go towards the future. But not in any way – in a beautiful, responsible and calculated manner.
Ulysse Nardin UFO Technical Specifications and Price
- UN-902 calibre
- Table clock
- Manually wound movement
- 3 time zones / Hours, minutes
- Deadbeat second
- 675 components
- Extra large oscillator (49mm)
- 0,5 Hz /3’600 Alt/H
- Power reserve: 1 year, 6 barrels
- Aluminum & blown glass
- Dimensions: 263 (H) x 159 (Ø) mm
- Weight: 7,2 kg
- 39’000 CHF
- 35’900 EUR
- 41’100 USD
Limited edition of 75 timepieces