Watches and Wonders 2021: Ulysse Nardin UFO

Ulysse Nardin builds a new bridge between watchmaking and imagination by inventing an unexpected marine chronometer named UFO, to celebrate its 175th anniversary.

Determining the longitude correctly was one of the most important issues in history of humanity. Many ships sank that had difficulty in determining direction due to longitude problem sank and many sailors lost their lives. Determining longitude caused competition among nations, kings, mathematicians, and astronomers for many years. The first person to solve the problem of calculating longitude was John Harrison, an English mechanic craftsman. After him, many people tried to improve the longitude and time measurement with new discoveries. However, one was different from the others: Ulysse Nardin.

Ulysse Nardin is a brand with a respected name and a great heritage from the past, famous for its marine watches and marine chronometers since 1846. It was known for its grand awards received in competitions of the Geneva and Neuchâtel observatories. When visionary Rolf Schnyder accidence, greater successes were achieved: In 2001, Ulysse Nardin was the first brand that used silicon and synthetic diamond as materials. The Freak (received the Chronos Technical Innovation Award in 2002 with the Dual Direct Escapement system used for the first time), Moonstruck, Trilogy of Time (this three-watch set with Astrolabium Galileo Galilei, Planetarium and Tellurium) also made its way into the Guinness World Records.

Once again, Ulysse Nardin brings together past, present and future by inventing a marine chronometer that called as UFO, which makes time travel between the ages. UFO contains all Ulysse Nardin’s horological history in one single object, from the marine chronometers of the 19th and 20th centuries to the Freak in 2001, to the Blast in 2020.

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Besides being a clock, the UFO is a three-dimensional mechanical painting that imitates the movement of waves. “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.

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Taking the ocean as the inspiration source, the entire structure of clock is built on an imbalance, on a gentle swing which recalls the ebb and flow of tides, the perpetual movement of the ocean. The secret of balance is its blue half-spherical aluminum base, which contains a tungsten mass. The base and glass are combined by a bayonet mounting system, which looks similar to the old system of marine chronometers from which the glass could be unscrewed.

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While marine chronometers were housed in wooden boxes and set on gimbels to counteract the effect of the ship’s constant sway, Ulysse Nardin UFO reverses it: The clock makes waves during it is nudged. Weighing 7.2 kg, the UFO swings up to 60 degree from its axis. Ulysse Nardin watch specialists have calculated the center of the gravity, mass, and inertia ratio, which allows to UFO process in any conditions.

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It’s not just UFO’s movement that is inspired by the ocean, the architecture is too. The structure of clock reminds float.

Ulysse Nardin has launched the UFO in collaboration with the watch company Maison L’Epée, which has been producing traditional watches since 1839 and is known for realizing the fantastic dreams of MB & F‘s CEO Max Busser in recent years.

The UFO consists of 663 components with a massive 49mm oscillator and offers power reserve of one-year provided by six extra-large pumps. It displays the time with three different dials, so three different time zone can be seen. The UFO will be produced limited to 75 pieces.

To maintain a power reserve (365 days) never seen before, the XXL (49mm diameter) brass balance wheel operates at 3,600 vibrations per hour (0.5 Hz). The second hand (half oscillation), which makes a beat per second, also gives the watch a calmness. Thus, the UFO seems like a watch that meditates.