A new generation of Ulysse Nardin emerges, and as far as I know, this is the first collaboration project by the UN team. Here, they team up with the French company currently revolutionizing audio – Devialet. Together, they updated the UN Hourstriker with clever mechanisms from Devialet to squeeze out every bit of volume possible from the striking mechanism.
The UN Hourstriker is not a new watch. We covered a review of the 2015 Hourstriker Oil Pump edition here, and the Pinup version here. And for this collaboration, the dial layout chosen is intentionally simple – a two hand affair, with the dial skeletonized and stylized with the Devialet signature pattern of the protective net covering the speaker drivers.
“Our main goal was to create a high-performance striking watch. Moreover, it was fate: Emmanuel Nardin, one of Devialet’s founders who co-developed the Hourstriker Phantom model is in fact a descendant of the Ulysse Nardin family. You simply couldn’t make it up. “Patrick Pruniaux, CEO of Ulysse Nardin.
Ulysse Nardin Hourstriker Phantom
The basic idea behind the collaboration is for Devialet to use its technologies to improve the loudness of the hour strike mechanism, just like a loudspeaker is used to amplify and transmit the loudness of music.
The dial is a satin-brushed anthracite dial inspired by Ernst Florens Friedrich Chladni, a German physicist and musician is known as the father of acoustics, a pattern used in the protective net placed over the Devialet Phantom’s tweeter. Hidden under this net is a tinted glass which partly obscures the view into the movement. A small rose rose gold chip at 4 o’clock disappears and appears to indicate activation or deactivation of the hour striking mechanism.
The technical bits: UN 610 and the acoustic transmission system
In a classical repeating mechanism, the sonics produced by the gong is allowed to dissipate around the case and eventually transmitted to the ear. The route of the sound is kinda left to chance. In the Hourstriker Phantom, this transmission is guided, and follows a path which is taken care of by the mechanism designed by Devialet.
We did not manage to see the technical drawings and the Ulysse Nardin press material is understandably light on the details, but from what it does say, the new system enables the sounds generated by the striking mechanism to be vigorously transmitted via an arm to a thin membrane at the bottom of the watch.
This seems to be a full-on treatment of the acoustic transmission of the gong’s output, and a further development to the work done by JLC and AP in their repeaters. The JLC Hybris Mechanica 11 uses Trébuchet hammers to increase the force in which they strike the gongs, and use crystal gongs directly attached to the watch’s crystal to improve transmission. The AP Supersonnerie uses a membrane to allow the sonics to develop and improve the timbre and volume. But the UN/Devialet system goes further.
From the press release documents we received, we figured that this would be a three part system. First, there would be the mechanism which picks up the sound generated by the gongs. The vibrations are then passed to the second part of the system whose duty is to focus and transmit the sound with minimal loss. In the literature, UN refers to this as the torsion arms, whose function is to direct and focus the vibrations and forcibly transfer them to a membrane. The membrane is the third part of the system which amplifies the strikes. It is clear that with this system, the sound is picked up and transmitted via an intended route, rather than allowed to dissipate freely. The sound from the membrane is then channeled through 8 perforated openings under the membrane and emerges via the outlets in the case back. Devialet’s technology is in the transmission of these vibrations in an efficient manner while retaining the timbre.
This results in what UN a measured 85dB at 10cm. A figure the press material claims is the loudest ever measured in watchmaking.
We have not seen or heard the Hourstriker Phantom yet, but here is how the Hourstriker Pin Up sounds like:
At CHF 72,500, the Hourstriker Phantom is also perhaps one of the most affordable striking watch on the market. The piece is a limited edition of 85 pieces, evoking the 85 decibels that it majestically reaches. We are looking forward to a hands on with the Hourstriker Phantom to be able to give you our high res original photographs, wear impressions and how it actually sounds.
Ulysse Nardin Hourstriker Phantom Specifications
Movement UN-610 movement
Functions Automatic movement
Striking mechanism/Rings on the hour and half-hour
Optimized sound up to 85 dB to 100 mm
Power reserve 42 hours
Case Polished titanium
Bezel Polished titanium
Diameter 43 mm
Water resistance 30 m
Strap Black alligator strap fastened with a folding clasp
Price CHF 72,500