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SIHH 2017 Ulysse Nardin overview: Freakishly Innovative

by Jonathan Ho on January 19, 2017

For SIHH 2017 Ulysse Nardin continues the daring know-how and innovative path forged by visionary entrepreneur Rolf W. Schnyder and his watchmaking genius Ludwig Oechslin. Oeschslin was the driving force behind Astrolabium Galileo Galilei in 1985, the Planetarium Nicolaus Copernicus 1988, the Tellurium Johannes Kepler 1992 or the Perpetual Ludwig 1996, setting the stage for exceptional timepieces and modern material sciences which allowed a relatively small integrated manufacture like Ulysse Nardin to punch above its weight. At the turn of the 21st century, Ulyssse Nardin would become a pioneer and driving force behind a revolutionary new material that would fundamentally alter chronometric performance characteristics for balance springs; a heretofore unheard of material in watchmaking – silicium.

SIHH 2017 Ulysse Nardin: Freakishly Innovative

In 2001, Ulysse Nardin debuted the Freak. Lauded for its impressive “Dual Direct escapement” which made anchors, escapement wheels and lubrication as unnecessary because energy was transferred directly to the balance wheel by two drive wheels made of highly flexible, extremely smooth, non-magnetic silicium.

In 2007, the legendary Freak was improved with silicium escapement parts coated in synthetic nanocrystalline diamond film which was akin to pure diamond; the DIAMonSIL followed in the same evolutionary path of 2005’s “Freak Diamond heart” so named for components made from diamond; thus it can be said, the InnoVision series follows in that tradition of revolutionary watchmaking.

Since 2007, the InnoVision was Ulysse Nardin’s way of exploring and demonstrating the feasibility of new materials and new production methodologies in watching. From selective photo-lithography to Deep Reactive Ion Etching (DRIE) and Lithography, Electroplating and Molding (LIGA), Ulysse Nardin was always at the fore of freakish innovation (to use a pun). 10 years later, at SIHH 2017 Ulysse Nardin forges yet another milestone with the InnoVision 2.

First launched in 2001, the Dual Direct Escapement raises the bar on energy efficiency compared to a traditional Swiss escapement

SIHH 2017 Ulysse Nardin InnoVision 2

Presented at SIHH 2017, Ulysse Nardin’s InnoVision 2 is home to ten exceptional innovations:

  • Innovation 1: Dual Constant escapement – the escapement transfers consistent impulse power to drive and maintain regular oscillation from the balance wheel and the balance spring. First launched in 2001, the Dual Direct Escapement raises the bar on energy efficiency compared to a traditional Swiss escapement, the Dual Constant escapement provides constance force, counter to traditional escapements which typically finds the force of impulses transmitted to the escapement reducing as the torque of the mainspring decreases close to complete entropy. On the Dual Constant, the pulses are always equal because they’re not dependent on tension in the mainspring, especially since the flexible silicium blades are already “pre-tensioned” by the mechanism each half-oscillation of the balance wheel, again, contrary to the regular escapement. Thus, isochronism is exemplary.
  • Innovation 2: Direct silicium bonding – DRIE produces the silicium escapement and with the knowledge of the production process, the bonding technology can be used to manufacture minute watch components by compressing hydrophobic surfaces between 1000 to 1200 degrees Celsius. The stable silicium oxide then permanently bonds two previously separate surfaces.
  • Innovation 3: Silicium balance wheel with gold mass elements and stabilizing micro paddle – measuring time is essentially splitting a 24 hour period into equal sections of time while having the ability to keep track of them. The escapement assortment in concert with balance wheel and balance spring do this with the constant and consistent “breathing” and oscillation. Thus with silicium in both components, the material’s density is 3.6x less than traditional Glucydur balances while high homogeneity makes it effective at facilitating equal mass distribution. Icing on the cake, it is also non-magnetic, corrosion- and shock-resistant and highly flexible. Similarly, a silicium balance wheel possesses low mass and when bonded with gold mass elements and paddles, it maintains constant oscillation by smoothing air turbulence within the casing. Even gravity’s effects in horizontal or vertical positions are negated.
  • Innovation 4: “Grinder” – named for an optimal self-winding system, the Grinder is capable of transforming even the tiniest amounts of kinetic energy into potential energy through an elaborate, two-stage satellite-reduction gear which transforms the relatively quick but low- energy actions of the innovative excenter changer into slow and therefore more powerful actions capable of tightening the centered mainspring. There is virtually no idling. If necessary, the mainspring can of course be tightened by turning the rear bezel, as is also the case for “Freak”.
  • Innovation 5: Sapphire-coated silicium bridge – with ability to coat silicon components with diamond film comes ability to coat them with sapphire – thus the elongated center wheel bridge of the InnoVision 2 has higher mechanical stability.
  • Innovation 6: 24-Karat hard gold wheels – traditional brass wheels interacting with steel pinions generate much friction. Gold ensures more efficient transfer of force which delivers better energy consumption and thus power reserve.
  • Innovation 7: Glass bridge with integrated shock protection for the balance wheel – For SIHH 2017 Ulysse Nardin InnoVision 2 system actually builds the balance cock itself and the entire integrated shock protection system from glass unlike the standard 5 component “Incabloc” system. In comparison, the InnoVision 2’s system consists of a coil spring held in place by resiliently suspended balance shaft bearings and a height-restricted cover. The bearing returns to its original position without being slowed by friction thanks to this innovative monobloc construction method.
  • Innovation 8: Super-LumiNova filled channels integrated into the glass balance wheel bridge – in the process of making the InnoVision 2’s balance cock from transparent glass, Ulysse Nardin engineers created channels within and when filled with superluminova and then sealed, it becomes an integrated light source. (1 patent pending).
  • Innovation 9: Eye-catching 1 – 11 and 13 – 23 time display – The display represents the hours 1 to 11 first and then those from 13 to 23 digitally. The mechanism requires 15 minutes each time it switches between midday and midnight. (The hours before (AM) and after (PM) midday appear in the windows in different colors.) (1 patent pending).
  • Innovation 10: Three-dimensional glass minute hands – 80% of the time, people take a glance at the wrist to discern time of day precise to minutes because we tend to set times in incrementals of 30 minutes. The InnoVision 2 has a peerless three dimensional glass sculpted minute hand.

SIHH 2017 Ulysse Nardin Marine series

“Just like our top watchmakers seek precision with the latest technologies and innovative materials, the top sailors who will compete at the 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda in 2017 are similarly concerned with precision through innovation.” – Patrik Hoffmann, CEO Ulysse Nardin

Ulysse Nardin Regatta Chronograph

In any race as in life, getting a good start provides a comfortable buffer and psychological boost which is why for SIHH 2017 Ulysse Nardin’s Marine Regatta Chronograph is created precisely with a patented new mechanism to provide that boost – a sweep countdown timer that can be set from 1 to 10 minutes. While not assured, victory is placed a little closer to hand as the countdown timer allows skippers to measure those crucial minutes before the starting gun while maneuvering to cross the starting line – the bi-directional seconds hands moves clockwise and begins timing intuitively, a boon for Ulysse Nardin’s partner in the Regatta, Artemis Racing.

Innovative in more ways than one, the regatta feature, located at the center of the dial, displays the countdown with an arrow pointing at the yellow minute scale from 0 to 10. Easily readable, this hand can be set with a pusher located at the 10 o’clock position and moves in a counterclockwise direction when when the countdown starts. At the same time, the two-way seconds hand of the chronograph ticks away the seconds – in a counter-clockwise direction – until the countdown comes to an end. When the countdown reaches zero signaling the start of the race, the seconds hand instantly starts moving in the clockwise direction and begins timing the race, measured by an hours and minutes subdial at the 6 o’clock position. 

The decisive minutes of that new patented mechanism form the foundation and purpose of the Marine Regatta Chronograph beyond mere time keeping, the “Fleet Race” is marked by buoys on the ocean in 5, 7 or 10 minute countdowns where skippers maneuver their yachts and jockey for position on the starting line while keeping clear of other competitors and as close to the start line without crossing – this good start boils down to skill, technical expertise and good timing thus, the new Ulysse Nardin Regatta chronograph delivers groundbreaking functionality and intuitive tracking of these crucial minutes.

Driven by the manufacture chronograph caliber UN-153, the new caliber UN-155 features performance with 3-day power reserve, the two-way seconds hand that can be stopped to adjust the hour and the immensely practical bi-directional date change.

Ulysse Nardin Marine Tourbillon Grand Feu

When it comes to marine chronometers, there’s a nice, almost vintage nostalgia and yearning for the oaken wood decks and the all important Captain’s deck chronometers with which mighty navies used to project national power internationally. When combined with Grand Feu enamel as Ulysse Nardin did for SIHH 2017 Marine Tourbillon Grand Feu, the wristwatch assumes the role of treasured artwork on wrist rather than precision navigation instrument.

The Ulysse Nardin Marine Tourbillon caliber UN-128 is 13 3⁄4’’’In-house designed movement with Silicium escapement and hair-spring. Chronometer with power reserve indicator at 12 o’clock 60 seconds flying Tourbillon

While watches like the SIHH 2017 Ulysse Nardin InnoVision 2 shock and awe, it is watches like the Marine Tourbillon Grand Feu, home to the manufacture’s three tenets of in-house production, technical avant-garde and rare artistry that are emblematic of Ulysse Nardin’s watchmaking philosophy and brand character.

The manufacture Ulysse Nardin self-winding UN-128 caliber is new to the brand, harnessing the properties of silicium technology and equipped with a 60-hour power reserve and a magnificent flying tourbillon. Thus on the technical side, the flying tourbillon achieves its purpose of expressing the maison’s prowess through technical ability. The 60 hour power reserve is icing on cake much like the Regatta Chronograph’s bi-directional date setting system – a symbol of practicality and functionality. The Grand Feu white enamel dial however, expresses Ulysse Nardin’s love for fine artistic crafts. Working in-house enamel specialists Donzé Cadrans, the milky white elegance of the dial is punctuated with heritage roman numerals, all ensconced with a 43mm steel case and water resistant to 100m.

Ulysse Nardin Marine Annual Calendar Chronometer

Ulysse Nardin’s partnership with America’s Cup teams isn’t some cynically marketing ploy to acquire provenance by association. In its 171 year history, Ulysse Nardin has amassed more than 4300 first prizes and 18 gold medals at chronometric competitions and fairs and it spent the 19th and early 20th centuries equipping over 50 navies across 5 continents.

A fluted bezel and a screw-down crown guaranteeing excellent water-resistance to 100 m, are part of the generous 43 mm stainless steel case.

Thus, in celebration of this rich history of technical pursuits linked to the ocean-crafts, Ulysse Nardin celebrates its 20th anniversary of the Marine collection with an Annual calendar equipped Marine Chronograph. It is fitting that for SIHH 2017 Ulysse Nardin’s Marine Annual Calendar Chronometer follows the pared-down functionality which personifies the spirit of Ludwig Oechslin, 30 components in a typical annual calendar simplified to 7, the manufacture UN-113 calibre is made in-house and equipped with the manufacture’s vaunted silicium balance-spring and as a rarity (and pioneer) bi-directional calendar date-setting. Like the Marine Tourbillon, the SIHH 2017 Ulysse Nardin Marine Annual Calendar Chronometer comes with a Grand Feu enamel dial and in keeping with best maritime tradition, it’s COSC-certified with 60 hour power reserve.

And now, in 2017, the Marine Annual Calendar Chronometer comes with a Grand Feu enamel dial. COSC- certified, this precision mechanical timepiece combines the extraordinary annual calendar feature, 60-hour power reserve, in-house manufactured movement and a genuine Grand Feu enamel dial in an eye-catching blue.

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