Ulysse Nardin is a company with more than 170 years of existence. Starting with a visionairy watchmaker, named Ulysse Nardin, the brand remained continuously in the production even in the quartz crisis. Known first for the highly accurate marine chronometers, the Ulysse Nardin name is associated now with magnificent timepieces and great technical achievements. For example, the Freakishly Innovative or the Grand Deck Marine Tourbillon. These are only two examples of the watches coming from a brand which never stopped to surprise us. Moreover, the brand offers now a 5-year warranty for all newly purchased watches. Today we review the Ulysse Nardin Classic Perpetual Ludwig.
Review: Classic Perpetual Ludwig
Ulysse Nardin Classic Perpetual Ludwig was first released in 1996. Coming in gold and a with a good price, the watch was not only a refined appearance but also a effective technical solution for a complex complication – the perpetual calendar. The watch was designed by Ludwig Oechslin, who was then Master Watchmaker for the brand. Mr Oechslin designed the watch for the brand’s 150th anniversary.
The latest Classic Perpetual Ludwig is almost identical with the 1996’s timepiece. This time in steel, the watch uses the same interesting movement, the UN-33. We will use an older review, UN Perpetual Ludwig: oldie but goodie, for a small comparison.
The case, dial and hands
The Classic Perpetual Ludwig is a modern sized watch – 41mm. The original size of 38.5mm is considered as too small these days. We will be reserved our opinion in this matter, leaving you the pleasure to debate. The size is suitable for an entire array of wrist sizes, having a lovely presence. The watch respects the Ulysse Nardin “Classic” collection lines. The elongated lugs, set to point slightly inwards, tend to create a visual impression of a bigger watch. However, the shape permits an even better wrist position, “pushing” the watch’s body towards the viewer. The steel case is highly polished, but not until the point it turns into a disturbing element.
The entire case composition is proportional, well balanced. Nothing stands out in a negative way. The bezel has the same width as the lugs and the crown fits perfectly in the picture. The crown was designed to have an excellent grip. A necessary property for a timepiece with all functions set by the crown. An extra feature is the anchor logo present on the crown with a blue enamel background. The blue element completes the entire design, together with other elements presented later. The case has a 30m water resistance. Although it is not a must for this kind of watch, this increases the versatility and makes it more robust and worry free.
The dial is an excellent harmony of form and function. No tension between the colours, textures and layout. No tedious detail. The silverised matte surface is an appropriate choice as a finish. The design has a great legibility. The hours and minutes are indicated using blue leaf hands. This is the blue touch for the dial (along with the blue background of the crown). The hours are well marked by the faceted baton indexes. The minutes use an outer rail-road printed scale. Since there are no other decorative elements, the appliqué indexes provide for a satisfying and aesthetically pleasant dial. The small-seconds sub-dial has a generous size and touches the dial’s centre.
The day and the month have a symmetrical position, the double windowed year is also centred in the lower dial’s side. To complete the aesthetics, the near perfect symmetry and balance is slightly knocked out by the position of the date double window. While the placement seems to be logical, we know it is the simplest solution found for a complicated problem, it does have its own charm. As we know from other calendars, this position is an almost classic for many watches.
The placement of the calendar indications lets us guess the internal discs’ placement of the Calibre UN-33.
The movement: Calibre UN-33
The Classic Perpetual Ludwig is powered by the same calibre UN-33 used in the first perpetual calendar. The movement is based on a Lemania base movement. The base movement has a good torque, and is a common choice for Oeschelin to pile his complications on, is a capable driver for a trouble-free the perpetual calendar.
When it first hit the market in Baselworld 1996, the calibre UN-33 was a bewildering breakthrough. The ingenious solution of Ludwig Oechslin permitted all the indicators to be adjusted via the single crown. The calendar can be adjusted at any time, no black out times where the calendars cannot be adjusted for fear of breaking the fragile components in the classical calendar. It can also be adjusted forwards and backwards at will. There are no extra correctors, no need to service the watch because of mishandling, no extra care needed. All adjustments are performed via the crown. This revolutionary design was the first of its kind.
The UN-33 might not have the highest grade of finishes, but it has a rather lovely decoration. The most decorated element is the ball bearing mounted rotor. The Ulysse Nardin’s anchor is featured on a blue lacquered background. The logo is accompanied by two curved apertures and two symmetrically placed areas. These elements are highlighted by the vertical brush. The bridges feature an elegant circular Côtes de Genève and the main plate a classical handmade perlage. The blued screws increase the glamour of the UN-33 finishes.
The use of stainless steel instead of a noble metal permits a more commercially affordable price. The Singapore retail price is S$30,500, GST included. This price remained relatively stable over the years. Even if the initial prices were for gold versions, the market tendency for this kind of pieces was to increase almost uncontrollable is bravely denied by Ulysse Nardin. We appreciate the stable value imposed by the brand. Chapeau!
A similarly priced competitor is the Glashütte Original Senator Excellence Perpetual Calendar, which retails for S$34,600 for the steel version. The Glashütte maison introduced the perpetual calendar 20 years ago. The new watch comes in a 42mm case with a silvered white dial. A difference is the presence of the moon phase. The GO is a classical perpetual calendar movement design, and the setting is done via recessed pushers in the mid-case. The calibre 36 features the beautiful Glashütte finishes and is a classic presence on the wrist.
An exceptional perpetual calendar is the H. Moser & Cie Endeavour Perpetual Calendar in a white gold case. Priced at S$83,790, the blue fumé beauty is an unusual perpetual calendar. Using a modern concept, the watch uses only the bare essential information displayed on the dial. The Flash Calendar system display, the first of its kind, instantly shows the correct date on transitioning from the end of short months. Even for the 28th February – 1st March, or 29th February – 1st March, without showing the intervening dates. The movement HMC 341, designed initially by Andreas Strehler in 2005, is an in-house manufacture with top haute horlogerie details. The movement permits to be adjusted forwards and backwards. As our reviewed piece, the Endeavour Perpetual Calendar possesses capabilities of much more expensive competitors.
Other players in the perpetual calendars game are the Ochs Und Junior Perpetual Calendar (priced at approx. S$32,000) with a very unusual display aproach or the well known Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Ref. 5320G with a classic Patek dial at S$109,000 and many others. The list is long, but the grounds of price and dissimilar functionality makes those timepieces inappropriate for our competitive landscape.
Ulysse Nardin Classic Perpetual Ludwig is a complex perpetual calendar, but one which is easy to use. Although the dial serves plenty of indications, it doesn’t feel overcrowded or irksome. The blue elements present on the crown, dial and movement make a nice figure. These small details remove any idea of a dull presentation. Even if the watch is not punctilious or different from the older version, it is, nevertheless, a tasteful approach. This timepiece feels excellent on the wrist. Even if the year indication is merely a nice to have feature, the rest of the perpetual calendar utility is undisputable.
The watch remains a technological marvel even for today. After twenty years from the first release, it raises the question why there is not an abundance of the same easy to use/set perpetual calendars. Another question is related to the case. Is the non-precious metal approach a necessity of the moment? Is the steel imposed by the actual steel wave? Or is imposed by the lower price? It will be interesting to find your opinion.
Specification and Price
The Ref. 333-900 has a retail price of S$30,500 (including GST)
Calibre: Caliber UN-33
Type: mechanical self-winding movement
Power reserve: 48 hours
Frequency: 4 Hz / 28’800
Functions: hours; minutes; small seconds; day; month; year; large date
Material: stainless steel
Dimensions of the case
Diameter: Ø 41 mm;
Crystal: anti-reflective sapphire crystal glass
Crown: stainless steel
Caseback: see-through sapphire
Water resistance: 30m
Buckle: pin buckle