At Baselworld 2016, Swiss watchmaker Ulysse Nardin showed off a few new limited edition versions of one of our favorite high-end models from the brand which is the Ulysse Nardin Anchor Tourbillon – and it is very cool. Ulysse Nardin won’t be at Baselworld 2017, as the brand recently announced that it along with fellow Kering Group brand Girard-Perregaux will migrate to the SIHH watch trade show event in Geneva, a few months before Baselworld next year.
Originally debuted in 2015, the Ulysse Nardin Anchor Tourbillon was and continues to be a limited edition of 18 pieces per version. As of now, there are eight versions which have been produced since last year, which shows you how popular the collection is. In a nutshell, you have a modern-sized, classically designed mechanical watch with an in-house-made movement and a high-performance proprietary regulation system.
The Ulysse Nardin Anchor Escapement system was important enough to merit its own announcement, which was back in 2014. Between the above two linked-to articles written by our James Stacey and David Bredan, respectively, the Ulysse Nardin Anchor Escapement system has been well-explained in detail. With that said, I’ll remind you of the talking points behind this system.
That the system is housed in a tourbillon seems to simply be the “prestigious icing on the cake,” adding craftsmanship value to a regulation system that I don’t really think actually benefits in terms of performance from a tourbillon. With that said, putting the fancy Ulysse Nardin Anchor Escapement in a tourbillon cage and spinning it on its own axis each 60 seconds helps give the watch more luxury street cred. Personally, I am more impressed with the in-house system and performance “magic” by Ulysse Nardin, that is arguably among the most advanced when it comes to silicon parts in mechanical movements.
Not only did Ulysse Nardin begin the trend of using silicon parts in the Swiss mechanical watch industry when they released the original Freak watch in 2001, but they continue to heavily invest in the technology when it comes to both production as well as research and development. Recall that the Girard-Perregaux Constant Escapement – another watch with an equally fancy silicon regulation system, is produced by a brand that is now part of the same group as Ulysse Nardin. The focus of both these watches and their technology is the same: accuracy and timing consistency.
The Ulysse Nardin Anchor Escapement replaces the traditional Swiss lever escapement as well as a host of parts. Silicon makes up the majority of the material used, which is ideal since the material can bend, can be cut very thin, and is resistant to magnetism as well as temperature changes. More importantly, silicon parts do not require lubrication as metal or synthetic ruby parts do. That means a very low-friction environment, which is exactly what you need for precision timing and high accuracy in a mechanical timekeeper.
The basic operation of the Ulysse Nardin Anchor Escapement is similar to that of traditional regulation system, but it is the details, materials, and construction which are unique. There is still a metal balance, and a hair spring (produced from silicon). Where it gets interesting is how the system incorporates a sort of built-in constant force mechanism. This ensures that no matter the power reserve of the watch (essentially, the torque output), the power being released to the movement remains consistent. This means that as the mainspring winds down, watch accuracy does not fluctuate in the way it can in a traditional mechanical movement.
The value to consumers here, in addition to high-performance, is the fact that this system is not only produced in-house by Ulysse Nardin, but also that it is technology which is proprietary to them. That’s a big deal because, while many movements out there are “in-house,” they use the same technology that everyone else does. If you are a watch collector or enthusiast and spending the big bucks, it is nice to know that are least some of your watches are unique in that they contain technology other brands don’t have. This is “innovation” in the real sense. When the watch industry uses the term “innovation,” most of the time they are simply referring to “novelty,” which means “new stuff” (whether or not it is an actual advancement).
The focal point of the Ulysse Nardin Anchor Tourbillon watch is an exposed tourbillon that is seen through the window on the dial. My favorite detail of the caliber UN-178 movement is the discreet power reserve indicator that is placed around the top part of the periphery of the tourbillon window. I feel that power reserve indicators are a necessary feature of any “complete” manually wound watch. Moreover, the UN-178 movement has a total power reserve of about eight days and operates at an uncommon 3.5Hz frequency.
Turn the Ulysse Nardin Anchor Tourbillon watch over and you’ll be privileged with an expansive view of the movement which is nicely finished and actually quite classic in style despite the high-tech new escapement system. Inspired by pocket watch movements, nothing in the caliber seems cramped, and you can tell the designers enjoyed being decorative with both the bridge design as well as the finishing. You can view the large mainspring barrel there as well.
On the wrist, the case of the Ulysse Nardin Anchor Tourbillon is hefty at 44mm wide, and inspired by the Ulysse Nardin Classico (which is usually offered in slightly smaller sizes). With a strap that is connected directly to the case, you get a nice solid feel with some heft and stature that remains classy thanks to the traditional dial design. Some of the new limited edition versions spice it up a bit, such as offering a carbon fiber face (which is available either in the 18k white gold ref. 1780-133/52 at $89,000 or ref. 1786-133/52 18k red gold case at $85,000). Likewise, the various versions of the Ulysse Nardin Anchor Tourbillon have either 18k white or red gold cases, and other than the black carbon fiber, there are white or blue enamel dials, as well as an additional blue dial option (ref. 1782-133/93 at $79,000).
The calm, classic design of the watch mixed with the modern proportions and cool technology make for a versatile and highly appealing watch for a lot of people (who are spending upwards of $75,000 per timepiece). This is a watch that I feel buyers will get a lot of use out of since they are fashionable in addition to being nicely “watch nerdy.” The two white enamel-dial versions are the reference 1780-133/E0-60 (18k white gold) at $89,000 and the 1782-133/E0-60 in 18k red gold at$85,000. The two blue enamel Ulysse Nardin Anchor Tourbillon watches are the reference 1780-133/E3 in 18k white gold at $89,000 and the 1786-133/E3 in 18k red gold at $85,000. Again, all the models are limited to 18 pieces each.