While each one of the six Ulysse Nardin collections has its own unique character, they all share the Le Locle heritage, watchmaking savoir-faire and technical innovation – the fundamentals at the heart of every one of Ulysse Nardin’s timepieces.
If you are looking for the beating heart of Swiss haute horlogerie, you’ll find it nestled in the Jura Mountains, in the charming municipality of Le Locle. The birthplace of founder Ulysse Nardin, the town has been both the spiritual and geographical home of the company that bears his name for over 170 years.
Decades of craftsmanship and expertise in mechanical watchmaking are centred on the company’s production house, which is the origin of each unique Ulysse Nardin timepiece. The majority of the work is done in-house, from conception, to design and development, to crafting and setting each mechanical watch. The watchmaking savoir-faire runs deep – a long history of meticulous craftsmanship, and of techniques handed down from one generation to the next.
Highly specialised skills are required at each step of the complex watchmaking process, with over 40 different people involved. Engineers, technical designers, caliber designers and drafting technicians develop new technologies, design more efficient movements, or seek to develop the use of new materials in Ulysse Nardin’s cutting-edge R&D lab. Micromechanics produce prototypes and tools for the workshops. Profile turners or specialist setters supervise the precision lathes that cut tiny pieces of brass and steel to produce the balance axis, screws, pins and the other minute parts. Specialist programmers and CNC machine-setters manage the complex computer-controlled machines that mill, drill, cut and burnish plates, bridges, pinions and pivots – more of the quality components that make up a mechanical watch of this level. And a decorator or setter might be responsible for engraving plates and bridges with the distinctive Côtes de Genève pattern.
Highly experienced watchmakers are there to painstakingly assemble the finished components, working on the movements of the Perpetual Calendar, the Freak, Moonstruck and the other Ulysse Nardin in-house calibers. A separate team of watchmakers, specialised in highly complicated timepieces, works on the movement assembly and casing of complex mechanisms such as the exceptional minute repeater, hourstriker with animated jaquemarts and tourbillon timepieces. And finally, quality-control experts carry out checks on everything from aesthetics to a timepiece’s functions or water-resistance. They even set the stringent in-house quality standards: Ulysse Nardin has its own quality certification, the Ulysse Nardin Certificate, with standards for quality higher even than the COSC. They evaluate whether a timepiece meets strict criteria for temperature, its self-winding mechanism, power reserve, date mechanism and other functions.
And of course, the Swiss manufacturer stands by every watch to emerge from its workshops, with expert watchmakers who devote themselves to the repair and restoration of these fine timepieces. Working together in finely tuned harmony, like the very timepieces they create, each team member is essential to the quality of the finished timepiece. A shared passion for the art and science of watchmaking brings these talented people together, imbuing them with the energy necessary to meet the exciting challenges of the future. And this shared passion guides them going forward, united in their goal of pushing the limits of haute horlogerie.
The passion and craftsmanship extend beyond the demanding requirements of a precision movement to include the famous Ulysse Nardin métiers d’art, the fine crafts that help elevate a timepiece to a unique work of art. Miniature painting on the dial, or the three types of enamelling – grand feu, cloisonné and champlevé – require the utmost skill and the flair of an artist. Ulysse Nardin company Donzé Cadrans is a renowned master of these rare crafts. While part of the company is anchored in tradition, the visionary heritage of innovation is also found between its walls. Its research and development constantly seeks revolutionary simplifications and technically advanced solutions to timekeeping problems. One such solution was developed by Ulysse Nardin company Sigatec, a leader in developing material combining diamond and silicium. The use of silicium has since become widespread in the watchmaking industry, attesting once again to the savoir-faire at Ulysse Nardin, and its status as a true Swiss manufacture.
Alongside the savoir-faire and in-house manufacturing, the technical advances of Ulysse Nardin are what keeps the watchmaker one step ahead in the industry. Among its many award-winning innovations is the Freak – with its radical elimination of the classic hands and crown, and the movement ingeniously pivoted upon itself – and the Perpetual Calendar function, a solution of breathtaking simplicity to the most difficult of complications, allowing both forward and backward setting of the calendar display using only the crown. From 1985’s Astrolabium Galileo Galilei to the 2017 Regatta Chronograph, the timepieces created by Ulysse Nardin reimagine the most essential timekeeping concepts, and redefine the very notion of a mechanical watch. This avant-garde approach has not gone unnoticed: the company has been awarded many major innovation awards, and its registered patents have helped reshape the craft of watchmaking.