Photographer: Stephen Pulvirent/Bloomberg Business
Watches

This Ulysse Nardin Watch Is Hiding a Powerful Secret

There’s some old-school, yet cutting-edge, technology in there

Ulysse Nardin is no stranger to unusual watchmaking technology. Its well-known Freak line combines an innovative new gear train with an out-there design, where you can see much of the movement on the watch’s face. But not every Ulysse Nardin timepiece wears everything on its sleeve. The new Ulysse Anchor Tourbillon looks traditional enough from a distance, but that escapement down at 6 o’clock is anything but plain.

The tourbillon at 6 o'clock houses a new escapement.

The tourbillon at 6 o’clock houses a new escapement.

Photographer: Stephen Pulvirent/Bloomberg Business

The watch starts with a basic 44-millimeter rose or white gold case that has gently curved lugs and a slim bezel. Long, antique-style blued steel hands move across a grand feu enamel dial, which means the white enamel was fired at a temperature upwards of 800C (1,472F). The result is a smooth, slightly glossy finish that perfectly offsets the curly black numerals. Note: They’re not the same flourish-laden Breguet numerals used by many brands, but an entirely different font. It’s not the most straightforward dress watch from Baselworld 2015, but it’s plenty elegant for any occasion.

Where things get really interesting, though, is in that large aperture at 6 o’clock. The one-minute tourbillon houses the proprietary Ulysse Anchor Escapement, which is what’s called a constant force escapement. In most watches, as the power winds down, the force delivered to the escapement flags, and as a result accuracy suffers. A constant force escapement does exactly what it sounds like: It delivers consistent rates of power for all seven days of the power reserve. Add the fact that all the components are silicium (resistant to damage and friction), and you have one very accurate timekeeping system packed into a few millimeters.

A clear view of the UN-178 movement.
A clear view of the UN-178 movement.
Photographer: Stephen Pulvirent/Bloomberg Business

I’m sure some of you out there are thinking something like, Wait, why are we so excited about innovation in what is essentially an obsolete technology? And, sure, we don’t need more advanced mechanical timekeeping now that we have accurate quartz and atomic clocks, but if this kind of thing doesn’t get you excited, mechanical watches might not be for you. I suggest you track down a Ulysse Anchor Tourbillon, watch that tiny, delicate-yet-powerful escapement beat away, and then tell me you’re still not interested. I don’t think I’ll be hearing from anyone anytime soon.

The enamel dial is hard-fired and has a glossy finish.
The enamel dial is hard-fired and has a glossy finish.
Photographer: Stephen Pulvirent/Bloomberg Business

The Anchor Tourbillion is priced at $84,400 in rose gold and $93,600 in white gold. Only 18 numbered pieces will be made in each metal, and they’ll go on sale later this year.

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