As editor-in-chief of watch magazine GMT and director of WorldTempus, I love fine watchmaking in general, but there are very few individual watches that really leave an impression on me. One that certainly did, however, was the Tourbillon Marine Grand Feu Automatique by Ulysse Nardin. When the watch was introduced at the SIHH 2017, most of the journalists present were astounded by the outstanding specifications and amazing price point. Is it possible to imagine a creation from an haute horlogerie manufacture such as Ulysse Nardin, distinguished by an in-house automatic movement, equipped with a flying tourbillon with silicon escapement and balance spring, complete with a grand feu enamel dial, at a price of CHF 28,000? It is now. For the same price, one lucky collector also has an opportunity to acquire a one-of-a-kind example of this magnificent timepiece, with a discreet XVI on the dial in the 4 o’clock position.
Ulysse Nardin: silicon pioneer
Ulysse Nardin is not one to be swayed by the dictates of fashion: its focus has always been the pursuit of technological innovation, ever since it created some of the earliest marine chronometers used by navigators all over the globe. Back in 2000, it was one of the first watchmakers to begin researching the use of silicon, and incorporating this material into its movements. Combined with the skills of Ulysse Nardin’s craftsmen (a major factor in the Kering group’s 2014 purchase of the company), the innovative properties of silicon and the reliability of its movements are key factors in Ulysse Nardin’s policy of supplying all its watches with a five-year guarantee, one of very few watchmakers to do so. The same naturally applies to the new automatic calibre UN-128, whose tourbillon cage, gear trains, screws, and flying tourbillon balance spring are all designed in the company’s Le Locle workshops. In keeping with its heritage as a maker of precision navigation instruments, and as a tribute to the generous power reserve on which many 19th-century sailors’ lives depended, the Tourbillon Marine Grand Feu has an autonomy of 60 hours, displayed clearly on an indicator at 12 o’clock that harmonises perfectly with rest of the dial.
Tourbillon Marine Grand Feu Automatique, unique piece © Ulysse Nardin
Grand feu enamel – traditional craftsmanship
There are very few companies today that master the complex and demanding technique of grand feu enamelling, which was perfected in the 17th century. Donzé Cadrans is one of them. The dial maker’s reputation spans the globe, and its products are prized by haute horlogerie collectors. Donzé Cadrans has also been part of the Ulysse Nardin stable since 2011. The technique of grand feu enamelling involves subjecting the dial, covered in enamel powder, to several firings in a very hot kiln. If all the elements are not perfectly calculated, any one of these firings could damage the dial irrevocably. If every stage is executed successfully, the result is a sumptuous pale milky white enamel that is a hallmark of the finest watches. The Roman numerals typical of the Marine collection are then applied, along with the minutes track, providing a pleasing contrast with the creamy dial. The proud owner will no doubt take pleasure in noting the consternation of the more astute observers, when they notice the unexpected Roman numeral XVI!
A tourbillon for daily wear
The obvious elegance of the one-of-a-kind Tourbillon Marine Grand Feu belies its robustness: in fact, the 43 mm stainless steel case with its bevelled edges is water-resistant to 100 metres. Its user-friendliness extends to the easily manipulated rubber-coated knurled crown. The sapphire caseback is a source of lasting delight, providing a fascinating view of the manufacture movement, particularly in the morning and the evening, for those who prefer to sleep without a watch.
Designed exclusively for WorldTempus’s 16th anniversary, the Tourbillon Marine Grand Feu unique piece provides an exceptional opportunity to acquire an haute horlogerie timepiece that can be enjoyed every day, at an accessible price, complete with a certificate from Ulysse Nardin guaranteeing its unique status.
Tourbillon Marine Grand Feu Unique Piece
Case: stainless steel with fluted bezel, rubber-coated knurled crown, sapphire caseback, water resistant to 100 m
Diameter: 43 mm
Movement: self-winding mechanical (calibre UN-128, 60-hour power reserve), flying tourbillon with silicon escapement and balance spring
Functions: hours, minutes, tourbillon, power reserve
Dial: grand feu enamel, XVI at 4 o’clock
Strap: black alligator, folding buckle
Price: CHF 28,000
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The lucky owner of this customised model will also receive a Galet Satori music box by Reuge, worth CHF 990.
Galet Satori music box © Reuge