Ulysse Nardin has taken another step toward manufacturing independence by purchasing the rights to Ebel’s proprietary Caliber 137, a chronograph movement originally developed for that brand in 1995 and recently used in Ebel’s 1911 BTR collection of men’s watches. WatchTime talked about the new acquisition with Ulysse Nardin CEO Patrik Hoffman, who elaborated on the company’s plans for the nearly 20-year-old caliber and its little-known connection with Ulysse Nardin’s own perpetual calendar movement.
Ebel has in recent years put more of an emphasis on its ladies’ models and shifted its focus away from high-end mechanical watches for men, which is presumably the reason that the company, according to Hoffman, approached U.N. about purchasing the rights to Caliber 137. “Ebel does not want mechanical chronographs in its collection and will not use that movement anymore,” Hoffman said. “We acquired all of the ebauches, the tools, the plans, and even hired five employees from Ebel that were working on making that movement.”
The movement, which Hoffman reveals will be renamed Ulysse Nardin Caliber 150, will be manufactured at the firm’s facility in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, where it makes all of the components for its existing movements. Ulysse also has a facility in Le Locle, another Swiss watchmaking hub.
Hoffman also explained why Caliber 137 joining the Ulysse Nardin family is a logical development from a technical standpoint. “When we started, nearly 20 years ago, making our first perpetual calendar, the Perpetual Calendar Ludwig, we weren’t able to manufacture the baseplate,” he says. “So we worked with Lemania, which was working on one for Caliber 137 with Ebel. Ulysse Nardin used the same baseplate for the perpetual calendar movement — which is still used in our GMT Perpetual — that Ebel used for its chronograph movement.”
The soon-to-be-renamed movement will also provide a platform for Ulysse Nardin to add additional complications in the future, Hoffman says. The brand intends to use it a new watch that is planned to launch by the end of 2012.