Since 1846, Ulysse Nardin has continued to introduce iconic timepieces full of wonderful ingenuity and extraordinary technical achievement. Part of this achievement comes from the company’s determination to master every aspect of the craft in-house. For this ongoing video series about the Swiss watch brand, WatchTime sat down with CEO Patrick Pruniaux and Stéphane Von Gunten, Ulysse Nardin’s Head of Research and Development, to talk about the brand’s approach to innovation, and it’s most disruptive watch, the Freak:
Today, the first automatic watch in the Freak collection is the Freak Vision. Among the game-changers: a super-light silicium balance wheel with nickel mass elements and stabiliz-ing micro-blades and a new case design made even thinner by a box-domed crystal. Time is still indicated in the “Freak” manner that sets the collection apart: by the baguette movement itself, a “flying carrousel” rotating around its own axis. Yet the design components are completely different. The new 3D carved upper bridge is inspired by a boat’s hull. The new box-domed sapphire allows for a thinner middle and bezel. Finally, the entire case itself is new – lugs, bezel, the rubber inserts on the side – making for a look that is much more open and generous.
Ulysse Nardin is a pioneer of innovations in timekeeping, not least for its unprecedented mastery of silicium, which it introduced to Haute Horlogerie in the first Freak timepiece, in 2001. Now it audaciously pushes the technology further by welding it – another patented first – with solid nickel elements, to create an astonish-ingly light balance wheel. It then adds silicium micro-blades to stabilize amplitudes and significantly increase accuracy.
Other technical firsts are:
The Grinder Automatic Winding System, which completely revolutionizes energy transmission, surpassing existing systems for efficiency by a factor of two. Grinder takes perfect advantage of even the slightest movement of the wrist. The oscillating rotor is linked to a frame containing four arms, which gives the auto-matic system twice the torque – like having four pedals on a bike instead of two – while a flexible guidance mechanism drastically limits friction.
The Ulysse Nardin Anchor Escapement is based on the principle of flexible mechanisms, exploiting the elasticity of flat springs. It presents a constant force escapement made entirely of silicium, and features a circular frame with a pallet fork that moves without friction. The pallet fork is fixed in the center and support-ed in space on two minuscule blade springs. Mounted perpendicular to each other, they are subjected to a bending force that curves and keeps them in a bi-stable state. The result is a positive energy balance that maintains the oscillations of the balance wheel at a constant rate without influence of torque variation from the mainspring.