Ulysse Nardin Imperial Blue Offers Westminster Chimes and Flying Tourbillon

Ulysse Nardin Imperial BlueUlysse Nardin has a notable history in chiming watches, from its Gold Medal-winning minute-repeater chronograph at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair to modern timepieces such as last year’s Stranger. At Baselworld 2014, Ulysse Nardin introduced its latest haut-de-gamme chiming watch, the Imperial Blue.

The Ulysse Nardin Imperial Blue boasts not only a Grand Sonnerie Westminster Carillon — which rings out four notes (“Mi-Do-Re-Sol”) for each passing hour and chimes the hours, quarter hours and minutes on demand — but also a flying tourbillon with an eye-catching, blue sapphire bridge.

A Grand Sonnerie function, which dates back to around 1300, is a rarity in a modern wristwatch, with only about a half-dozen manufacturers producing them, including Ulysse Nardin. It differs from a minute repeater in that the latter only chimes the time when it is activated by the wearer, whereas the former will also sound the time each quarter hour on its own.

Among the technical challenges Ulysse Nardin’s watchmakers faced in creating the Imperial Blue, other than the ones posed by the miniaturization of the amazingly complex Sonnerie mechanism, included the addition of the date indicator at 12 o’clock, which can be quickly adjusted via a pusher at 2 o’clock.

Ulysse Nardin Imperial Blue - reclining

Another challenge was developing a movement that could manage the energy necessary to power the Sonnerie functions, as well as the repeater functions, by means of a single mainspring barrel. This barrel’s spring can be wound either partially, by activating the repeater slide on the case middle at 9 o’clock, or more fully, by rotating the crown counter-clockwise. A second barrel, which powers the watch’s timekeeping functions, holds 50 hours of power reserve and is wound by a traditonal clockwise turn of the crown.

Every hour, the melodic “Sol” note sounds from the 46-mm, white-gold case of the Ulysse Nardin Imperial Blue, unless the wearer wishes the watch to remain quiet for a while, in which case he can use the “on/off” pusher in the back of the case at 11 o’clock to silence the mechanism. Activating the Westminster chimes of the minute repeater, by engaging the slide at 9 o’clock, sets the hammers and gongs in motion on the dial side of the movement, on either side of the flying tourbillon, treating the wearer to a miniature, mechanized musical performance. Ulysse Nardin also included a safety system in the crown for winding the skeletonized hour and minute hands, which will stop the chimes while the time is being reset. The Ulysse Nardin Imperial Blue, a limited edition of only 20 pieces worldwide, comes on a dark blue strap with folding buckle.

Ulysse Nardin Imperial Blue - front


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