A torpilleur is a small, swift-moving boat designed to carry torpedos into battle against larger, more heavily armed battleships (I googled it so you didn’t have to.) With its new Marine Torpilleur Military, unveiled last week ahead of its formal introduction at SIHH 2018 in Geneva, Ulysse Nardin pays tribute to its storied past as a supplier of pocket chronometers to many of the world’s navies in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Nearly all of Ulysse Nardin’s modern watches draw at least some of their design and technical inspiration from the highly accurate marine chronometers that put the Le Locle, Switzerland-based brand on the horological map in the 1800s. But the Marine Torpilleur Military is the most direct homage to those vintage sea captain’s pocketwatches that I can recall encountering. (UN’s press release refers to it, in fact, as a “direct descendant.”) The watch’s 44-mm stainless steel case — with a fluted bezel and oversized screw-down crown ensuring a water resistance of 50 meters — has a sand-blasted finish and is topped off with an antireflective sapphire crystal.
The highly legible dial features large, Arabic numerals at the hour markers and vintage-style hour and minute hands in the center; small seconds are displayed on a subdial at 6 o’clock. In the center of that subdial are two other notable elements, the initials “C.W.”, denoting it as a “chronometer watch;” and a red serial number that proclaims the timepiece as one in a limited edition of 300. (The placement of this number directly on the dial, rather than more discreetly on the caseback, as so many other makers of limited-edition watches opt for, is very unconventional and further distinguishes the Marine Torpilleur Military from other vintage-inspired watches in its orbit.) The words “Limited Edition” do appear as an engraving on the caseback, however, though they are overshadowed by the larger engraved image of the aforementioned torpilleur boat that gives this watch its name.
The movement behind that engraved caseback is Ulysse Nardin’s Caliber UN-118, the in-house-designed, self-winding caliber that made its debut in the brand’s flagship Marine Chronometer Manufacture back in 2012. In addition to earning a COSC chronometer certification — which, of course, should be expected of any watch touting its status as a modern-day naval captain’s chronometer — the movement has also aced the additional performance tests required for Ulysse Nardin’s in-house certificate. Other technical highlights include the escapement, the result of a collaboration between Ulysse Nardin and the Swiss firm Sigatec, made of a material called Diamonsil, which consists of synthetic diamond grown on a silicon base; the oscillator with patented inertial balance wheel, and the patented silicon hairspring. Caliber UN-118 carries a fully wound power reserve of approximately 60 hours.
The Ulysse Nardin Marine Torpilleur Military will be available in two executions: one with an eggshell-colored dial, blackened hands, and a tan leather strap, the other with a black dial, Super-LumiNova-coated hands, and black leather strap with orange contrast stitching. Both fasten to the wrist with a folding buckle and both will be priced at 7,900 Swiss francs (about $7,935).