From Geneva, you take three trains, each successively smaller, then pass through tunnels and traverse alpine meadows, to arrive in Le Locle, the cradle of Swiss watchmaking. Here you will find the global headquarters of Ulysses Nardin, which after, starting in 1846, gained notoriety for its onboard chronometers that helped seafarers calculate the position of their ships at sea. It also earned Britain’s highest distinction for watchmaking, the Prize Medal for complicated watches and pocket chronometers. And later, the young inventor was awarded his first official certification by the Neuchâtel Observatory. Among Nardin’s first clients was the United States Navy.
While GPS has since taken the place of chronometers for navigation, the innovation continues, as does the connection to the sea. The watchmaker’s early history inspires the house’s Marine Collection.
Recently, Northrop & Johnson was invited to a private tour of the Ulysses Nardin manufacturing facilities – something that is exclusively available to our customers as well – please contact your preferred broker to arrange a visit.
The product of a massive investment under Rolf W. Schnyder, who led the company from 1983 until his passing in 2011, the facilities included state-of-the-art technology that is driven by trained watchmakers who spend their days manufacturing tiny components and with the precision of a heart surgeon, assembling the timepieces, finishing them, and testing their work. To give you an example of their delicate craft, the diameter of the minor parts they maneuver is a mere 0.08 millimeters. A sheet of paper or a hair is 0.1 millimeters wide.
This need for precision and skill is limited production and rarity.
“The whole history of the brand is connected to technical expertise and innovation,” Chief Marketing Officer Françoise Bezzola tells Navigator.
After a brief tenure as part of luxury powerhouse Kering, owner of fashion brands such as Gucci, Saint Laurent, and Brioni, Ulysses Nardin, as of this year, Ulysses Nardin is once again independent.
Under the leadership of industry veteran CEO Patrick Pruniaux, who led a management buyout, the house sets sail with an eye toward what’s next with a solid respect for its powerful history.
Speaking to Hodinkee after the transaction, Pruniaux told the website the long-term view that has carried the watchmaker for nearly two centuries continues. “The very principle of high-end watchmaking is about stressing the quality of the product, the story behind it, the people putting together amazing watches. It’s not about, ‘buy this, and it’s gonna double in value in the next 12 months.”
Of course, if you only care about having a beautiful watch on your wrist, that won’t be an issue. There is plenty to choose from. The X Collections are meant to break new ground and include Diver X, The Ocean Race, and Freak X Aventurine. The Marine and Diver collections directly connect to the nautical heritage that bonds Ulysses Nardin and Northop & Johnson.
One important note is while life has few guarantees, Ulysses Nardin recently extended a five-year warranty when purchasing a new watch. You have one year from your purchase date to register, so if you recently bought a timepiece, write now!
Still, new timepieces are not created for the trend of the moment. Developing a new watch takes over 5,000 hours and around two-and-a-half years.