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Ulysse Nardin - Only Watch 2019

Ulysse Nardin Only Watch 2019

An innovative and moving one-off piece has been created especially for the 8th edition of Only Watch: the Exo-Skeleton X.

Among the 52 watch brands that help to fulfil the desires of collectors while making a significant contribution to research into muscular dystrophy, Ulysse Nardin stands out in more than one respect. First, it’s one of the very few watch brands to have been present at every Only Watch since 2005. Second, Ulysse Nardin is a loyal sponsor of the Monaco Yacht Show, which will open the travelling Only Watch exhibition in association with Christie’s. And finally, this year Ulysse Nardin is putting a very special spin on its watch’s mechanical features, by equipping its unique piece with an exoskeleton inspired by appliances being developed for people with neurodegenerative disorders. The Only Watch auction was pioneered by the Association Monégasque contre les Myopathies (AMM) (Muscular Dystrophy Association of Monaco) by Luc Pettavino, under the patronage of HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco.

Only Watch 2019

The Exo-Skeleton X unique piece for Only Watch 2019 © Ulysse Nardin

Time to hope

As Ulysse Nardin product marketing director Jean-Christophe Sabatier explains: “The Exo-Skeleton is not just a unique piece: it sends a message, which is that research and development can change people’s lives.” This year, the Ulysse Nardin team worked hand in hand with a group from the EPFL, particularly the REHAssist research group, affiliated to the Laboratory of Biorobotics and the Laboratory of Translational Neural Engineering, which is involved in developing an orthotic device called Autonomyo for people who have suffered a major loss of muscle capacity. This wearable exoskeleton imitates the human skeleton and detects the intention to move (flexion, extension and adduction) thus helping the wearer to walk. According to Dr Mohamed Bouri, Director of REHAssist, “Autonomyo is an exceptional device that has been designed to be used without crutches. Our aim is to help people suffering from muscular dystrophy, for example, to walk and to keep their balance.” This wearable device is an astonishing mobility aid, incorporating multiple sensors that detect movement, strength and inertia, using advanced algorithms to process 500 operations each second. While innovation has always been part of Ulysse Nardin’s DNA, in this case it was the particular focus of the research in question (an issue particularly close to the heart of one of the watchmaker’s employees) that inspired the creation of the Only Watch 2019. As CEO Patrick Pruniaux explains: “The choice of the exoskeleton theme was unanimous. It was clear for us that we wanted a strong connection between the piece and its design. The charity was close to our hearts, and that’s what we wanted to convey with the Exo-Skeleton X. The passion injected by Ulysse Nardin’s watchmakers and designers into this timepiece reflects the profound commitment of the president and members of the Monégasque Muscular Dystrophy Association to promote research into these degenerative conditions.” 

Only Watch 2019

The Autonomyo device developed by the EPFL © Ulysse Nardin/EPFL

Caseband with exoskeleton

While the watchmakers were impressed by the EPFL researchers’ ingenuity, the EPFL contingent were equally impressed by the precision micromechanics in evidence when they visited the Ulysse Nardin manufacture. The Only Watch was designed around the Skeleton X introduced at the SIHH 2019. With its X formed by four of the hour markers, located behind a rectangle and inside a circle, its intricate geometry is immediately recognisable. But here, the traditionally skeletonised dial and movement are complemented by an “exoskeleton” made up of four flexible titanium blades attached to the caseband, which is what gives the watch its “bionic” appearance. Jean-Christoph Sabatier explains: “The flexible double blade, which is attached by two screws, one on the case and the other on the lugs, gives the piece greater mobility because the lug block is slightly detached from the case. To enhance these ergonomic features, the bracelet is in a separate piece, which makes it extremely pliable.” Nothing about the aesthetics of the Exo-Skeleton X has been left to chance. The orange colouring was chosen by the EPFL researchers to convey energy, youth and the future, while white is a common colour for devices such as the exoskeleton. The central rectangle of the dial incorporates a white molecular motif. The strap material is reminiscent of the straps of medical prosthetics, which are designed to be flexible in order to mould comfortably to the body. Connoisseurs of high-tech fine watchmaking may rest assured: the savoir-faire of the Manufacture Ulysse Nardin shines through the 42mm titanium body, water-resistant to 50 metres, which contains one of the major innovations of the Freak Vision: an extra-light, extra-wide balance made of silicon, with nickel inertia blocks and stabilising micro-pallets, incorporated into the UN-371 calibre.

Only Watch 2019

© Ulysse Nardin

The intrinsic value of the Exo-Skeleton X by Ulysse Nardin created for Only Watch rests upon its innovative manufacturing expertise, combined with a humanitarian philosophical approach to which the collectors will also be receptive, not forgetting the fact that this watch is utterly unique.

Only Watch 2019

Case back view © Ulysse Nardin


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