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Ulysse Nardin  - Ulysse Anchor Tourbillon

Ulysse Nardin Ulysse Anchor Tourbillon

High-tech Horology*

You know a timepiece is extraordinary when it wins three horological awards in the year it was introduced. Such is the case with the Ulysse Anchor Tourbillon.

The year was 2015 and it was a banner year for Ulysse Nardin. Its then-new Ulysse Anchor Tourbillon watch was honoured with three top horological prizes in the fall of 2015 that included the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève Tourbillon prize, the Prize of the Year at SIAR and the Prix Orologio dell’Anno from L’Orologio. The awards were well deserved. The master watchmakers and engineers at Ulysse Nardin had spent eight years on the research and development of the Anchor escapement that wowed the world when it was unveiled.

Ulysse Nardin is no stranger to pioneering in the watch industry, especially when it comes to high-tech materials, incredible complications, and disruptive designs. It was a leader in developing silicon technology for watches as early as 2000. But in 2015, the Anchor Tourbillon took the brand to new heights and represented the pinnacle of mechanical technology and high-tech nanotechnology in multiple ways.

A world first in the new millennium, the escapement of the manual-winding movement was a constant force escapement that delivered power evenly to the watch from winding to powering down. This was a rarity in watchmaking at the time and bypassed the traditional Swiss lever escapement. Additionally, the escapement was made entirely of high-tech silicon with a free-moving pallet fork unhindered by pivots and thereby able to reduce friction significantly. The watch also boasted blade springs to ensure constant force.

Ulysse Anchor Tourbillon

Ulysse Anchor Tourbillon © Ulysse Nardin

The in-house manual-winding UN-178 calibre was developed in collaboration with Sigatec, which specialises in silicon micro-components. That silicon work, combined with deep etching techniques (DRIE), was based on the idea of flexible mechanisms, including stretching the elasticity of the blade springs. The high-tech Anchor escapement is housed in a 35-part 60-second tourbillon that weighs less than 0.4 grams and is visible via a large aperture at 6 o’clock on the dial. With this very complex system in place, Ulysse Nardin was able to exploit the physical capacity of the movement components and enhance the precision and performance of the watch. The original Ulysse Anchor Tourbillon was created in a limited edition of 18 in rose gold and 18 in white gold.

Three years after its initial launch, in 2018, Ulysse Nardin unveiled several new versions of the much-coveted Ulysse Anchor Tourbillon timepieces, still in limited numbers. Among them, a model with rich blue dial inspired by the oceans, which have always been a part of the brand’s DNA. An evolution of the original, the new watch features a translucent blue enamel dial that is created in house in the brand’s Donzé Cadrans workshops. The dial is made using intricate hand-enamelling techniques. Each dial is then fired in a kiln to achieve the desired depth of colour. The dials are then sanded by hand to enhance their lustre. Another version was the Ulysse Anchor Tourbillon with a patterned black dial. Each were offered in either 18K rose gold or white gold. The collecting world continues to hold the Anchor Tourbillon in high esteem and the watch remains a much-coveted model.

*This year GMT Magazine and WorldTempus have embarked on the ambitious project of summarising the last 20 years of the Tourbillon in  The Millennium Watch Book - Tourbillons, a big, beautifully laid out coffee table book. This article is an extract. The Millennium Watch Book - Tourbillons is available on www.the-watch-book.com, in French and English.


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