Die-hard fans of Ulysse Nardin will soon be able to wear their patriotism on their wrists. The new Executive Skeleton Tourbillon “Stars & Stripes,” a 50-piece limited-edition timepiece, will be available in stores on Independence Day.
The watch features a red-white-and-blue stars and stripes motif using a specialized micro-painting technique that commemorates the brand’s little-known history as a supplier to the U.S. Navy, to whom it began selling deck chronometers at the turn of the last century.
“During the 1890s, the U.S. Navy was looking for ship watches for its small tonnage vessels,” explains Jean Christophe Sabatier, head of product marketing. “After several unsuccessful attempts, they solicited the Manufacture Ulysse Nardin. The oldest orders found are dated 1902. In 1904, the American government organized a precision competition run by the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., for Torpedo boat watches. The first contest dates from 1905. It was won by Ulysse Nardin, who has continued to win this competition for many years.”
The Swiss watchmaker reaped the rewards of its reputation as a supplier of uncommonly reliable timekeepers for decades, delivering Torpedo boat watches and marine chronometers to the U.S. Navy until the early 1950s. Some of these timepieces were in use until the 1980s.
The most notable aspect of this year’s Stars & Stripes limited edition—which comes in a 45 mm titanium case and is equipped with a blue ceramic bezel, blue crown, and blue carbon-like leather strap—is its skeletonized in-house UN-171 movement. It boasts an impressive 170-hour power reserve (nearly seven days) and was introduced at the 2016 Baselworld fair in Switzerland. The Executive Skeleton Tourbillon has since been expanded into several color and material variations.
“The original idea was to reuse the iconic aesthetic codes of the Executive Dual Time launched in 2008, such as the central rectangle and roman indexes,” Sabatier says.
Also of note on the Stars & Stripes model is the subtle yet unmistakable white “executive rectangle” painted on its dial, which originated on the Executive Dual Time model as a purely decorative detail. “It became a core piece of the Ulysse Nardin code, making the timepiece easily recognizable from other watch brands,” Sabatier says. “This rectangle is now part of our design basics and a signature Ulysse Nardin element.”
Sabatier emphasizes that all 50 pieces of the model, which retails for $46,000, are essentially one-of-a-kinds. “This timepiece utilizes micro-painting, a hand painting technique,” he says. “Hand painting is not a precise science nor a machine reproducing the same pattern. Our experts use a pencil the size of an eyelash with acrylic paintings. Each piece has the same general aspect and design, but in reality, there might be tiny differences that make each ‘Stars’ unique.”