As one of the oldest and most successful timepiece brands in the world, Ulysse Nardin is a true classic. Founded in 1846, the company was started in a town in Switzerland called Le Locie, where its headquarters are still located even to this day. The brand was named after the name of its founder, Uylsse Nardin, who grew up in Le Locle. During the long, snowy, and brutal winters in Switzerland, the Swiss citizens used to build gadgets to keep time so they could survive, as they couldn’t make enough money from just farming alone. This led to a culture of watchmaking in Switzerland and is one the reasons why Swiss watchmakers are head and shoulders above the crowd in terms of quality of the watches that are made. Growing up in a country that had an incredible history of watchmaking, Ulysse Nardin initially himself got an apprenticeship as a horologist working for his father, Leonard Nardin, where he got his start in watchmaking. After Ulysse Nardin became well-versed in the basics of watchmaking, he then went and sought out a master watchmaker who was far more skilled than his father so he could reach the next level in his watchmaking skills. He ended up landing another apprenticeship with two master watchmakers who were experts in precision watches and whose fame extended beyond the little town of Le Locle. In 1846, a 23 year old Uylsse Nardin founded his own watch company in his hometown. Despite growing up in the Jura Mountains, he was deeping intrigued by the ocean and decided to start producing nautical timekeeping instruments. He ended up leading his company to becoming one of the first watch companies to manufacture marine chronometers as well as to manufacture high-precision seafaring instruments for commercial ships and navies throughout the world. This led to Nardin’s marine and pocket chronometers becoming reference products in civil, military, and scientific realms at the time. In 1768, Ulysse Nardin acquired a high-precision astronomical regulator, built by Jacques Houriet, to rate Nardin’s pocket chronometers, which is now a museum in Le Locle. At the time, most of the famous horologists were French and English. Ulysse Nardin himself went to London to challenge the best pocket chronometer markers. In 1862, at the International Exhibition in London, Uylsse Nardin was awarded the Prize Medal in the category of “complicated watches and pocket chronometers”. At the time, the prize was the highest distinction for watchmaking in the United Kingdom. In 1876, the founder Uylsse Nardin passed away at the age of 53, and his son Paul Nardin took over the family business which continued to thrive under its new leader. In 1889, the company won a Gold Medal at the Paris Universal Exhibition, was awarded two Swiss patents in 1990, and won First Prize at the Chicago Universal Exhibition in 1893, and many more awards under their new leader. In 1902, the company started to deliver marine chronometers to the US Navy, and started to regularly win Washington Naval Observatory competitions and became the official supplier for the US Navy’s torpedo boats. Since then, Ulysse Nardin has provided timepieces to the navies of the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, and Japan. The brand became known in the nautical world for manufacturing highly accurate marine chronometers and complicated timepieces that were used by over 50 of the world’s navies from the late 1800’s to early 1950. During this time, the brand ended up winning numerous awards and honors for its marine chronometers from 1846 to 1975, including 4324 certificates, 2411 special prizes, and 18 gold medals!
In terms of the modern day version of Ulysse Nardin, the company experienced significant challenges in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s during the now famous quartz crisis. In 1983, the company was acquired by businessman Rolf Schnyder who, in collaboration with watchmakers such as Ludwig Oechshlin, revived the brand. Rolf Schnyder ended up serving as Ulysse Nardin’s CEO and transformed the company from an old, struggling company that was having trouble keeping up with the new innovations of the time, to a healthy, profitable business. Schnyder did this by producing timepieces using modern materials and manufacturing techniques. Rolf Schyner ended up running the company until his death in 2011, when his wife took over as CEO for 3 years until she sold the company to the Kering Group in 2014.
Most Famous Models
The marine line is one of Ulysse Nardin’s most popular model lines. It contains the “Maxi Marine” line, which is even more well known than its marine counterparts. There are two main types of materials that are used in both variations, and that is rose gold and stainless steel. The rose gold watches generally retail in the $30k range and go for around $10k-$15k used, while the stainless steel watches generally retail for around $10k and go for around $3-5k on the used market. The most popular size for these models is 43 millimeters, followed by 45 millimeters.
The freak is arguably the most popular and famous out of all of Ulysse Nardin’s models. Since its launch in 2001, the Freak and its inside-out movement layout has forever changed what can be done in the realms of ultra-high-end watchmaking. It destroyed age-old “rules” of luxury watchmaking with just as much force as the steel Royal Oak did some thirty years before it — and that’s true even if Ulysse Nardin isn’t as shameless about elbowing out the Freak’s deserved recognition as Audemars Piguet is when it comes to its bread-and-butter Royal Oak. The UN Freak has paved the way for other brands to follow its skeleton dial style such as Hublot and Richard Mille.
The diver line is another popular line of UN, with a very wide variety of different types of watches ranging from $3k used to $30k used depending on the different materials it is made of and the movement. These models can come in sizes anywhere from 42mm to 45mm.
Today we discussed the Ulysse Nardin brand. We covered the history, the different models, and the specifics of each model.
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