Launched on board the 47.6m Bagliett__o Silver Fox, Ulysse Nardin’s new marine machine is nautical but nice, says Simon de Burton
Any number of luxury watch brands include sailing models in their line-ups but few, with the notable exception of Breguet, boast such a long and distinguished maritime history as Ulysse Nardin. The latter set out to specialise in seagoing chronometers virtually from the day it was founded in 1846. There’s a certain irony in this success in as much as the nearest body of navigable water to its Swiss HQ in the Jura mountain city of Le Locle is Lake Neuchâtel, where even the most hopeless sailor would struggle to get lost.
Although the company thrived on supplying commercial ships and even entire navies into the second half of the 20th century, the arrival of quartz timing mechanisms made mechanical chronometers professionally redundant almost overnight. Ulysse Nardin could have sunk without trace, like many of its Swiss counterparts, had it not been acquired by entrepreneur Rolf Schnyder in the early days of the 1980s clockwork revival.
The Kering luxury goods group took over the company in 2014, since when it has expanded the brand’s offering to include a number of unusual pieces based on its maritime roots – including some saucy “art pieces” unveiled this year with dials painted by illustrator Milo Manara that depict frolicsome mermaids.
More interesting from a technical point of view, however, is the impressively imaginative and mechanically complex Marine Mega Yacht watch. Following the Grand Deck Tourbillon, the Marine Mega Yacht was unveiled in Miami earlier this year. Featuring a 44-millimetre platinum case, the watch will be limited to 30 units, each priced at £264,400.
Nautical nods abound, with the flying tourbillon cage in the shape of a modern-day propeller and the three-dimensional, red enamel dial taking the form of a ship’s bow. There’s also an exquisite representation of the moon at the nine o’clock position (which revolves in real time) and a mechanism that displays the heights of tides using a Chadburn telegraph-style indicator. Perhaps the niftiest feature of the 500-plus-part Marine Mega Yacht, however, is its patented power reserve indicator. Positioned at 12 o’clock, it is styled as an anchor that moves up and down on a tiny chain connected to a fully operational miniature windlass. What more could a yacht owner ask for?