Man The Torpedoes! A Deep Dive With The Ulysse Nardin Marine Torpilleur Military Semper Fortis
The art of captivating collectors with a marine chronometer for your wrist.
Today, we’re going to take a look at a new watch, and a brand partnership, but for this writer, it feels very different than past articles. I have a special place in my heart for the duty of military service, and in a roundabout way, it was the military that got me into watches in the first place. While most of my family has served in some capacity in the armed forces, my first mechanical watch (a silver hunter case Elgin) was taken into battle by my Great Grandfather during World War I. Before we begin, let’s take a look at three key points.
1. Don’t give up the ship!
The naval battle cry of "Don't give up the ship!" is ingrained in every midshipman from the very minute they step onto the hallowed grounds of the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. The sacred last words uttered by Captain James Lawrence during the War of 1812 when his USS Chesapeake was damaged from gunfire from the British ship HMS Shannon. For his actions on that fateful day in June of 1813, Lawrence was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal. Ensuring his legacy would live on for generations.
2. Semper Fortis
Another unofficial motto of the US Navy is “Semper Fortis” which translates two ways in Latin to “Always Powerful” and “Always Courageous.” This motto stands to impress upon the service men and women of our Navy that with power comes great responsibility, but above all, sacrificing yourself for your fellow man and country may well be the highest calling an American can offer.
Without getting political, let’s just say the word “Patriot” is bandied about a lot these days. From politicians to reality show entertainers, everyone has a different relationship with the word. But at the end of the day, we are all Americans, under one flag, and taking part in this grand experiment that is Democracy.
Now you’re wondering what this all has to do with watches, well, it’s quite simple…
Ulysse Nardin's Commitment to the US Navy
Ulysse Nardin recently invited Watchonista to Annapolis, Maryland to attend the 2018 Patriot Awards Gala. Having never been to the United States Naval Academy, coupled with the thought of attending what sounded like a unique soiree, I responded to the invite a definite “YES!”
Once I arrived in Annapolis, I began to realize the levity of the situation. Ulysse Nardin was about to do something special, something that (to my knowledge) hasn’t been done to the level which they’ve achieved. After an expedient ride aboard the Acela, we checked into our dockside room overlooking Annapolis Harbor and the Severn River. We were soon headed off to the Annapolis Maritime Museum & Park.
Our assembled group was more than just journalists and PR reps we even had a former US Senator along for the trip. Friend of the brand and former Senator from Arkansas Mark Pryor took part in our full agenda and was a welcome addition to our merry band of watch lovers.
It may be my sheer ignorance, but I never truly understood the rich history of Ulysse Nardin and the sea. After an in-depth lecture on the history of Ulysse Nardin’s Marine Chronometers, given by Heritage Director Max Bonfigli, I was quickly up to speed on their efforts.
The US Navy Partnership
It was in Annapolis that I put two and two together. Here we were in the backyard of the US Navy with a fresh reminder that since 1905, in one way or another, Ulysse Nardin and the US Navy have had a timekeeping relationship. This started with the Naval Observatory inviting Ulysse Nardin to participate in a competition to create timekeepers for torpedo boats. Which Ulysse Nardin ended up winning and thus becoming a supplier of the US Navy.
An extraordinary moment of the weekend was when we had the opportunity to attend the 2018 Patriot Award Gala, presented by the Medal of Honor society. Hosted at the historic Dahlgren Hall inside the US Naval Academy. Gathered that evening were 38 Medal of Honor Winners. An impressive feat considering there is only 72 living medal of honor recipients. To see so many Medal of Honor winners in one place was a humbling experience I will never forget. These are real American heroes, which exemplify the Semper Fortis creed 1,000%. One of my fellow journalists put it best when he said, “We don’t belong here, I feel like we’re standing on the shoulders of giants.” Indeed, we were…
Hands-On With The Marine Torpilleur Military Semper Fortis
Drawing design stylings from the original ‘Torpilleur’ or ‘Torpedo Boat’ watches, the new Marine Torpilleur Military Semper Fortis is the latest addition to the brand’s popular Marine Torpilleur collection. Made in a limited edition of 173 to honor the 173 years since the brand's founding. Sized at 44mm and cased in stainless steel, the watch does have a significant presence on medium wrists, but not so much that it was uncomfortable.
When you see the watch side by side to the brand's original onboard marine chronometer (pictured), you can't help but notice the masterful advancements watchmakers have made in the art of miniaturization.
Which brings us to the movement, viewable through the sapphire caseback is the UN-118 movement, a slim self-winding movement utilizing the brand’s in-house silicon hairspring. At 12 o'clock on the dial, you'll see a nod to the original marine chronometer inspiration with a replication of the warning system for sailors which reminded them to wind the watch before it was too late. How often, in a modern society do we forget that just a few hundred years ago, marine chronometers (along with a ship's crew) were the only thing keeping our Navies headed in the right direction.
For the Marine Torpilleur Military Semper Fortis, the power reserve subdial indicates the full 60 hours of the movement's power reserve, represented in 12-hour increments. A bright red "24" stands as a reminder to the critical warning system on the original marine chronometers.
What's more remarkable, may be the price, at just $7,900 you get a COSC certified marine chronometer for the wrist. The watch comes fitted to a blue sailcloth strap with contrasting white stitching. A powerful package for the sailor in your life, or for the landlubber who dreams of the sea.