Watches & Wonders: Ulysse Nardin Breaks The Sound Barrier With The New Blast Hourstriker
"Rules are made for people who aren't willing to make up their own." – Chuck Yeager.
Take it from the legendary test pilot. Breaking barriers of sound is no small feat. Science has proven the exact speed of sound to be 343 meters per second in dry air. And to break through this invisible wall in the sky, a jet aircraft must fly over 767 mph or approximately 1,234 kph. And while today's topic is very much "on the ground," it's no less a breakthrough in the world of watchmaking and sound technology.
Introducing the Ulysse Nardin Blast Hourstriker
Ulysse Nardin’s new repeater watch, the Blast Hourstriker, is the latest in its musical watches collection and an evolution of UN’s Classico Hourstriker Phantom, released in 2019. The modern update features a case inspired by the brand’s BLAST collection and boasts some serious watchmaking prowess.
The brand’s CEO Patrick Pruniaux and his team of mad scientists…er, I mean, watchmakers…have rethought the entire concept of sound production in a wristwatch form. And in turn, they have created an entirely new calibre that aims to amplify the sound output of the Blast Hourstriker to levels unheard of in traditional chiming watches.
Essentially, the Blast Hourstriker deviates from the traditional wire gong and hammer system utilized by repeaters for centuries. Instead, in its place, is a striking mechanism that connects to a very thin titanium membrane via a torsion lever. This technology was designed in collaboration with the French audio technology company Devialet.
The new UN-621 calibre promises to alleviate the sound dampening caused by a watch’s case, caseback, and movement materials. In traditional repeating pocket and wristwatches, the gong and hammer's sound can become trapped and therefore rendered less audible. With the Blast Hourstriker, the striking mechanism is now on the dial-side of the watch, which also allows the wearer to admire the mechanical ballet that produces its unique sound.
Punching a Hole in the Sky
The Blast Hourstriker’s 330-piece movement is a mechanical wonder worthy of discovery. As you can see from Watchonista's images, the skeletonized dial and in-house automatic striking manufacture movement are visible from edge to edge. And as if a chiming complication wasn’t enough, the Blast Hourstriker also features a flying tourbillon.
And not just any tourbillon! Ulysse Nardin is a master of silicon, so it is only natural that the movement's variable-inertia balance wheel comes with a silicon hairspring, anchor, and escapement wheel. It is pretty crazy when the least notable feature of a timepiece is its flying tourbillon, but that's just how impressive the Blast Hourstriker really is.
The Blast Hourstriker features a 45mm stealth airplane-inspired case comprised of black DLC treated titanium and capped with 5N 18-karat rose gold. What is particularly striking (You see what I did there?) is the watch's rose gold caseback, which features cutouts in the shape of the Blast's signature double X insignia. This design ensures the security of the Devialet-designed membrane and adds what the brand calls a "hi-fi speaker" amplification of sound.
The wearer has the option of turning the Blast Hourstriker’s chiming functions on and off. The chiming complication can be activated at any time via a button at 10 o'clock and will activate on the half-hour and hour. Once triggered, the hour rack and inertia regulator will start to turn. Then the hammers, located at 12 o'clock, will hit a freestanding gong designed to bypass the movement parts of the watch so as to prevent sound dampening. The result is simply sublime.
Pricing and Availability
The Ulysse Nardin Blast Hourstriker comes with three strap choices, black alligator leather, waterproof velvet, or rubber strap. The watch isn't limited but will be produced in small quantities. The Blast Hourstriker is priced at $104,400 and available at Ulysse Nardin retailers worldwide.