Hands-On With The Ulysse Nardin Executive Tourbillon Free Wheel 

The manufacture from La Chaux-de-Fonds has made a habit of surprising everyone with re-interpretations of their rich past, with editions of erotic complications and with the creation of her own new rules of modern watchmaking like the Freak family. They do it again with this ‘Free Wheel’ which shuffles around the long-standing codes of Haute Horology.

By Benjamin Teisseire

Whether through their new Divers collection or its additions to the Freak family, Ulysse Nardin has assertively defined its style for several decades. This Executive Tourbillon Free Wheel confirms its strong personality in the world of Swiss watchmaking.

Unique Aesthetics

The dial of this exceptional timepiece has an immediate impact. Whether the dark slate of the rose gold version or the black honeycomb grid of the white gold one, the effect is compelling: the whole structure of wheels stands out beautifully. The volume impresses. All the elements seem to float, literally. It is an extremely visual piece, and no one will be left indifferent.

Some elements of the Executive Tourbillon family can be identified: the integrated triple lugs, the screws of the bracelet and the characteristic Ulysse Nardin plate with the number of the timepiece on the side of the case at 6 o’clock. The rest is resolutely modern and innovative.

And the action is all on the dial side. This is where the enchanting floating ballet of wheels and hands takes place. The former, all impeccably finished, start moving as the winding is set in motion to unveil the mechanical beauty. What a pleasure to see them engage gently. The precision and softness of the brand new UN-176 caliber are revealed in all their splendor. The climax is reached in the perpetual rotation of the tourbillon at 6 o'clock. Without any visible attachments, it truly flies. The animation gets a touch of color with the silicium elements of the Ulysse Anchor Escapement which brings purple and blue notes as the light strikes them. Simply beautiful. The bridge presents the 7-days power reserve indicator at 4 o’clock and the principal wheel at 8h30. All three are angled in a boomerang shape creating a very modern and fluid architecture. Dauntingly efficient.

Technical innovation

As Ulysse Nardin was one of the first manufactures to introduce silicium in its regulating organs, it is not surprising to find it in this new timepiece. The true technical feat though resides in the domed sapphire glass box. Thanks to its openness, a real feeling of freedom, of airy lightness exudes from the timekeeper. Its 44mm case size makes it a substantial watch, but the absence of bezel - thanks to this innovative glass-box almost entirely open - creates a very particular dynamic. A side view unveils the very aesthetic depth of the face of this “Free Wheel.” A true ‘tour de force’ to strike a balance between the airiness and the structured architecture.

The back is logically completely black but visible through its sapphire glass. Another dent for Ulysse Nardin in the classical codes of high horology. No Geneva stripes here. To bring a touch of life to the back a few golden (rose or white depending on the version) small clear rubies have been added. They stand out beautifully against the black texture of the main plate.

Overall the general impression of the new model is one of technicality, finesse, and elegance. A real success which highlights the innovative spirit of Ulysse Nardin. The model is so strikingly different that it will become a reference of its own in the manufacture’s line-up and will not be a limited edition like its predecessors. Priced at CHF 100.000, it will enchant collectors in search of modern high horology.

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