Geneva Watch Days: Ulysse Nardin Torpilleur

Setting Sail With Ulysse Nardin’s New Marine Torpilleur Models

Ulysse Nardin hits the high seas with seven models made to celebrate 175 years of chronometry excellence.

By Josh Shanks

Apart from pirates and rum, there's nothing more synonymous with the sea than Ulysse Nardin and its eponymous Marine Chronometers. Since 1846, the Le Locle, Switzerland-based watchmaker, has been producing marine chronometers for those wishing to navigate the world's oceans. And from explorers to navies, Ulysse Nardin has outfitted sailing ships, navy ships, cargo ships, and even yachts.

In 2017, the watch world bore witness to the introduction of a marine chronometer re-designed for the wrist, the Ulysse Nardin Marine Torpilleur. The model has gained the admiration of collectors, young and old. Then, a year after the Marine Torpilleur made its debut, the brand introduced the Marine Torpilleur Military Semper Fortis, which is easily one of my favorite Ulysse Nardin collections of the last decade.

An Armada of New Marine Torpilleurs

For Geneva Watch Days 2021, Ulysse Nardin drops anchor with not one but seven new additions to its Marine Torpilleur collection. The brand has thrown the proverbial blueprint out the porthole for a collection renowned for its precision, savoir-faire, and classic look.

Each of the new Marine Torpilleur models represents a complication, technology, or technique mastered by the brand over its 175-year. The novelties consist of a new blue enamel piece, a panda-dialed version, a pair of annual calendar chronographs, two moonphase models, and a new tourbillion with grand feu enamel dial.

Watchonista recently had the opportunity to photograph the entire collection with a super fun concept, which will be sharing more in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, let’s set sail with an overview of the newness.

Marine Torpilleur Blue Enamel

For over a century, Ulysse Nardin has been renowned for its enameling work. And what good is a marine chronometer without a highly legible dial? Hence why the enameling process is front and center for this year’s Marine Torpilleur releases. The new Marine Torpilleur Blue Enamel 42mm features a rich blue enameled dial, done entirely in-house thanks to the brand’s acquisition of Donzé Cadrans, an independent enameling workshop.

The reference features large rhodium-finished cathedral hands and small seconds with a date at 6 o’clock. Furthermore, the brand has opted to place a hallmark at 6 o’clock on the models as a tribute to 175 years of marine chronometer production. It reads: “Chronometry since 1846.”

Powered by the UN-118 – a COSC certified automatic movement – this calibre features a silicium balance spring. Additionally, the movement boasts a power reserve of 60 hours that is tracked via a power reserve indicator at 12 o’clock.

The Marine Torpilleur Blue Enamel is sized at 42mm in stainless steel and available on a brown or blue alligator leather strap. It’s priced at $11,500 and limited to 175 pieces.

Marine Torpilleur Panda

Next up, in keeping with the times, the brand has revealed a Panda-dialed version of the Marine Torpilleur featuring a varnished white dial with dark blue counters for the power reserve and small seconds. Sized at 42mm and encased in stainless steel, the Marine Torpilleur Panda is the most accessibly priced of all the brand’s Geneva Watch Days introductions.

Also powered by the UN-118 manufacture calibre, the Marine Torpilleur Panda is limited to 300 pieces and priced at $8,200.

Marine Torpilleur Annual Chronograph

Here’s one that was entirely unexpected, an annual calendar chronograph. Inspired by the Chronograph Marine Torpilleur pocket watches produced from 1936 to 1980, the new Marine Torpilleur Annual Chronograph comes in two versions, both sized at 44mm.

The first is a varnished white dial version which boasts a silvered chronograph counter at 3 o’clock and an annual calendar and small seconds indication at 9 o’clock. Slightly more refined from the non-chronograph models is the downsizing of the “Chronometry since 1846” signature at 6 o’clock, which might be its best size in the Annual Chronograph models. Finally, the white dial version features blued hands with a red months indicator.

A matte blue PVD dial version boasts a rich blue dial and rhodium-finished hands with a beige-colored months hand. Like all Marine Torpilleur models, it features a fluted bezel and alternating polished and satin-finished case. Both models are powered by the UN-153 manufacture calibre, which features an escapement wheel, balance spring, and anchor crafted from silicium.

Limited to 300 pieces in each version, with 600 pieces total, the Marine Torpilleur Annual Chronograph is priced at $12,100 regardless of which version you choose. Furthermore, buyers have the choice of a blue or brown alligator leather strap.

Marine Torpilleur Moonphase

Astral navigation is no easy feat, and it requires precise calculations, which a century ago could only be provided by a deck chronometer. Of course, these days, GPS and computers fulfill the role of an astrolabe. Still, nothing can replace humankind’s fascination with night sky, which is why the brand has released the Marine Torpilleur Moonphase.

Available in two versions, a blue sun-brushed PVD or white varnished dial, the Marine Torpilleur Moonphase is inspired by 19th century Ulysse Nardin moonphase complications – a crucial piece of any astronomical instrument. The highly readable moonphase is located at 6 o’clock and produced via a complex process that includes a multi-layered moon affixed to a starry sky made from blue PVD.

The blue version features rhodium-finished hands, while the white version features blued hands. Available on blue or brown alligator leather straps and limited to 300 pieces of either version, the Marine Torpilleur Moonphase is priced at $9,900.

Marine Torpilleur Tourbillon Grand Feu 42mm

Last but certainly not least, we have the Marine Torpilleur Tourbillon Grand Feu. Sized at 42mm and featuring a rich black Grand Feu enamel dial by Donzé Cadrans and a flying tourbillon a 6 o’clock, it is the stunning talking piece from the brand’s Geneva Watch Days creations.

Ulysse Nardin is no stranger to tourbillons as they’ve been making them since the 19th century. The quest for precision while trying to avoid the effects of gravity on a timekeeper continues to this day. And as the prize winner in the “Tourbillon” category at the 2015 GPHG, the brand’s patented Constant Escapement Tourbillon is highly coveted by collectors young and old.

Moreover, the piece boasts prominent white Roman numeral indices that contrast nicely against the rich black dial. And the rose gold flying tourbillon cage is paired to an UN-128 manufacture movement which boasts a power reserve of 60 hours.

Limited to 175 pieces and priced at $48,400, the Marine Torpilleur Tourbillon Grand Feu is worth discovering.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I’m impressed by the breadth and depth of Ulysse Nardin’s Geneva Watch Days updates. There’s undoubtedly something for everyone in this latest batch of Marine Torpilleur releases. All of the novelties are compatible with nearly every strap option from the company, including rubber straps, countless colors of leather, metal bracelets, and the brand’s R-strap, which is made from recycled fishing nets.

The “Chronometry since 1846” signature does feel out of place on some of the models. It does feel more like a marketing slogan than an indication. But it is a noteworthy achievement, so no real harm done.

Regardless, the brand should be proud of what it has accomplished with these seven releases because they feel super polished and worthy of anyone who wants to join Club UN.

Interview: Three Questions With Patrick Pruniaux

For more information, visit the Ulysse Nardin website.

(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)

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