Ulysse Nardin: The Shark Arrives At WEMPE Fifth Avenue
The iconic Fifth Avenue retailer now carries Ulysse Nardin’s full collection. Let’s take a closer look!
For the uninitiated, Ulysse Nardin is a brand seemingly at a crossroads. As the producers of some of the earliest Marine Chronometers, Ulysse Nardin has made a name for itself on the high seas. However, unlike other watchmakers struggling to adapt to today’s modern tastes, Ulysse Nardin has chosen to go full speed down both forks in the road.
What does this mean? Well for starters, the brand steadfastly continues production of its Marine collections – which have undergone a series of evolutions over the past decade. Last year’s introduction of the Marine Torpilleur Military Semper Fortis (read HERE) firmly solidified the brand’s marine legitimacy in the US Market. This Navy inspired collection came with a story that would turn out to warm even the coldest of collector's hearts. Up next, the brand sailed to FLIBS where it formally introduced the Diver Chronometer (read HERE) to the US market. Finally, in a 'Go Big Or Go Home' move, the brand released the Marine Mega Yacht (read HERE).
While this assortment of introductions would more than satisfy a typical brand's quota for novelties, it only scratches the surface of what Ulysse Nardin has up their sleeves.
Ulysse Nardin Arrives At WEMPE
When Gerhard Diedrich Wempe opened the doors to his first modest shop in the small German town of Elsfleth in 1878 he likely had no idea the impact the WEMPE name would have on the world of Chronometrie and luxury retail. The same goes for Ulysse Nardin, who started his eponymous company in 1846.
Within a few decades of each other, Ulysse Nardin and WEMPE would come to discover the myriad of opportunities available in the marine chronometer space. To this day, both brands continue to produce ship’s clocks for purposes of navigation. Except in 2019, these contraptions no longer require a seasoned captain, they only need your wrist.
And that's where WEMPE comes in. Today, the legendary retailer with 35 stores and brand boutiques in 6 countries adds Ulysse Nardin to their Fifth Avenue showroom. Ulysse Nardin joins an already impressive stable of carefully curated brands.
Starting today, WEMPE will be carrying Ulysse Nardin’s entire collection. From Marine Chronometers to innovative pieces like the Freak and Skeleton, WEMPE Fifth Avenue will stock it all. Located at 700 Fifth Avenue (55thStreet and Fifth Avenue) in Manhattan, WEMPE welcomes you to visit their showroom Monday through Sunday. For further information, visit WEMPE’s dedicated partner page on Watchonista!
A 200-Year-Old Maison On The Verge Of A Technical Breakthrough
We talked earlier about Ulysse Nardin being at a crossroads of sorts. While the brand makes phenomenal Marine pieces, they are also heavily invested in the future of watchmaking. Almost twenty years ago, the brand released the Freak. A revolutionary timekeeper which pushed the boundaries of watch design. Through the years, the Freak collection has evolved with help from the brand’s impressive silicon lab.
While much of the output from the Freak collection has centered around prototype and high-horology pieces, in 2019 Ulysse Nardin released the Freak X and Skeleton X, offering these iconic collections and silicon technology at an accessible price.
NeXt up! We have the new Freak NeXt which saw its US debut at WEMPE Fifth Avenue. This futuristic piece is the brainchild of Stephane von Gunten, the Research and Innovation Director at Ulysse Nardin. Originally intended to be strictly a testing platform for the brand’s new silicon oscillator, the Freak NeXt will see limited production (of 12 pieces) later this year. Priced at $300,000 USD, this is certainly a talking piece, but also a NeXt level execution on Ulysse Nardin’s part. The best part? WEMPE Fifth Avenue will have access to this very limited run of Freak NeXt models.
Interview With Stephane von Gunten
On the occasion of Ulysse Nardin’s arrival at WEMPE Fifth Avenue, the brand’s Research and Innovation Director Stephane von Gunten joined President North Americas Francois-Xavier Hotier for the official unveiling of Ulysse Nardin at WEMPE Fifth Avenue. Luckily for Watchonista, we were able to share a moment to learn about where Ulysse Nardin is headed.
Josh Shanks: So, maybe if you could tell us a bit about your role at Ulysse Nardin?
Stephane von Gunten: My role has been different! [laughs] I was once in charge of the watch movement lab. And for about one year now, I've been in charge of research and innovation. So, I'm focusing mainly on innovation, particularly for the movements and for cases and new material as well.
JS: What's your background?
SvG: I've been in the watch industry for about 25 years. I'm an engineer for watches, for watchmaking. And, I had a grandfather who was an engineer in watchmaking, so I was always involved in the industry.
JS: Let’s talk about the Freak NeXt
SvG: We call it Freak NeXt because it could be the next generation of oscillators. As you know, Huygens developed the hairspring in 1675. So, it was a long time ago. Since then, in the watch industry, we developed quartz, which was a massive breakthrough. But, besides the quartz, there is not much else. The main difficulty with the oscillators of today is the loss of energy due to friction. On the Freak NeXt, we use a flying oscillator, so there is no friction anymore. It's actually a suspended oscillator without any axis.Meaning the oscillator doesn't have a central pivot and isn't connected to the main plate.
JS: And this new oscillator is made entirely of silicon?
SvG: It's made entirely of silicon, but we produce the different layers in-house at Sigatec, in Sion, in our silicon factory. The silicium layers are assembled one-by-one by Ulysse Nardin watchmakers.
JS: How did this idea come to you?
SvG: That's a good question. It's a mix between different things: Probably first is the Ulysse anchor escapement which is our constant force escapement we presented four years ago. Also, the Ulysse Anchor Tourbillon which was used in the FreeWheel. It's like a trip into watch engineering. We had some ideas that became other ideas, it was a journey. The Freak NeXt model is a demonstration of what you can do as a technological pioneer at Ulysse Nardin. And, it's another aspect of Ulysse Nardin. But we have many elements. Of course, the first one is the Marine and the traditional lines, and besides that, we have a crazy thing like the FreeWheel or the Mega Yacht.
JS: What excites you the most? Obviously, technology and innovation play a large part.
SvG: Yeah, that's the largest part. I'm an older breed, but I worked before for Patek Philippe. I was the second guy on the research team, and I love Patek Philippe. Great company. Very nice brand. But I have more freedom at Ulysse Nardin. We all have more freedom.
(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)