Hands-On with the Surprising Ulysse Nardin Vintage Collection of Spot-On Historical Remakes

A quartet of watches modelled on watches from Ulysse Nardin's distant, and more recent, history.
Ulysse Nardin Vintage Collection

While brands like Longines regularly issue palatable remakes of vintage watches, that has never been a Ulysse Nardin habit – until SIHH 2017. The fair saw Ulysse Nardin unveil the Vintage Collection, comprised of well designed four watches inspired by vintage timepieces, including the clever Perpetual Ludwig from just a decade ago.

All four models are individually numbered on the case, but part of the regular collection. They are all stainless steel and equipped with in-house automatic movements. So while they are priced like upmarket mechanical watches, the price tags are are relatively accessible.

Here’s a look at the entire Vintage Collection, complete with specs and prices.


Classico Paul David Nardin

Historically the oldest of the four is inspiration for the Classico Paul David Nardin. Looking exactly like a mid 20th century gentleman’s wristwatch, this is named after Ulysse Nardin’s son and based on a 1945 wristwatch.

Ulysse Nardin Classico Paul David Nardin 2

Its designers got all the retro details right, from the high domed sapphire crystal to the convex dial with applied. Most importantly the case middle is narrow, as it would be on a vintage watch. And the brushed flanks are a satisfying extra.

Ulysse Nardin Classico Paul David Nardin 3

Ulysse Nardin Classico Paul David Nardin 5

The thin case middle is compensated for by a domed back, which allows the relatively thick movement to fit, while still retaining a slim appearance.

Ulysse Nardin Classico Paul David Nardin 7

While slim the watch is good 39mm in diameter, significantly larger than the 33mm original but well sized for modern tastes.

One detail stands out as modern, however, the date window. That’s a common affliction amongst vintage remakes, and fortunately in this case it does not look exceedingly out of place.

Ulysse Nardin Classico Paul David Nardin 4

Ulysse Nardin Classico Paul David Nardin 6

Though hidden beneath a solid back, the movement inside is the automatic calibre UN-320, an in-house movement developed by Ulysse Nardin that has a silicon hairspring, escape wheel and pallet fork.

Ulysse Nardin Classico Paul David Nardin 1

The Classico Paul David Nardin (ref. 3202-900) is priced at SFr9500 or S$14,700, and will be available starting April 2017.


Diver Le Locle

This is based on a 1964 automatic watch designed for scuba divers. While the original was 38mm, the Diver Le Locle is 42mm in diameter, making it feel quite large.

The size of the Diver Le Locle gives it away as a modern watch, the vintage-inspired design details are largely well thought out, including the domed sapphire crystal with a magnifier on its underside.

Ulysse Nardin Diver Le Locle 2

Named after the Swiss town where Ulysse Nardin is headquartered, the Diver Le Locle may be large but it is relatively slim, for the same reason as the Classico Paul David Nardin. The case band is thin, with a relatively high bezel and back.

Ulysse Nardin Diver Le Locle 3

Rated to a modest 100m the Diver Le Locle has a glossy black aluminium bezel insert and off-white Super-Luminova on the dial and hands that mimics the look of the tritium used on vintage watches.

Ulysse Nardin Diver Le Locle 4

With a black dial and large hands typical of scuba divers’ watches of the 1960s – brands as diverse as Breitling and Breguet also made similar timepieces – vintage original had a lance-shaped, central seconds hand.

That has been replaced by a sub-seconds at six o’clock on the Diver Le Locle, a consequence of the UN-320 movement inside (which is the same calibre as in the Classico Paul David Nardin).

Ulysse Nardin Diver Le Locle 1

The movement is hidden under a solid back featuring a relief casting of a scuba diver, a motif taken from the back of the 1964 original.

Ulysse Nardin Diver Le Locle 5

The Diver Le Locle (ref. 3202-950) will be available starting April 2017, priced at SFr9600 or S$14,800.


Marine 1846

The next two timepieces of the Vintage Collection jump forward into Ulysse Nardin’s recent past, both being based on watches introduced in 1996 for the brand’s 150th anniversary. The first is the Marine 1846, based on the Marine Chronometer 1846.

Ulysse Nardin Marine 1846 Vintage Collection 10

Based on the precision gimballed timekeepers made for ships – Ulysse Nardin was one of Switzerland’s leading makers of such precision clocks – the Marine 1846 is essentially a scaled down version of a marine chronometer, with a distinctly functional, yet classical look.

Ulysse Nardin Marine 1846 Vintage Collection 5

The dial has all the key elements of a marine chronometer, including oversized Roman numerals, an extra-large sub-seconds, as well as a power reserve display at 12 o’clock. Even the wide, sloping flange around the dial is also found on a real marine chronometer, as is the notched bezel.

Ulysse Nardin Marine 1846 Vintage Collection 1

Ulysse Nardin Marine 1846 Vintage Collection 3

Ulysse Nardin Marine 1846 Vintage Collection 4

While antique marine chronometers had the serial number in red on the sub-seconds, on the wristwatch version it’s replaced by “1846”, the year of the company’s founding. And naturally actual marine chronometers did not have a date window, though the original wristwatch of 1996 did.

Ulysse Nardin Marine 1846 Vintage Collection 2

Vintage marine chronometers had metal dials, but the Marine 1846 has a vitreous enamel dial. It’s glossy and hard, with the surface unevenness that’s characteristic of fired enamel.

Ulysse Nardin Marine 1846 Vintage Collection 8

Ulysse Nardin Marine 1846 Vintage Collection 9

Ulysse Nardin Marine 1846 Vintage Collection 11

Ulysse Nardin Marine 1846 Vintage Collection 6

Like the 1996 original, the Marine 1846 has a solid back engraved with all of the 18 gold medals Ulysse Nardin won at world’s fairs, starting in the late 19th century. Under the back is the UN-118, an automatic in-house movement.

Ulysse Nardin Marine 1846 Vintage Collection 7

The Marine 1846 (ref. 1183-900/E0) is priced at SFr9900 or S$15,300, and will be available starting June 2017.


Classic Perpetual Ludwig

Now over 20 years old but still one of the most innovative perpetual calendars ever designed, the Perpetual Ludwig got its name from its inventor, Ludwig Oeschlin.

Now best known for his own brand, Ochs und Junior, Oeschlin devised the perpetual mechanism to be legible, robust and simple. So all the calendar displays are in windows, and the mechanism can be set forwards and backwards via the crown. In fact, when the hands are moved backwards, the date follows suit.

Ulysse Nardin Classic Perpetual Ludwig Vintage Collection 2

The reissued Classic Perpetual Ludwig is strikingly similar to the original of 1996, but bigger and streamlined. The dial is a bright silver with a fine grained finish, as well as facetted baton markers and blued steel leaf hands. It’s a conservative but eminently legible look.

Ulysse Nardin Classic Perpetual Ludwig Vintage Collection 4

Now a substantial 41mm in diameter, the original was just 38.5mm, the Classic Perpetual Ludwig retains the same calibre UN-33 as in 1996. It’s automatic and based on a movement developed by Lemania for both Ulysse Nardin and Ebel in the early 1990s.

Ulysse Nardin Classic Perpetual Ludwig Vintage Collection 5

Ulysse Nardin Classic Perpetual Ludwig Vintage Collection 6

Ulysse Nardin Classic Perpetual Ludwig Vintage Collection 7

But because the case is now significantly larger, but the movement remains the same, the calendar displays are proportionately smaller. They remain usefully legible, but the proportions of the original have been diluted.

Ulysse Nardin Classic Perpetual Ludwig Vintage Collection 3

The Classic Perpetual Ludwig (ref. 333-900) will be available starting April 2017, priced at SFr19,800 or S$30,500.


 

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