Ulysse Nardin Introduces the Hourstriker Phantom

Developed with Devialet.

A simple yet unusual chiming complication, the hourstriker has been a fixture in the Ulysse Nardin line-up for almost three decades, starting with the San Marco Jacquemart developed by Christophe Claret. The hour striker complication has been paired with various automatons over the years, including tigers, horses, oil pumpjacks, and a copulating couple.

Now Ulysse Nardin has stripped away the automaton, streamlined the design, and reworked the acoustics – with help from French speaker specialist Devialet – resulting in the Hourstriker Phantom. It’s the brand’s sleekest and most contemporary hour striker to date, and according to Ulysse Nardin, the loudest chiming wristwatch in the world.

High-end audio help

Founded in 2007 by a trio of Frenchmen, who named the company after 18th century French engineer Guillaume Vialet, Devialet is most famous for its white, egg-shaped Phantom Premier speaker that is compact, powerful and fairly expensive. Most notably, one of its founders, designers Emmanuel Nardin, is a member of the Nardin family that once owned Ulysse Nardin.

devialet Gold Phantom Opera de Paris speaker

The Devialet Gold Phantom Opéra de Paris speaker

Devialet’s contribution to the Hourstriker Phantom was to boost its sound, accomplished in two ways. The first element being the attachment of the gongs to the movement. In an ordinary striking watch, the gongs are fixed with screws.

On the other hand, the Hourstriker Phantom has its gongs secured by “torsion arms”, presumably small springs. According to Ulysse Nardin, the torsion arms “change the direction of the action forces induced by the [gong’s] vibrations”, transmitting the sound to the outside of the watch.

ulysse nardin Hourstriker Phantom devialet 5

Most of the sound is transmitted to a thin metal membrane fixed to the rear of the watch, essentially a second case back that acts as a sound board, a feature also found on the Audemars Piguet Supersonnerie repeater. The membrane itself has eight holes on its edge that allow the sound to escape the case.

The result is a chime that measures 85 decibels at 10cm, the highest in watchmaking according to Ulysse Nardin.

ulysse nardin Hourstriker Phantom devialet back

Chiming on the hours

When turned on, via the button at two o’clock, the hour striker chimes every 30 minutes, sounding the hours at the top of the hour and half past. In silent mode the watch stay quiet and tells the time conventionally. A tiny aperture at three o’clock indicates if the watch is on strike or silent mode.

The button at four o’clock sounds the striking mechanism on command, and the movement sounds the hours of the current hour; at 10:55, the watch will chime 10 times.

ulysse nardin Hourstriker Phantom devialet

The Hourstriker Phantom powered by the automatic UN-610, which is the tried and tested ETA 2892 movement fitted with the hour striking module of Ulysse Nardin, explaining in part the relatively affordable price, as such things go. And maximise the sound, the case is lightweight titanium – materials that are less dense transmit sound better – although still large at 43mm in diameter.

The dial is open worked in the pattern of a Chladni figure, the pattern reproducing the shape of sound waves, which was discovered by German scientist Ernst Chladni.

ulysse nardin Hourstriker Phantom devialet 6

ulysse nardin Hourstriker Phantom devialet 2

Key facts and price

Hourstriker Phantom
Ref. 6103-132

Diameter: 43mm
Material: Titanium
Water resistance: 30m

Movement: UN-610 (ETA 2892 base)
Functions: Hours, minutes seconds, and chimes on the hours and half hours
Frequency: 28,800bph (4Hz)
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve: 42 hours

Strap: Alligator with buckle

Availability: Limited edition of 85
Price: 72,500 Swiss francs

For more, visit Ulysse-nardin.com.


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Louis Erard Introduces the Regulator by Alain Silberstein (With Live Photos)

Silberstein style made affordable.

Louis Erard has been around for some 90 years, but for much of that time the brand produced watches for other labels. A decade ago, shortly after new owners took over, Louis Erard began to move slightly upmarket with mechanical watches featuring proprietary modules. But most of its designs were plain or derivative. And so Louis Erard could have been just another brand making mostly anonymous looking watches.

But recently Louis Erard recruited the talented Manuel Emch – best known for reviving Jaquet Droz and then running RJ-Romain Jerome until 2017 – as an advisor and suddenly things have brightened up – literally. Louis Erard has just announced the Alain Silberstein Regulator, a surprisingly affordable wristwatch created by the watch designer famed for his whimsical, Bauhaus-inspired style – captured here in photos taken by a Swiss collector for SJX (scroll to the bottom to read my thoughts on the watch after seeing them shortly after this was published).

louis erard alain silberstein regulator black 1

Since Mr Silberstein’s eponymous company went bust in 2012, he has created watches for MB&F and RJ-Romain Jerome. Despite the diversity of the brands he has worked with, Mr Silberstein versatile yet distinctive style manages to ease into each brand’s house style.

Illustrating the magic of Mr Silberstein’s creativity, the new watch is based on one of Louis Erard’s signature models, the Excellence Regulator, which is ordinarily available with a grained or guilloche silver dial featuring Roman numerals – in other words, a staid, classical design. The injection of Mr Silberstein’s trademark bright colours and geometric shapes completely transforms the watch, turning it into something genuinely cool.

louis erard alain silberstein regulator black 2

Two dial styles are available – black or matte silver – both exactly the same in design, each distinguished only in colour. Both are instantly recognisable as classic Silberstein.

Though Mr Silberstein has given the watch a massive facelift, the fundamentals remain the same. Time is indicated regulator-style with hours at 12 o’clock and the seconds below, while the sub-dial at nine is the power reserve indicator.

louis erard alain silberstein regulator black 3

The movement inside is an ETA Peseux 7001, a workhorse movement that’s robust, reliable and one of the rare smaller diameter hand-wound calibres that’s widely available.

Consequently the case is a manageable 40mm in diameter and 9mm high, available either in black-PVD treated steel or polished steel to match each dial finish. The black-coated case in particular looks and feels compact on the wrist.

louis erard alain silberstein regulator black 5

Louis Erard Alain Silberstein Regulator 2

The model with a white dial has blue lacquered, rather than heat blued hands

And best of all, unlike Mr Silberstein’s earlier collaborations, the Louis Erard Regulator is priced under US$3,000, making it even more affordable than Mr Silberstein’s own watches from a decade ago. It’s hard to say no to something so cheerful and sensibly priced.

Addendum October 15, 2019: I got a look at the watches this morning – the regulator is a lot of watch for the money in terms of styling and complication. The design is instantly recognisable to Alain Silberstein fans, who will find it hard to turn down. Overall it’s a winner.

A handful of minor details I did not like. One is the logo on the dial that doesn’t quite suit the design, and another is printing on the case back crystal, which gives it a cluttered look. And the lugs have a thick side profile, though it’s not obvious on the wrist.

But as Manuel Emch explaining during our meeting, the watch was conceived in only several months, so certain compromises had to be made. Louis Erard will continue to revamp its line-up over the next 18 months or so, and some upcoming models look extremely promising in renderings.

Key facts

Diameter: 40mm
Height: 9mm
Material: Stainless steel, or black-coated steel
Water-resistance: 50m

Movement: Peseux 7001 with Louis Erard RE9 regulator display
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, and power reserve
Winding: Manual wind

Frequency: 21,600bph, or 3Hz
Power reserve: 42 hours

Strap: Calf leather

Price and availability

The Louis Erard Regulator by Alain Silberstein is limited to 178 pieces in each colour and priced at 2,800 Swiss francs for the steel model, while the black PVD is 2,900 francs. They’ll be available from the end of October. For more, visit Louis Erard.


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