For us, this is the most wonderful time of the year. The manufactures have all been working so hard to prepare their latest offerings for Baselworld. Everyone honing and refining his or her novelties to capture the most attention from the press. Sometimes, the urge to show-off (or maybe psyche-out their competitors) is just too strong and we get a little peak under the tent as we have today. Ulysse Nardin bring us the second installment of their Musical Watch collection to prove that what makes a watch ‘smart’ is not always being able to sync to a satellite feed or trawl down to the depths of the oceans. A watch that plays music at the push of a button, without an MP3 file anywhere to be found.
It must be nice to not have anything to prove to people. Ulysse Nardin don’t have anything to prove to anybody. They have ticked all the boxes for dress, dive and chronograph watches. They have offerings that present the highest traditions of watchmaking both in technical expertise and craftsmanship. They are one of the top manufactures of luxury watches in the world. They see the coming waves of ‘smart’ watches, as digital phone makers cram some of the clever features of our ‘cloud-based’ lives into the confines of a wristwatch. But, Ulysse Nardin, who will celebrate 170 years in the industry next year, aren’t scared of the coming waves of fancy digital watches because their watchmakers can still do things within the realm of traditional watchmaking that the kids in Silicon Valley could never do in a thousand years!
Way, way back in 2013 Ulysse Nardin presented their first Musical Wristwatch. Dubbed the “Stranger”, it had an integrated musical wheel with pins that rotate and pluck on tuned chimes to perform “Strangers in the Night” as made famous by Francis Albert Sinatra. This year’s novelty is Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto in E.
Not the same old song and waltz
The Vivaldi watch isn’t just an experimental creation or recreational piece that only plays music, it is a fully functioning watch. A 45mm, solid gold case, fitted with a strap. Date aperture at 6 o’clock. Small seconds sitting above the date. The most obvious visual feature of the watch is the musical ‘wheel’ that sits on the top half of the dial, with a large, overarching triangular bridge holding it in place. The musical wheel is flanked on both sides by 5 blades that are struck to produce the ringing tones of the melody. I must admit that my first feelings were of confusion at the musical wheel – it looks like a large barrel for the mainspring.
All that and it tells time too!
The watch also features a push-button crown that actuates a selector (indicated at 4 on the dial) to allow the wearer to choose between setting time, date or winding. Press the button until the desired function is indicated and turning the crown will do just that: “T” will move the hands forward for setting, “D” will move the date forward, “W” will allow you to wind the movement (in case you use too much of the power reserve showing off your new toy to friends!). For those of you thinking that this is a flash little stunt, it isn’t. These types of crown selectors greatly reduce the potential for damaging the crown by unscrewing and pulling/pushing to access winding, time and date functions. That is the technical raison d’etre for this feature.
Based on the same 64 jewel, self-winding UN-690 movement as the ‘Stranger’, the 6902-125/VIV can summon up the dulcet tones of one of Antonio Vivaldi’s masterpieces with the press of a button. To activate the chiming mechanism, simply press the setting button at 10. This will move the indicator at 8 o’clock to on or off. If left ‘on’ the melody will play at each new hour or by pressing the setting button at 8. If you want to go to sleep and not be awoken every 60 minutes to the sounds of chiming 18th century baroque music, set the indicator to ‘off’ and sleep tight.
Now you don’t have to hire the New York Philharmonic Orchestra for € 105,000 a night. For that price you can hear Vivaldi’s violin concerto in E as often as you want.