Earlier this year we introduced you to the stainless steel Ulysse Nardin Classico Manufacture with enamel dial, which we loved. Now it’s time to introduce its sister (yes, a watch is female: la montre), the Classico Manufacture with blue sun-ray dial. The other day we had the opportunity to view this incredibly beautiful looking dress watch with one noticeable drawback: the dial is so appealing that people will forever be asking to see your watch more closely.
The Ulysse Nardin Classico Manufacture was introduced in 2015, adding an in-house movement to the brand’s popular classic collection. At the time it was only available in rose gold. To celebrate the 170th anniversary of Ulysse Nardin, a stainless steel version with enamel dial was added to the collection. The company also added three other variations with the stainless steel case: a silvered dial (3203-135-2/30), a black dial (3203-136-2/32) and a blue dial (3203-136-2/33), all featuring the in-house UN-320 movement. The brand offers an impressive range of collections – Marine, Diver, Classic, Executive, Freak, Jade – for any possible event in your life, and despite the variety in designs, they all share UN’s nautical heritage and several design cues inherent to Ulysse Nardin, which is quite an achievement.
Overall appearance, wearability and features of the Ulysse Nardin Classico Manufacture
The first words that sprung to mind when I saw the watch were: “classic”, “understated” and “dress watch”. The dimensions and the design (including the short curved lugs, the large dial, and the perfect 9,6mm case thickness) provides the perfect blend of elegance, class and balance. The 40mm case fits very well on the wrist. It is a pleasure to wear and makes you forget that you are wearing a watch while working behind a desk. The anchor on the dial and the typical UN plate on the side of the case is a constant but gentle reminder of Ulysse Nardin’s nautical DNA.
Besides easy time reading, the self-winding watch features small seconds and a date display at the 6 o’clock position, a power reserve of 48 hours, and hacking seconds (hacking seconds: the seconds hand stops when the crown is pulled out for adjusting the time). Perhaps the nicest feature is the changing colours of the dial, depending on the light.
Dial and hands
Oh that dial! The blue sun-ray dial – the result of a galvanic process done by machine – gives the watch a special touch that distinguishes it from more traditional classic dress watches. It gives character and uniqueness. Best of all the tones and patterns change depending on how the light hits the dial.
The designers of Ulysse Nardin aimed to keep the dial as simple and understated as possible. Embossed roman indicators mark the third, ninth, and twelfth hour and embossed bars mark the remaining hours. Leaving out the location of the company gives more space around the name and the anchor. The design is wonderfully balanced. The “U” in Ulysse is aligned with the top of the 7 o’clock marker, the “N” in Nardin with the top of the 5 o’clock marker and when you draw a straight line from the dots at the 6 and 12 positions, the line goes through the middle of the date window, the sub-dial, the “UN” indication in the sub-dial and the anchor. This contributes to the balanced look. The in-laid sub-dial, with its 2 types of ribbons, fonts, and date window is itself wonderfully designed too. The sub-dial displays seconds and date. The small round date window reads well and its shape is indicative of the nautical heritage.
The rather understated shape of the sword-shaped hands – one of Ulysse Nardin’s signatures – contribute to the classic look of the watch. Legibility is outstanding during the day and sufficient during night, thanks to the luminous hands and hour markers.
Case, crown and lugs
The case is a modern interpretation of classic, especially due to the rather short, curved lugs. The rounded edges of the bezel match well with the slightly rounded case body. The case design also gives depth to the dial. Although the case looks shiny, there is no mistaking its quality.
Front and back look totally different. The front looks delicate while the back reflects the boldness of a ship’s porthole. One could argue that a classic dress watch should also feature a more delicately designed case-back but this designs matches the DNA of the company better. The case-back is fixed via screws. The UN logo inlaid into the crown gives a nice touch to the watch.
Strap and buckle
The strap is made of quality alligator leather which has been dyed blue and features blue stitching. The pin buckle is simple but functional, with a style consistent with that of the shape of the case and lugs.
Inside ticks the modern in-house calibre UN-320 that powers the display of time in hours, minutes and seconds as well as the date. The automatic movement features a hacking mechanism, 48 hours of power reserve and a silicon hairspring and anchor escapement, facilitating easy maintenance and magnetic protection.
The design of the movement deserves some attention as well. Obviously one notices the transversal bridge for the balance wheel, the wave-shaped engraved rotor with small waves as well as the blued screws, the Geneva striped finishing and polished beveled angles of the bridges. But there is more. For example, several parts of the rotor fixation “circle” and the UN logo “circle” are aligned with each other as is one of the screws with the anchor eye. The balance wheel is about the same size so when you hold the watch with balance wheel at the 12 o’clock position there is a nice line of 3 circles. Please do this at home, not at work otherwise your co-workers may think you are weird.
Last but not least, the performance of the winding mechanism should be mentioned. Even just slightly moving the watch makes it run, evidence of the minimal friction and production excellence. A nightmare for photographers but a treat for watch owners who spend most of their time behind desks. You may think this is typical for high-end movements but it is not.
Note about the use of silicon in watch movements
Silicon has a variety of favourable properties; it is light, hard and resistant to corrosion, temperature fluctuations and magnetic fields. Importantly, the lack of friction eliminates the need for lubrication and results in better precision. Several companies, including Breguet, Patek Philippe and Ulysse Nardin worked together to develop silicon-based solutions and expertise. In 2014 Ulysse Nardin showed an escapement without anchor shaft, anchor bridge and pivoting mechanism. Ulysse Nardin was the first to use this novel material in the Freak, however nowadays many companies use silicon components in watch movements. This reduces the cost of silicon component production, enabling mid-level brands to jump on the bandwagon. Some doubt if silicon will ever become mainstream for mass brands because of the need for high-tech technology. In this exploded view of the UN-320 movement you will recognise the silicon components of the escapement:
The Ulysse Nardin Classico Manufacture in steel with blue sun-ray dial is a unique combination of modern elegance, refinement, technical features and design characteristics. It makes desk workers like me, feel like a sailor in a suit. So I have added it to my personal wish list. I like it that much.
- Runs smoothly
- Balanced design and dimensions
- Fits well on the wrist and wears comfortably
- Great looking dial, especially under different light
- Great legibility during day & night
- The price may seem a bit steep but since this is a technically interesting movement we think it is more than fair
Specifications of the Ulysse Nardin Classico Manufacture
- Case: 40mm diameter x 9.60mm height – stainless steel – sapphire crystal front and back – 30m water resistant, screw-down case-back
- Movement: In-house Calibre UN-320 – Automatic – 48h power reserve – 28,800 vibrations/hr – hours and minutes, small seconds, day of the month
- Strap: blue alligator leather with steel pin-buckle
- Ref. 3203-136-2/33 – other versions: silvered dial (3203-135-2/30), black dial (3203-136-2/32).
- Price: 7,500 euro
See www.ulysse-nardin.com for more information.