February the 1st marks the advent of the lunar New Year, an event celebrated in China and other countries in Asia and Southeast Asia. Ulysse Nardin also wants to mark the occasion by releasing a new version of its Moonstruck Worldtimer in a more contemporary and lightweight case from the Blast collection. Representing the Moon’s rotation and the apparent movement of the Sun around the globe as observed from Earth, the Blast Moonstruck offers world time, dual time and a graphic and highly accurate representation of the Moon’s waxing and waning and its effect on tides.
Time and Tide wait for no man
During Rolf Schynder’s tenure as CEO of Ulysse Nardin (1983-2011), the brand developed a trilogy of astronomical or celestial watches with master watchmaker Ludwig Oechslin, beginning in 1985 and culminating in 2009 with the Moonstruck, a watch with a sophisticated display of the tides worldwide. Given the brand’s close links to marine chronometers, the concept of a global tidal watch was ambitious but made sense and transcended the limitations of most tidal watches that only provide information regarding specific geographical locations. The result was the beautiful Moonstruck watch with its geocentric, hand-painted view of the Earth from the North Pole and two revolving discs on the periphery bearing a depiction of the Sun and the Moon.
In 2017, Ulysse Nardin introduced the Moonstruck Worldtimer, still with the two celestial bodies rotating around the Earth but simultaneously displaying the time in the 24 cities on the flange and a map of the tides, the result of the gravitational forces of both the Moon and the Sun.
The new Blast Moonstruck, UN’s latest celestial odyssey, is a direct descendant of Oechslin’s trilogy and reproduces the Sun’s visible trajectory, the lunar cycles and the time around the globe. As Oechslin explains, the mechanical development might be complex, but the reasons behind developing astronomical watches are simple: “Because everything that has regular cycles can be reproduced mechanically and so be read on a dial. Encapsulating time is the watchmaker’s art.”
Black Blast Case
In a departure from earlier editions housed in hefty platinum or rose gold cases, the 45mm Ulysse Nardin Blast Moonstruck now comes in a black ceramic and black DLC-treated titanium case from the contemporary Blast family. The sleek combination of blackened titanium and ceramic attenuate the dimensions of the bold, geometric case, and the lack of a bezel means there is plenty of viewing space for the myriad functions. The elegant black and rose gold palette add a satisfying note of luxury.
Although we all adhere to Copernican heliocentrism and know that the Earth and other planets orbit around the Sun, the watch depicts the motion of the Sun and Moon very much the way we see these celestial bodies from Earth. As in past editions, the Northern Hemisphere seen from the North Pole is placed in the centre of the dial. Crafted in sapphire crystal with micro-engraved landmasses and an 18k rose gold ring engraved with the 31 days of the month, the domed sapphire crystal lets you see the hour and minute hands and the sparkling black night sky made from aventurine glass. Like the small triangular pointer for the date, the tapered hour and minute hands are also filled with luminescent material.
To recreate the movement of the Sun and the Moon, Ulysse Nardin has incorporated two elliptical structures, the one corresponding to the Moon in close vicinity to the Earth (represented on the sapphire disc). The depiction of the Moon inside a round aperture is realistic, complete with craters and is transported by a disc on the same ecliptic plane as Earth. Thanks to an elaborate gear train, the moon phase indicator makes one complete rotation per day to follow the course of the Sun, the source of the Moon’s brightness. The gear train also allows the Moon to make a complete circle of the dial in 29 days, 12 hours, 41 minutes and 9.3 seconds, representing a lunar month (the black ring encircling the Moon aperture features two gilded tracks from 1-14 to represent the days of the lunar month). As UN’s press release explains, “a lunar month, also known as a synodic rotation, has an astronomical duration of 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes and 2.9 seconds“.
The Moon contained in the aperture retreats every 24 hours on its circle of revolution to occupy a new position in relation to the Sun. Depending on the waxing and waning cycles of the Moon, different portions will appear in the aperture, dimming or becoming brighter in line with the lunar calendar. This highly precise moon phase indicator will need one full day adjustment just once every 40 years.
High and Low tides
Although the latest interpretation of the Moonstruck does not depict a graphic map of the tides like earlier editions, any mariner worth his salt will know that the different phases of the Moon correspond to different tidal situations. A new Moon, when the Moon is between the Earth and the Sun, corresponds to a high tidal coefficient (spring tide). When the Sun and Moon are in perpendicular positions on the dial (Sun at 6 and Moon at 3 o’clock), the Moon is in its waxing phase and has a low tide coefficient (neap tide). When the Sun and Moon are face to face, the Moon is full, and the tide has a high coefficient (spring tide). And finally, when the Sun is perpendicular to the Moon (Sun at 6 o’clock and Moon in the left sector of the dial), the Moon is waning, and the tide is low (neap tide).
World and Dual Time
The two-toned ring on the dial, picked out in black and rose gold with a 24-hour scale, is linked to the elliptical track for the Sun. Bronzite, a rare and precious mineral belonging to the pyroxenes family, represents the golden Sun punctuated with dark patches. As the Sun completes one revolution every 24 hours, it glides over the 24 reference cities printed on the outermost fixed flange adjacent to the ring depicting the 24-hour day/night indicator. The watch also has a dual time mechanism allowing you to change the main display in leaps of full hours with the two pushers located on the left side of the case.
Inside the case is an in-house developed and manufactured automatic movement, the calibre UN-106. As a precursor in the development of silicium technology, first introduced inside the Freak watch of 2001 (another Oechslin creation), it features a silicon escapement and hairspring, and an openworked rose gold oscillating weight. The 335-part UN-106 beats at 4Hz and boasts a 50h power reserve. Push buttons at 8 and 10 enable the wearer of the Ulysse Nardin Blast Moonstruck Worldtimer to quickly move the time forward or backwards by one hour, a handy feature while travelling.
Availability and Price
The Ulysse Nardin Blast Moonstruck is limited in production (no numbers given). They can be ordered with a black alligator, velvet or rubber strap with a folding clasp in black DLC titanium and pink gold. The retail price is CHF 75,000. For more details, please visit www.ulysse-nardin.com.