While some of the watches introduced by Ulysse Nardin at the SIHH 2018 slightly surprised us, including the Marine Torpilleur Military (and surprise doesn’t mean negative feelings here), the brand also had something resolutely classic up its sleeve in the form of the Classico Manufacture “Grand Feu”, which we reviewed here. Endowed with glossy enamel dials, a subtle yet original design, and an accessible price, we wanted to see them in the metal.
If there’s nothing especially new about these watches since they are a simple evolution of the existing Classico Manufacture we reviewed here, the addition of enamel dials is more than enough to tickle our interest at MONOCHROME. As we already explained to you after several articles about this model, the Classico Manufacture is UN’s best definition of a “classic”, “dressy” and “understated” watch. It is subtly designed and proportioned, yet it has a few distinctive details that confer originality. The addition of enamel dials for the SIHH 2018 is a natural development, both in terms of design and strategy.
The case and movement are the same and there is no evolution compared to the previous versions. What we have before us is an elegantly designed case with modern proportions. An understated dress watch, by all means, but with a virile presence on the wrist thanks to its 40mm diameter. It’s not what you would qualify as a true tuxedo watch, but it is a far cry from a sports watch. It can be worn with a suit and tie, but it will work with casual attire too. An all-rounder if you like.
The case appears, at first glance, to be quite simple in shape. Round, with a flat, polished bezel, the case reveals several nice details after a closer inspection. First are the lugs, which are harmoniously shaped and designed. They are not straight and the junction with the case is delicately recessed. These lugs are short and curved enough to bring comfort to the wrist. Combined with the signature screwed plate on the left side (with the watch’s number), this brings a modern and dynamic touch without interfering with the elegance and understatement of this watch.
For the SIHH 2018, the Ulysse Nardin Classico Manufacture receives new dials. In UN’s tradition, they are manufactured in “grand feu” enamel. This unalterable material has become a hallmark of the brand’s production since Donzé Cadran (a well-known dial maker or cadranier) was acquired and integrated into the group. More and more watches of the brand receive such dials and we, at MONOCHROME, definitely appreciate this move.
“Grand Feu” enamel requires a complex production process. At Ulysse Nardin, dials are created in the most traditional way possible: several layers of enamel powder are applied, baked in a kiln, polished, flattened and printed by hand. At each step, things can go seriously wrong – cracks or bubbles can appear between each layer of enamel – and only the most skilled dial makers can pull off impeccable enamel dials. While this is true for white enamel, the situation is even worse with black enamel, where the smallest imperfection is immediately visible.
For the 2018 collection, two options will be available – black or white – both with contrasting elongated Roman numerals and leaf hands. Once again, these dials are classic in style and execution, which fits the overall concept of the Classico Manufacture Grand Feu. One regret though: the date window, especially on the black dial version, set against a white background. Again, this will be a question of taste. Some want the date, some don’t.
Powering the Classico Manufacture Grand Feu is UN’s entry-level, in-house movement, the calibre UN-320. This automatic time and date movement offers quite some advantages compared to an externally-sourced engine. It is COSC chronometer-certified as well as by the Ulysse Nardin Certificate, which means it meets stringent quality standards for the performance of its mechanism, power reserve, and other functions. The signature Silicium hairspring and anchor escapement are present as well as rapid date correction both forwards and backwards. The 48h power reserve is comfortable, considering the self-winding capacity.
In terms of decoration, the movement is pleasant: circular Geneva stripes, blued screws, engraved rotor, polished bevels on the bridges. It is clean, elegant and precisely executed.
If these new Ulysse Nardin Classico Manufacture Grand Feu don’t revolutionise the model, the addition of the enamel dials is enough to create a very desirable package. The EUR 1,000 extra cost implied by these dials, compared to the standard version, feels entirely justified by the beauty of this material and the reflections it offers – especially the black version, a colour rarely seen in this price segment. And because of the steel case, you’ll be able to enjoy these dials and this watch are a relatively competitive price: EUR 8,800.
See www.ulysse-nardin.com for more information.