Live from SIHH 2017, where Ulysse Nardin is exhibiting for the first time, we’ve just been introduced to what could be one of the (if not the) most ingenious Regatta watches ever. While most regatta watches are basically reversed chronographs (which count-down instead of timing an event), this watch is able to do both, in the most practical possible way. How? By having a bidirectional second hand that goes counterclockwise during the count-down and once it hits zero, changes direction automatically to become a chronograph. It is impressively clever to say the least. Check out the video below and then read on to find out more about how the Ulysse Nardin Regatta works.
Regatta watches: A quick refresher
To help understand how this Ulysse Nardin Regatta works, it’s worthwhile going over a bit of the technical background with regards to regatta watches in general. Firstly, what is the purpose of such a watch? Unlike car racing, the start of a sailing regatta is rather complex, because of the very nature of a sailboat: it moves on the sea, due to wind and water flow. Thus, you can’t have a standing start like a Formula 1 race. Instead, boats navigate around the starting line and get ready to the signal to be as close as possible to the starting line. This is why it’s essential to know exactly at what time the race will begin and it’s the reason why there are multiple countdowns around the “track” to indicate the time remaining before the race begins.
So how did Regatta watches evolve? Well because you have to know the exact moment of the race start, some clever watchmakers had the idea of reversing a chronograph to make it run counterclockwise. As a result the watch then works as a count-down timer instead of recording elapsed time intervals. This simple solution allowed for the watch to be set precisely before the race begins, thanks to the counters next to the starting line, and so you have a ready reference on your wrist for the exact amount of time remaining before the race starts. That’s all well and good, the only problem is once the race starts your watch becomes useless, as it is just a reversed chronograph that can’t time anything. This is about to change with the Ulysse Nardin Regatta.
The Ulysse Nardin Regatta
This watch is, in short, a bi-directional chronograph, that starts its journey as a reversed chronograph / countdown timer and automatically switches to a normal chronograph once the race has started. It is equipped with a sweep countdown timer that can be set from 1 to 10 minutes. By pressing the pusher at 10, you set the countdown timer to the desired minute. Once the official timing hits this precise time, you simply press the chronograph pusher at 2, in order to start the countdown. During that time, the second hand runs counterclockwise (surprising at first) and the central yellow hand indicates the remaining minutes (also counterclockwise). Once these hands reach zero, the races start, and normally, that’s where the role of a regatta watch ends.
Not so with the Ulysse Nardin Regatta. Once the count-down finishes the second hand automatically changes direction and starts acting like a standard chronograph to time the race, recording elapsed time intervals up to 12 hours, thanks to the sub-dial at 6 with 60-minute and 12-hours hands. So now, captains and crew-members can also time their race. This is where the partnership with Artemis Racing and the participation at the America’s Cup make a lot of sense. This watch has indeed been developed together with yachtsmen Loïck Peyron and Iain Percy, both brand ambassadors and members of the Artemis Racing team. And as you can imagine, these two know what a regatta watch should be.
Inside is an in-house developed chronograph movement, comprising no less than 650 components. The main challenge was of course to create a device that allows the second hand to move in both directions. To achieve this two-way count-up/count-down system, the UN-155 Calibre relies on an inverter which enables the central seconds hand to turn in either direction (we still need to clarify a few technical points during the SIHH… we’ll come back to this later in our detailed review). This movement is based on the well-known manufacture chronograph caliber UN-153 (4Hz, 3-day power reserve, automatic winding, column-wheel chronograph system).
This is what can be called a proper purpose-built complication. It’s not about showing off, like an equation of time or a tourbillon (even if I do love tourbillons, their usefulness is negligible). Here the complexity of the movement is driven by the specific need of a profession and nothing actually transpires externally. However, the practicality and the ease of use are mega (at least for those who need a regatta watch). This Ulysse Nardin Regatta is impressive, clever, simple to use. A real purpose-built watch.
The Ulysse Nardin Regatta features a robust 44mm diameter steel case, is water-resistant to 100 meters and is completed by a fluted bezel with rubber inserts, a screw-down crown and two molded rubber pushers. Two dial variants are offered. The first is ocean blue with bursts of signature Artemis Racing yellow (a silvery white version also exists). The second is a tribute to the partnership with Artemis Racing for the 35th America’s Cup (limited edition of 35 watches). It features a black enamel Champlevé dial, with the countdown appearing on the bezel in yellow and anthracite gray. Price of this Ulysse Nardin Regatta: 15,900 Swiss Francs for the standard version, 25,800 Swiss Francs for the limited black enamel version. ulysse-nardin.com.
Specifications of the Ulysse Nardin Regatta
- Case: 44mm diameter – stainless steel, rubber inserts on bezel and pushers – sapphire crystal on both sides – 100m water resistant
- Movement: Calibre UN-155, in-house – automatic – 3-day power reserve – 4Hz frequency – silicon escapement and spring – hours, minutes, date, regatta function with unique count-up/count-down system
- Strap: rubber strap with folding clasp