Ulysse Nardin is a watch maison of many talents, on both the technical and artistic side of high horology. The La Chaux-de-Fonds-based brand puts both areas of expertise on display with four new executions of its Executive Free Wheel tourbillon timepiece, each limited to just 18 pieces and featuring an eye-catching artisanal treatment on its dial and barrel cover.
The defining element of the Executive Free Wheel, which is housed in a 44-mm case, is its innovative movement, developed entirely in-house, whose exposed gear trains and bridges appear to float in midair on the dial side and whose barrel stores a power reserve of seven days, displayed in an indicator at 4 o’clock. The manual-winding Caliber UN-176 is equipped with the Ulysse Nardin Anchor flying tourbillon and a constant-force escapement.
One of the Executive Free Wheel limited editions sports a dial made of osmium, the world’s heaviest metal and also its rarest, densest, and most stable element (atomic number 76 on the Periodic Table). Osmium is a trace element found in platinum alloys and used in manufacturing to produce parts that require extreme hardness. Framed in a case made of white gold, the blue-tinted dial is enhanced by the diamond-like osmium crystals on its surface.
Ulysse Nardin has previously used aventurine, a form of translucent quartz, in its Blue Aventurine Genghis Khan 789-80 timepiece. The mineral’s deep blue shimmering effect — evoking a starry night sky or the surface of the ocean under dark of night — makes its return to the lineup in this Executive Free Wheel limited edition, which has a rose-gold case with a sapphire exhibition caseback.
Straw marquetry is a 17th century artistic technique once practiced by cloistered nuns, in which straw is precisely split, dyed with textile dye and applied to a surface to create a stunning visual pattern. Ulysse Nardin revives this ancient master craft by applying shiny, black-dyed straw stalks, each cut and prepared by trained artisans, to the surface of the Executive Free Wheel’s dial and barrel cover, for a distinctively masculine, velvety black veneer.
Finally, a fourth edition uses for its dial and barrel cover a material called carbonium gold. Carbonium is a composite material made of aeronautical-grade carbon fibers that have been mixed with a pre-pregnated resin; because all its components are ecologically sourced, carbonium is less environmentally impactful than traditional carbon composites. Fusing these carbon filaments with gold particles in a thermosetting matrix yields the bold, gold-veined material showcased in this Executive Free Wheel limited edition.
The Ulysse Nardin Executive Free Wheel Limited Editions are all mounted on alligator leather straps in either black or blue. Prices are $102,000 for the Osmium edition, and $99,000 for the Aventurine, Straw Marquetry, and Carbonium Gold editions.
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Author: Mark Bernardo