Ulysse Nardin Skeleton Tourbillon Pearl: Powerful Mechanics Beautifully Unveiled
The Ulysse Nardin Skeleton Tourbillon Pearl is one powerful watch for the female wrist.
And thanks to the fact that Ulysse Nardin’s Skeleton Tourbillon model is fully skeletonized, the source of its immense power is eminently visible.
Prominently placed at 12 o’clock underneath skeletonized bridges, we find a set of two large spring barrels guaranteeing 170 hours of precise timekeeping. In other words, this round component – the biggest visible within the skeletonized web of attractive components making up Caliber UN-170 Manufacture – holds enough power for an entire week without winding.
And this is an important detail: one of the main elements brands, retailers, and even female consumers cite for women not wanting to wear a mechanical wristwatch is that the daily or bi-daily winding and setting can seem bothersome. The Skeleton Tourbillon Pearl dispenses with that potential issue by allowing itself the grace to be put down for an entire week without having to be wound.
If you’re having trouble seeing the dual spring barrels, it may be because they appear to look like just one barrel when observed from the top because the two serially operating barrels are placed on top of one another, releasing their power in series.
The barrels are also well-camouflaged dial-side thanks to the beautiful mother-of-pearl bridge etched with a shell motif.
Making it “prettier”
Transparent, yet fluid in design, Ulysse Nardin completely feminized this gorgeous timepiece by doing something rather shocking to the movements bridges (to me, anyway): the brand’s technicians inlaid iridescent mother-of-pearl set with an abundance of diamonds into them.
The mother-of-pearl shimmers and shines when the watch is worn as the light hits it from different angles. This is also true of the luxurious brilliant-cut diamonds set both on the bridges and the external case parts – the diamonds encircling the crown is just one of many extraordinary, beautiful details.
Glamour radiates in a softly glowing luminosity that does not hit the eye immediately. Ruby jewels used in the movement, which usually remain unseen to the eye, are on full display thanks to the absence of a dial and the skeletonization of the movement.
Make no mistake, this is an elite timepiece sure to be understood and purchased only by the most discerning of connoisseurs. However, the extra dose of restrained sparkle goes a long way toward making sure that this watch truly appeals to the feminine connoisseur on every level.
“Skeletonized” is a term used in the world of watchmaking to denote something that has been reduced to its physical minimum using fine saws and files, leaving the parts in question – usually movement parts, though the technique can also be used on a dial – light, airy, and revealing. I am likening this process to “unveiling” the movement here, which leaves all of its beautiful curves and corners bare and visible.
In the days of purely traditional watchmaking pre- and just post-Quartz Crisis, skeletonized movements not only underscored the consummate skill – not to mention the extreme patience – of the craftsmen involved, they commanded some of the highest prices due to work involved and their extreme rarity.
As with much else in horology, the modern incarnation of Ulysse Nardin has pushed yet another traditional technique into a bright, new age by finding a new way to do it: here, the skeletonization of the Skeleton Tourbillon looks streamlined and modern, yet clearly alludes to the tradition behind it.
Ulysse Nardin specially developed the manually wound movement seen here to allow the airy look while keeping it sleek and contoured. The skeletonized plates and bridges were specially designed from the outset to be milled by state-of-the-art, computer-controlled machinery promising precision to the millimeter.
Hand-finishing including precision-beveling and chamfering make this a horological work of art, while the absence of conventional engraving lends a contemporary zeitgeist. All this despite the fact that the shapes of the bridges were inspired by a Ulysse Nardin pocket watch movement from 1922!
The brand’s designers justifiably opted to dispense with a dial, leaving the unique movement to do the talking underneath the robust, quasi-scratchproof sapphire crystal.
The Ulysse Nardin Skeleton Tourbillon Pearl’s shimmering monochrome look is pleasantly interrupted by high contrast blued steel hands inlaid with Super-LumiNova, a detail that makes the time much easier to read both day and night, and the crimson-colored ruby jewel bearings.
Discrete silicon tourbillon
Just because it’s embedded within a skeletonized movement, it doesn’t mean that the tourbillon can’t be discrete: hidden behind a tourbillon bridge made of fragile mother-of-pearl at 6 o’clock, Ulysse Nardin’s own manufacture tourbillon comprising a balance spring and escape wheel made in silicon ticks along at 3 Hz (21,600 vph). It should be noted that Ulysse Nardin was a pioneer in the use of silicon components in watchmaking.
The black of the silicon spring is well hidden so as to keep the pastel tones of the skeletonized watch pure, while the shimmering bluish-purple silicon escape wheel with its particular geometry is just visible on the outside of the bridge as it makes its rounds. Its color goes very well with the overall theme.
Though I am usually against taking an existing men’s watch and “making it prettier” to call it a timepiece for women, this is one example of that I can completely get behind.
The main reasoning is that I know how comfortable this watch is despite its 44 mm diameter: its lightness both visually and in terms of weight really shines through in the skeletonization. It is also quite svelte at only 11.4 mm in height.
The other reason is that the mother-of-pearl and sprinkling of diamonds really add a new dimension to the already very attractive design of this watch’s skeletonized movement. I would almost consider other versions of the Skeleton Tourbillon unisex, while the Skeleton Tourbillon Pearl is truly uniquely for women.
Case: 44 x 11.4 mm, white gold set with 133 diamonds (2.345 ct)
Movement: manually wound Caliber UN-170 Manufacture with balance spring and escape wheel in silicon; 170-hour power reserve and one-minute tourbillon; bridges decorated with mother-of-pearl inlay and 108 diamonds (0.208 ct)
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: 8 pieces
Price: 88,000 Swiss francs