Ulysse Nardin UFO Clock: Not Your Typical UFO Sighting, But It Quite Literally ROCKS!

The world can be a mysterious place to live, especially when you see things you can’t explain. Some of you may be thinking of cryptids like the Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot, paranormal ideas like the Bermuda Triangle or Hollow Earth, or even urban legends like the men in black or the (urban) legendary Polybius arcade game.

Regardless of the strange things you may have heard of, one mystery is universal: the UFO.

The Unidentified Flying Object was originally the designation given to any “perceived aerial phenomenon that cannot immediately be identified or explained” per the United States Air Force study named Project Blue Book. The study took place from 1952 to 1969 and concluded both that no sightings “represent technological developments or principles beyond the range of present-day scientific knowledge” and “there has been no evidence indicating the sightings categorized as ‘unidentified’ are extraterrestrial vehicles.”

Regardless, the belief that the military and government are hiding evidence of aliens comes largely from the fact that people want to believe in life beyond earth.

The most interesting part of the discussion is that the acronym UFO does not indicate alien spacecraft but refers to any object seen in the sky that has yet to be identified. This means that most UFO sightings are later identified after investigation and no longer fit the definition since they are determined to be regular aircraft, birds, satellites, and even clouds, stars, or planets.

Yet no matter whether every sighting can be perfectly explained, there will still be more sightings and people assuming that the real explanation is extraterrestrial life. UFOs can be fun for intellectual speculation or even fantasizing about what could be out there, and in the end our cultural fascination with the mystery will remain at least until we truly are visited by extraterrestrials. In the meantime, we can have fun with the concept in a variety of ways, including plays on words.

Ulysse Nardin UFO Clock

Ulysse Nardin has done just that with a recently released table clock dubbed the UFO. In this case it stands for “Unidentified Floating Object” and was inspired by marine chronometers, the movement of the waves and tides, and, though not explicitly stated, ocean buoys that bob and rock in the currents.

The clock is a gorgeous mechanical creation and showcases the creativity of Ulysse Nardin and its willingness to push the bounds of what is expected.

Top of the Ulysse Nardin UFO Clock

Ulysse Nardin UFO

The history of Ulysse Nardin is intimately tied to the ocean and the marine chronometer, so it comes as no surprise that for its 175th anniversary Ulysse Nardin meshed its origins with the future to create an incredibly unique table clock inspired by marine chronometers. The combination of ideas led to the UFO – Unidentified Floating Object – which sports a 365-day clock with three independent time displays, power reserve indication, and a hemispherical base that allows the clock to rock without tipping over.

Ulysse Nardin UFO Clock movement

The UFO was developed in collaboration with L’Epée 1839, the popular go-to clockmaker for brands looking to do something wild in clocks. The Ulysse Nardin UFO is built vertically, with six massive barrels on the bottom with gearing stacked on top through three columns of mechanics, each one feeding into a central balance wheel that carefully releases the energy over the course of an entire year.

Ulysse Nardin UFO Clock

The time displays are independent of each other, allowing for multiple time zones if desired – or, set to the same time, as a triple-sided clock that can be read from any direction. The hemispherical base supports a hand-blown glass dome that encapsulates the clock and is a nod to historical clocks, while the mechanics inside clearly call out from the modern world.

In the center of the mechanics above the barrels is a power reserve display with three indicators, one for each clock face. The clock features a dead-beat second mechanism, which faces vertically just underneath the balance wheel.

Ulysse Nardin UFO Clock movement

Ulysse Nardin UFO: exposed mechanics

The balance wheel is a tremendous 49 millimeters in diameter, larger than most watches that Ulysse Nardin makes. This massive size keeps the balance from oscillating very quickly; it moves at a pace more in line with the ocean waves. At 0.5 Hz – or 3,600 vibrations per hour – it oscillates only once a second, meaning it could be subject to disruption from bumps. Good thing the clock rests on a hemispherical base that allows it to simply sway instead of sustaining a shock.

Inside the base is a heavy tungsten weight that both keeps it upright but also lets it wobble slowly and deliberately like a bobbing buoy in the ocean.

The sight of this gentle rocking is juxtaposed against the highly technical and complicated mechanics inside the glass dome. Like most clocks from L’Epée, the UFO’s entire mechanism is on display with most components as minimal as possible to make sure the gear train is visible.

The frame supporting the wheels is minimalist in style, but the “dials” are aesthetically related to the newer “X” details found in the Diver X, Skeleton X, and Blast models. The three-dimensional, frame-like dial is fairly complex to machine, requiring almost four hours’ worth of surfacing, totaling a day and a half for the clock’s three faces.

Romain Montero making the glass dome of the Ulysse Nardin UFO clock

The glass dome on the exterior is really what brings it all together since it is done in the most traditional way – by hand – one at a time, by Romain Montero, a young glass blower with Verre et Quartz in Neuchâtel. Each dome takes half a day and the scrap rate is high, which necessitates having to blow three times as many as needed to ensure spotless glass balls because bubbles, cracks, or deformations can easily occur during the blowing, annealing, and cutting processes.

Ulysse Nardin UFO movement

The clear glass dome and the polished, brushed, and blasted components are set off with a small set of anodized and painted components that add pops of color. The dials and power reserve disk, a few support cylinders, and some lower frame connectors all have a deep blue hue, as do a medallion on top of the balance wheel with the Ulysse Nardin anchor logo and the dead-beat second hand.

The hemispherical base is the final component receiving this treatment and is by far one of the largest aesthetic details of the UFO as well as being what gives it the unique ability to sway like the waves.

Ulysse Nardin UFO Only Watch 2021 Edition

Ulysse Nardin has made a unique edition of the UFO to be auctioned off during the 2021 Only Watch auction in Geneva on Saturday, November 6, 2021. This version is mechanically the same as the regular limited-edition UFO, but its anodized and painted components are a rich orange, the chosen corporate color palette by the Only Watch organizers (the biannual auction has a different corporate color every occurrence).

Ulysse Nardin UFO for Only Watch 2021

The deep blue becoming a bright orange really changes the feel of the UFO, making it seem a bit more sci-fi than classic and nautical, definitely a fun change for the piece unique. In addition to the color change, the small plaque that previously held the edition number now reads ONLY WATCH – in case the color changes weren’t enough to remind you this is a one-off creation.

Movement of the Ulysse Nardin UFO for Only Watch 2021

The two versions both demonstrate how fun ideas and serious mechanics don’t need to be separate and that passion around horology can lead to incredible machines. L’Epée and Ulysse Nardin created a winner with the UFO, but it isn’t a mystery as to why. People love to understand how things work and to be entertained: the UFO achieves both with the clean design of the clock structure and the clever implementation of the hemispherical base that allows the clock to sway and rock up to 120 degrees in any direction.

I’m always excited when brands switch things up and create clocks or other horological objects. Just remember not to actually take the UFO into the ocean to see if it floats because it truly does belong on your mantel at home!

While the clock is a rockin’ let me try to break it down!

  • Wowza Factor * 9.4 When a brand makes a clock like this you can’t help but stare and just say wow!
  • Late Night Lust Appeal * 94» 921.825m/s2 When being rocked gently by the waves while watching the stars from your yacht (or dingy), it’s easy to continue lusting after the UFO because you finally understand its natural environment!
  • M.G.R. * 64 A 365-day clock movement built like this with triple time zones and is the definition of a geeky movement!
  • Added-Functionitis * Mild While the ability to rock is definitely a feature, it is not an added mechanical function that displays new information, so the power reserve will have to do. Given that it has 365 days of power reserve, you won’t have to check it that often so you can opt for the children’s strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream for the peacefully long horological swelling!
  • Ouch Outline * 11.3 An Exacto blade skewered into your finger! Anyone who has used an Exacto blade, or any incredibly sharp and pointy razor blade, will know the feeling when you slip while cutting something and feel the almost surgically sharp tip enter your finger. It’s not fun. Still, I’d gladly take the jab if it meant I could also take a UFO home to put on my mantel!
  • Mermaid Moment * Rock-a-bye! If you are having trouble falling asleep just give the UFO a nudge and watch it rock back and forth. After a few moments you’ll either be sound asleep or so enamored you are thinking about great locations for the reception!
  • Awesome Total * 788 Start with the number of components in the movement (663) and add the diameter of the massive balance wheel in millimeters (49), finally add the number of UFOs that will be made between the two editions (76) for a truly seaworthy awesome total!

For more information, please visit www.ulysse-nardin.com/ufo and/or www.onlywatch.com/ulysse-nardin.

Quick Facts Ulysse Nardin UFO Table Clock
Case: 264 x 159 mm, aluminum and blown glass
Movement: manually wound Caliber UN-902, 365-day power reserve, 3,600 vph/.5 Hz, 49 mm balance wheel, six spring barrels
Functions: hours, minutes, deadbeat second in three time zones, power reserve indication
Limitation: 75 pieces
Price: $41,100

Quick Facts Ulysse Nardin UFO Table Clock Only Watch 2021 Edition
Case: 264 x 159 mm, aluminum and blown glass
Movement: manually wound Caliber UN-902, 365-day power reserve, 3,600 vph/.5 Hz, 49 mm balance wheel, six spring barrels
Functions: hours, minutes, deadbeat second in three time zones, power reserve indication
Limitation: piece unique
Auction estimate: CHF 60,000 – 80,000

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