Watches: Ulysse Nardin Skeleton Tourbillon Manufacture

By Thierry Ané on December 11, 2013

This year at Baselworld, Ulysse Nardin revealed its very first wristwatch with an exclusive skeleton calibre, the UN-170, entirely developed and manufactured in-house.

There is no denying the amount of extraordinary skills necessary to create a skeleton watch. This century-old art is only mastered by a handful of talented watchmakers. The trimming away of any non-essential metal on the bridge, plate, wheel train or any other mechanical part of the watch usually comes with meticulous engraving. For me, however, these classical decorations take away the simplicity of the piece and give it a baroque style that I don’t really like.

Recently, a few brands have instilled a modern approach to this refined art and have presented extremely contemporary skeleton watches that share very few aesthetic traits with their predecessors. Let me mention the beautiful Altiplano Skeleton Ultra-Thin by Piaget from this year or else Harry Winston’s stunning Midnight Skeleton introduced in 2012 in white gold or in rose gold. Thanks to such beauties, I am now reconciled with skeleton timepieces and let me tell you that it is certainly not the two splendid models presented by Ulysse Nardin this year that will weaken this newly-found appreciation of skeletonising.

The Skeleton Tourbillon Manufacture is available in two limited editions: 99 pieces in platinum and 99 pieces in red gold. Inside beats the UN-170 calibre that has been developed especially for these two 44 mm watches. Its unusual architecture enhances the overall interest of the skeletonising technique and plays on the effect of symmetry. Located at 12 o’clock, the barrel lies beneath a ratchet wheel engraved with the brand name, insignia, and the power reserve. At the opposite 6 o’clock position, the engineers placed the tourbillon escapement to create this symmetric design. The red gold version features rhodium-plated train wheels, while the train wheels of the platinum model are finished with a straw-coloured yellow gold.

What I truly love on both models is the presence of several contrasting colours that are quite unusual on a high-end watch but bring an extremely modern feel to these magnificent timepieces. The blued hands with a gently curved leaf shape are hollowed at the tip. Their colour complements nicely the azure tone of the silicon balance spring. The reddish rubies are echoed by the purple escapement wheel also crafted in silicon.

Both models are secured by a pin buckle in the same material as the case. The platinum version is fitted with a black alligator strap, while the red gold model features a brown alligator strap.

These are extremely fine timepieces, executed with the utmost care and attention to details. The red gold model retails at € 54,700 and the platinum version costs € 63,900. Given that it is a manufacture movement with a tourbillon escapement and an extremely good-looking contemporary skeletonising, I believe that both models are more than fairly priced and represent an excellent investment.