Reflecting the ultimate mastery of the watchmaker’s art, Imperial Blue, a Grande Sonnerie Westminster Carillon timepiece equipped with a flying tourbillon is a horology masterpiece born as a result of painstaking work employed by talented master craftsmen of the traditional Swiss watch manufacture Ulysse Nardin.
The transparent mainplate on which the flying tourbillon floats is adorned with a blue-tinged sapphire Bridge. This exceptional timepiece houses a Sonnerie Westminster Carillon, the quintessential watch complication that rings out on four notes for every passing hour and also sounds the hours, quarter hours and minutes on demand.
While Grande Sonnerie wristwatches today are the exclusive domain of some half-dozen prestigious manufactures, the invention of this function dates back, paradoxically, to the origins of watchmaking. In around 1300, a century before most dials and hands made their appearance; the first monumental clocks were designed to “sound” the time, so they could be heard from a distance or at night. Over time, the bells on these mechanisms were made increasingly smaller, until they fitted into table-top clocks, then pocket watches.
Ulysse Nardin occupies an illustrious place in the history of Sonnerie watches. In 1893, at the Chicago World’s Fair, it was the only watchmaker to win a gold medal for its minute-repeater chronograph. A century later, Ulysse Nardin was also one of the first to revive the tradition of Jaquemart watches, with the San Marco in 1989, followed by the Genghis Khan. Now, once again, the watchmaker has retained its place in the pantheon of fine watchmaking with its Imperial Blue. Not content with the huge number of technical challenges overcome by the miniaturization of this Sonnerie mechanism, which combines a minute-repeater with the sounding of the passing hours, the Ulysse Nardin Manufacture has added a date indicator at 12 o’clock, which can be quickly adjusted using a pusher at 2 o’clock.
Energy management was undoubtedly the most difficult aspect of crafting this masterpiece. The sounding of the passing hours, as well as the hours, quarter-hours and minutes on demand is powered by the same barrel. This barrel is wound either partially by activating the repeater slide on the case middle at 9 o’clock or fully by rotating the crown counter clockwise. When rotated clockwise, the crown winds a second barrel that is dedicated to the movement, with a 50-hour power reserve. Furthermore, an ingenious system controls the level of energy available, thereby always guaranteeing a fully operating Sonnerie.
Thus, every hour, a delightful sparkling melody “Sol” rises from the watch case. However, if desired, an on-off pusher at 11 o’clock on the back of the case ensures that the mechanical masterpiece stays silent. Perhaps this allows more attention to be paid to the minute-repeater, which on the Imperial Blue features a captivating Westminster chime played on four notes. Once activated and released, the repeater slide instantly sets the hammers dancing and the gongs singing. It is an enchanting symphony, punctuated by the flying tourbillon at 6 o’clock, as if suspended in time, levitating on its sapphire plate. The delicate openwork hour and minute hands are adjusted using the crown, which also features a safety system that stops the sounding of the passing hours while the time is being corrected.
The precious white gold case measuring 46 mm in diameter offers a water resistance up to 30 meters. The Calibre UN-970, an 84 Jewels manual winding movement which ticks inside the Imperial Blue offers a power reserve of 50 hours.
The Imperial Blue will be produced in a limited edition of 20 pieces only.
Model: Imperial Blue, white gold
Limited Edition: 20 pieces
84 jewels, bridges and plate in sapphire
Power Reserve: Approx. 50 h
Winding: Manual winding
Display of the hours, minutes and date
Sonnerie Westminster Carillon
Striking of hours automatically, repeating hours, quarters, minutes on demand
Four different chimes (Mi-Do-Re-Sol)
Case, dial and strap
18 ct white gold
Diameter: 46 mm
Water-resistance: 30 m
Crystal: Anti-reflective sapphire crystal
Case-back: Sapphire crystal
Band: Leather strap, with folding buckle