This year, Ulysse Nardin has closely interlinked the development of its concept watch with the very cause supported by Only Watch: research into neurodegenerative diseases, such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
REHAssist, an EPFL research group affiliated with the Biorobotics and the Translational Neural Engineering labs has developed the world’s best-adapted exoskeleton for people with degenerative muscular diseases: Autonomyo. This orthotic tool, when worn, imitates the human skeleton and detects the intended movement (flexion, extension and abduction of the legs), allowing the wearer to walk.
Alongside this development, as part of its support for the 2019 Only Watch charity auction, Swiss watchmaker Ulysse Nardin designed the unique piece, EXO-Skeleton X.This “skeleton” watch—which lays bare the entire gear train through a sapphire crystal—is completed by an “exoskeleton” formed from four flexible blades fixed to the case to drastically improve comfort of wear. Watchmaking and biorobotic skeletons have the same aim in mind: to further re-search into muscular dystrophy while offering more autonomy until more therapies are available.
Ulysse Nardin is donating a unique timepiece, the EXO-SKELETON X, to the world-renowned auction, which is being held for the eighth time this year. Ulysse Nardin’s Only Watch piece is one of the timepieces given by some fifty watchmaking brands intended to raise funds for research into Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
Neuromuscular diseases are degenerative and unfortunately remain incurable to this day. They are characterized in particular by a major loss of muscular function, which results in the deterioration of everyday activities, notably walking. The early 21st century has been marked by the advent of technologies that have allowed the creation of motorized orthotic systems—more commonly known as exoskeletons. Incredibly, the initial developments of these devices have succeeded in allowing paraplegic people to walk once again, thanks to the equipment.
AUTONOMYO is an exoskeleton that meets multiple challenges. In order to allow total freedom of movement, it features 6 motorized axes at the hips and knees, as well as 6 passive axes at the ankles. The exoskeleton allows the user to make complex movements far beyond a robotic walk. The AUTONOMYO team is also working on the concepts of intention detection and balance augmentation, which allow a symbiosis of the movement assisted by the device as well as an increased level of security. Multiple sensors for movement, force and inertia are processed about 500 times a second with advanced algorithms in order to meet these challenges. The exoskeleton currently weighs 25 kg (55 lb) self-standing, which means that the user does not feel the device’s weight at all. It can also be adjusted for heights from 160 cm (63 in) to 200 cm (79 in).
The EXO-SKELETON X is a direct reference to these futuristic motorized devices in general, and AUTO-NOMYO in particular. By developing this exceptional piece and incorporating a “watchmaking exoskeleton”, the Ulysse Nardin teams wanted to show the sufferers of this disease their full support.
The SKELETON X, launched at SIHH in January 2019, sports a carapace giving it a bionic look and accentuating its ergonomic design. The flexible double blade is attached with two screws, one on the case and the other on the lug, enhancing the flexibility of the piece by allowing some movement between the lug bar and the case. The piece features an easily adjustable, non-integrated strap which accentuates its ergonomic features. This textile strap evokes the supple straps of medical exoskeletons, designed to be an optimal fit for the wrist. Featuring an anthracite gray PVD bezel, splashes of orange Super-LumiNova on the indexes and hands further enhance the appeal of the timepiece. In place of the dial, a white design inside the rectangle represents a molecular structure, a nod to the medical purpose behind Only Watch.
Measuring a relatively small 42 mm, the sharp lines of the EXO-SKELETON X case are unambiguously on-trend. Its shape-within-a-shape geometry – an X formed by four indexes positioned behind a rectangle and within a circle – delights the eye. Inside and clearly visible beats one of the FREAK VISION’s greatest innova-tions, at the heart of this manufacture caliber UN-371: a super-light balance wheel in silicon, extra-wide, with nickel flyweights and stabilizing micro-blades.
Under the patronage of H.R.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco, the Only Watch auction was established by the Monegasque Association against Muscular Dystrophy (AMM). This eagerly awaited biennial event will premiere in Monaco as part of the Yacht Show which has been sponsored by the brand for 11 years. The event aims to raise money for research into muscular dystrophy, including Duchenne. Duchenne muscular dystrophy affects around one in 3,000 boys at birth and causes progressive degeneration of all the muscles in the body.
Only Watch brings together unique timepieces from luxury watch brands. Since 2005, some 40 million Swiss francs have been raised for this cause thanks to the watches donated by around fifty brands. The 2019 Collection will be showcased at a host of diverse events across the globe, with the first stop at the Monaco Yacht Show from September 25 to 28. Its journey will then take it to Dubai, Paris, London, New York, Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taipei, finally reaching Four Seasons Hôtel des Bergues in Geneva on November 9, where it will come under the hammer of the auction house Christie’s.
Skeleton manufacture movement
Wide-diameter 3Hz silicon balance wheel with nickel flyweights
Power reserve: 96 hours
Titanium/anthracite gray PVD
Diameter: 42 mm
Water resistance: 50 m
Anthracite gray textile, orange stitching, anthracite gray PVD titanium pin buckle