To celebrate its 175th anniversary, Ulysse Nardin created UFO, a table/desk clock that pays homage to the brand’s rich history in the manufacturing of marine chronometers.
With its 675 components, and triple-dialled time zones, the UFO is the futuristic interpretation of marine chronometers. The movement of the UFO is inspired by the ocean waves. The entire structure of the clock is built on an imbalance, on a gentle swing which recalls the ebb and flow of the tides, the perpetual movement of the ocean.
The secret of the balance is its blue half-spherical aluminum base, which contains a tungsten mass. The base and glass bell are joined by a bayonet mounting system, which looks similar to the old systems of marine chronometers from which the glass could be unscrewed.
Whereas marine chronometers were housed in wooden boxes and set on gimbles to counter act the effect of the ship’s constant sway, Ulysse Nardin reverses this. Here it is the object itself that makes waves when it is nudged gently. Weighing 7.2 kg, the UFO swings up to 60° from its axis – an amplitude of 120 degrees–and the engineers have accurately calculated the center of the gravity/mass/inertia ratio, which allows UFO to swing neither too fast nor too slowly and without significantly affecting the operation of the balance.
It isn’t just the UFO’s movement that is inspired by the ocean, the architecture is too. The bell under which this incredible creation is housed suggests floating black and yellow cardinal buoys – objects that also provide inspiration for the X sitting in the spine of the table clock. From above, the construction of the UFO seems almost kaleidoscopic, with its emblem, the marine anchor, dominating the heart of the rosette.
The the ovoid glass bell has been created by Romain Montero, a 26-year-old artisan glass blower who works for Verreet Quartz, a technical glass-blowing workshop located on the shores of Switzerland’s Lake Neuchâtel. He had the responsibility for handcrafting for every one of the 75 numbered limited edition UFO glass covers.
To manufacture each 3mm-thick tube, it was necessary to stretch the glass when it was still hot, for more than 45 minutes, using only the naked eye, on a traditional glass-maker’s lathe at temperatures of up to 1,500 degrees. As it is heated the glass is transformed, becomes orange, red, white and morphs through all the hues of pink. The total process takes almost half a day of work: cutting of the glass, blowing, checking the blowing and the measurements, furnace annealing, cutting again, lamination, final and visual inspection, and then cleaning.
Comprising 663 components, and with one year of power reserve supplied by its six extra-large barrels, and a balance wheel rim that reaches the spectacular diameter of 49mm, UFO displays the time on three trapezoidal dials, which are so complex it takes 28 hours to manufacture just eight of them.
Having three dials allows the owner to display three different time-zones at once, seen from three different angles. The XXL brass balance wheel beats at 0.5Hz. It maintains a power reserve of one year.
UFO comes in a wood treasure chest aged as if it been discovered washed upon a beach. In addition to the UFO, this box also contains operating instructions, warranty card and a special place for its winding key.
It takes 40 wind-up turns with a square-end stainless steel key to wind-up the mechanism for one year. Each dial has its wind-up notch, which is also used to set the time (four notches in total, one for winding up and one for each time-zone wound up using a single key).
UFO Table clock
Manually wound movement
3 time zones / Hours, minutes
Extra-large oscillator (49mm)
Frequency: 0.5 Hz /3’600 Alt/H
Power reserve: 1 year, 6 barrels
Aluminum & blown glass
Dimensions: 263 (H) x 159 (Ø) mm
Weight: 7.2 kg