When the visionary, Rolf Schnyder took on the revival of the Ulysse Nardin manufacture, in 1983, his mission for the brand was that, henceforth, it should always pursue the highest horological endeavors, but always with cutting edge material science and watchmaking techniques on its side.

It was, therefore, that one of the first watches to come out of Ulysse Nardin’s rebirth was one which continues to inspire three decades on. This was, of course, the Astrolabium Galileo Galilei, unveiled in 1985, that among its many other functions, was able to convey complications such as equinoctial time and the aspect of the sun and the moon in relation to each other. There was really no denying the genius of the Astrolabium Galileo Galilei, so much so that in the same year, it was entered into the Guinness Book of Records.

Astrolabium Galileo Galilei
A fine and rare white and yellow gold automatic astronomical wristwatch with astrolabe month and day indication Ref 972-22 No 054 Astrolabium Galileo Galilei circa 1995 (Image: Sotheby's)

Later in 1989, Ulysse Nardin gave us the Planetarium Copernicus followed soon by the Tellurium Johannes Kepler, in 1992. And thus, was created what we know today as the legendary Trilogy of Time — a set of three original astronomical timepieces, the likes of which had never been seen before in horology.

However, where it was the Trilogy of Time that appropriately cemented Ulysse Nardin’s revival, it was the Freak that ushered the brand into the 21st century — quite literally — when it was announced in 2001. The Freak didn’t just signal a coming of age, but a sense of unprecedented foresight.

Trilogy of Time
The Trilogy of Time: A set of three Platinum Celestial Automatic Wristwatches circa 2000 Tellerium Johannes Kepler, Astrolabium Galileo Galilei and Planetarium-Copernicus (Image: Sotheby's)

We are able to proclaim thus on behalf of the Freak, because in order to realize this otherworldly wristwatch, Ulysse Nardin had to resort to using silicium to forge its regulating organ. This feat on its own gave rise to new knowhow such as Deep Reactive-Ion Etching (DRIE) and the establishment of the company, Sigatec SA, which specializes in the production of silicium micromechanical components. Today, Sigatec doesn’t just serve Ulysse Nardin, but plenty other watchmaking brands and even the aerospace and bio-medical industries.

While those were the efforts that brought the name, Ulysse Nardin back, today the same underlying attitude can be seen in the good work that is continued on by the people at the brand’s manufacture at Le Locle and the timepieces they create, as is showcased in watches such as the Executive Skeleton Tourbillon.

Ulysse Nardin Executive Skeleton Tourbillon
Ulysse Nardin Executive Skeleton Tourbillon
Ulysse Nardin Executive Skeleton Tourbillon
Ulysse Nardin Executive Skeleton Tourbillon

The Executive Skeleton Tourbillon carries forward the vision that the brand was reborn with, that is, to always seek cutting edge material in its horological pursuits, because first you have this impressively constructed titanium case, which is reinforced using a ceramic bezel. As a result, though, the watch is a hefty 45mm piece, when you have it on the wrist it catches your sense of perception off-guard with just how light it is.

Ulysse Nardin Executive Skeleton Tourbillon
Ulysse Nardin Executive Skeleton Tourbillon

Then we come to the movement, the caliber UN-171, which is a mastery in skeleton movement architecture, with all of its gear train components in plain sight and seemingly held afloat. This is in line with the fundaments of Ulysse Nardin to always push its own watchmaking techniques.

As it is a standard for Ulysse Nardin now, the UN-171’s regulating organ — specifically its escapement wheel and balance spring — are made of silicium. This isn’t, however, just your average regulating organ at the end of a going train, rather as mentioned in its name, the Executive Skeleton Tourbillon bears a flying tourbillon.

Ulysse Nardin Executive Skeleton Tourbillon

But let’s not for a second assume that in achieving technical excellence, the Executive Skeleton Tourbillon ends up compromising on how well it wears on the wrist. There is first the fact that the watch is incredibly light, meaning that the substantial timepiece is unlikely to cause you fatigue from a prolonged time on the wrist. And just in case you do plan on wearing the watch for a bit of time, rest assure that you’re not going to have to worry about taking it off to wind the movement any time soon, thanks to the massive 170-hour power reserve engineered into the UN-171.

Although, regardless of how impressive a technical feat or just how arresting the watch is — aesthetically speaking — what the Executive Skeleton Tourbillon best exemplifies is the underlying mindset at Ulysse Nardin; the same one that has been there since the manufacture was revived, back in 1983.

Ulysse Nardin Executive Skeleton Tourbillon

Technical Specifications: Ulysse Nardin Executive Skeleton Tourbillon

Movement

Caliber UN-171 Manufacture manual-winding movement; hours and minutes; flying tourbillon; 170-hour power reserve

Case

45mm; titanium case with ceramic bezel; water-resistant to 30m

Strap

Blue leather strap with carbon structure and titanium folding clasp

Price

CHF 38,000