Disrupting the existing to innovate the new—that’s the Ulysse Nardin spirit! A name not as frequently heard as Rolex, Omega, Breitling, or Tissot but a master watchmaker in its own right and a hero in the nautical world, Ulysse Nardin’s history details everything but the ordinary. The brand identifies itself as a true explorer who lives to challenge the norms and attempt the impossible, unearth the possibilities of what can be, and lead rather than follow.
Back in time—The Ulysse Nardin History
The odyssey of excellence set sail in the year 1846 when young Ulysse Nardin ventured on his own to craft accurate marine chronometers after working as an apprentice with reputed Swiss watchmakers. His big dream in Le Locle, Switzerland, marked the beginning of a glorious watchmaking legacy.
Ulysse grew up in the mountains, but his love for the sea fuelled his passion for creating nautical instruments. In 1860, to calibrate his pocket chronometers, he acquired a high-precision astronomical regulator made by the father of Swiss watchmaking, Jacques-Frédéric Houriet. Ulysse won the Prize Medal in 1862 at the International Exhibition in London under the “complicated watches and pocket chronometers” category. Over the years, the founder would earn prestigious prizes and accolades for his inventions, thus igniting a trail of awards from his present to the promising future.
After Ulysse’s untimely demise in 1876, Paul-David Nardin took over his father’s watchmaking business and goal of creating precise seafaring instruments. Just a few years after, his pocket and marine chronometers won him a Gold Medal at the Paris Universal Exhibition. This, too, was followed by more breakthroughs, Swiss patents, and many prizes.
Rewarding the Discoveries: In 1975, Neuchâtel Observatory’s last official report had an astounding list of Ulysse Nardin’s wins.
- 4324 certificates of performance for mechanical marine chronometers (from a total of 4504 that were awarded)
- 2411 special prizes for marine chronometers (1069 being First Prizes)
- 747 First Prizes (Category: deck watches, pocket chronometers, and wristwatches)
- International Exhibition wins of 14 Grands Prix, the Prize Medal and Progress Medal, 10 Gold Medals, 2 Silver Medals, and 2 Prix d’Honneur
Rolf W. Schnyder: The Quartz crisis in the 1980s posed a threat to the presence of mechanical watches and consequently to the existence of Ulysse Nardin. But a new era was ushered in when businessman Rolf W. Schnyder bought the company in 1983. He partnered with watchmaker Dr. Ludwig Oechslin to create groundbreaking works of art, the most notable of which are: Astrolabium Galileo Galilei in 1985 (the creation added as the most functional watch in the 1989 Guinness Book of Records), Planetarium Copernicus in 1988, and Tellurium Johannes Kepler in 1922. Together, these three complex astronomical timepieces formed the famous Trilogy of Time series.
The continued inventions and devotion to the craft under Rolf’s vision powered the brand into the 21st century. The brand’s owner and president passed away in 2011. He is fondly remembered as ‘one of Haute Horlogerie’s leading lights.’
Kering: Since 2014, the Ulysse Nardin history has continued under the Watches and Jewelry division of the Kering Group. Patrick Pruniaux, who joined the group in 2017, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Nardin House and Girard-Perregaux.
Since 1846, Ulysse Nardin’s accurate marine chronometers, multi-functional watches, and navigational tools have befriended sailors, free divers, surfers, watch collectors, over 50 navies, and more. Breaking records and challenging the limits of a watch for more than 170 years now, Ulysse Nardin’s voyage into time continues with renewed vigor, the best of minds on board, and the attitude to sailing forward, searching for another first.
Coveted & Collected—Ulysse Nardin Popular watches
Meet the ocean with the Ulysse Nardin Marine. A fitting tribute to the House’s roots, the Marine is aptly named and armed to bring value and refined appeal. The collection includes Marine Torpilleur, Marine Grand Deck, Marine Mega Yacht, Marine Regatta, and more.
Capturing artful work one dial at a time! The Ulysse Nardin Classico line blends elegance with mechanical brilliance to form classic watches one can invest in today and hold forever.
Innovatively bold! The Ulysse Nardin Executive collection of watches featuring models like Skeleton X, Dual Time, and Blast exhibits a grand union of high artistry and unique aesthetics.
Deep in time with the Ulysse Nardin Diver! Developed for explorers, the Diver collection has watches that are just as impactful on land as they are underwater.
Conceived in 2001 from the Schnyder-Oechslin partnership, this horological art brought out a revolutionary innovation: a 7-day carousel tourbillon. The iconic Ulysse Nardin Freak was also the first to use silicon (silicium) components in a mechanical watch. In 2002, it won the Innovative Prize as Watch of the Year.
It is a quest for the new, the unknown, that makes one an explorer. Whether it is a journey into an untouched forest, a mountain belt, or discovering the mysteries of the ocean, explorers today are able to forge on with the help of specially-designed tools. Ulysse Nardin contributes to this never-ending research by developing instruments that are specialized to simplify your efforts, be your guide, and take you where you want to be.
If you ever wonder what else a watch can do, remember that Ulysse Nardin has the answer!
Discover watchmaking like never before with new and pre-owned Ulysse Nardin watches at The Luxury Closet.
Also Read: The History of Audemars Piguet