The story of Ulysse Nardin started in 1846 when a young visionary watchmaking apprentice in Le Locle, Switzerland, decided to strike out on his own. Ulysse Nardin began by making precision marine chronometers. By the 1860s, his name was well known around the world for highly complicated watches, such as minute repeaters and pocket chronometers. The company made 3, rue du Jardin in le Locle it’s home in 1865, and Ulysse Nardin watches are still being manufactured in the same building today. Unfortunately, Ulysse Nardin died prematurely at the age of 53 years old.
The company was left in the hands of his son Paul-David Nardin, who soon won a Gold Medal at the Paris Universal Exhibition for his pocket and marine chronometers. Paul-David lived up to his father’s reputation for technical innovation. By the 1900s, he had fitted nine pocket chronometers with tourbillon escapements and was awarded three Swiss patents for his inventions. By 1975, Ulysse Nardin had 4,324 watchmaking awards, 2411 special prices for marine chronometers, of which 1069 were first prices, 14 awards, and numerous international patents.
The arrival of the quartz crisis in the 1980s took Ulysse Nardin by surprise and threatened their existence. Luckily Rolf W. Schnyder came along with a vision for a new era in Ulysse Nardin’s history. He purchased the company in 1983, convinced that Ulysse Nardin could once again become a market leader. It was a chance meeting with watchmaker Ludwig Oeschlin that was the turning point. The partnership between the two men produced the extraordinary Astrolabium Galileo Galilei timepiece, which gained Ulysse Nardin entry into the Guinness Book of World Records in 1989.
Innovation and technical breakthroughs remain part of who Ulysse Nardin is today. There are five different collections within the Ulysse Nardin brand: Marine, Diver, Freak, Executive, and Classico. The Marine collection pays tribute to Ulysse Nardin’s rich maritime history and includes timepieces such as the Marine Torpilleur, Marine Regatta, and The Marine Grand Deck. The Diver collection is as its name suggests watches for scuba diving and includes the Marine Diver, Diver X, and Lady Diver. The Freak collection is infamous for featuring the movement on the dial. The watch is wound by the case itself, foregoing the need for a crown. When anything but using the traditional materials in watchmaking was unheard of, Ulysse Nardin used silicon components in The Freak, which is common today. The Executive collection showcases exceptional timepieces such as the Tourbillon Free Wheel, Skeleton Tourbillon, and the Moonstruck. The Classico timepieces integrate the art of enameling on beautifully crafted dials. All of the dials are made in-house following the acquisition of the Swiss artisan enameller Donzé Cadrans SA in 2012.
Rolf Schnyder passed away in 2011, having left a profound impact on both Ulysse Nardin and the Swiss watchmaking industry. Ulysse Nardin is today part of the Kering’s Luxury Watches and Jewellery division.