It has been an incredibly busy year for Swiss watch brand Ulysse Nardin, which is the Official Timekeeper of the Vendée Globe single-man sailing race around the world that officially kicked off on November 8, 2020. The brand has roots that date back to marine chronometers and has long created watches for the military, as well as for adventurers and explorers.
This year, with COVID-19 wreaking havoc on most watch brands’ production, Ulysse Nardin has spread its proverbial wings and dives into a host of arenas that celebrate our Earth and its sustainability. In addition to timing the Vendee Globe sailing event (which can take months to complete), the brand has embarked on programs to tag and research sharks, released a fully recycled watch strap, and releases a sustainable concept dive watch that is recycled and recyclable.
Ulysse Nardin Official Timekeeper of Vendee Globe
Easily one of the most strenuous and scary sailing events of all time, Vendée Globe witnesses adventurers from around the world, as they come together in Les Sables d’ Olonne to take off into parts unknown. In fact, each of the 30 participants will sail alone, unassisted in any way and without any stops, around the world. They will circumnavigate 21,638 nautical miles – spending anywhere from 60 to perhaps even 90 days fighting their way around the most treacherous seas.
After rounding the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn – their fate is sealed. There is no going back, only going forward into 50-foot waves, incredible icy squalls, and more as they fight to continue their journey alone. For many, this is an introspective search as much as a will to conquer. Of the 167 skippers who have attempted the Vendée Globe since 1968, fewer than 90 have made it to the finish. Some have perished.
Even this year, some may not make it back. If they do, and they share their stories — like Ulysse Nardin brand ambassador Sebastien Destremau shared in his book Alone in the World after competing in the race four years ago (coming in almost last after racing 124 days) – the harrowing tales will leave everyone wondering what drives these people to compete in this challenge.
So, then, why would Ulysse Nardin opt to become the Official Timekeeper of such a dangerous race? Because the seas are in the brand’s DNA, as is the goal of conquering challenges and achieving perfection. Ulysse Nardin has even created dive watches worthy of the adventure. Brand ambassador Destremau is wearing the Diver X Antarctica, Cape Horn and Nemo Point watches with the serial number 124 (the number of days he was at sea the last time) on each. Ambassador Benjamin Dutreux will be wearing the Diver Cape Horn watch. Throughout the coming months, all eyes will be on this incredible journey of perfection, perseverance, and conquest.
Ulysse Nardin Dives Into Recycled Watches with the Diver Net
This month, too, Ulysse Nardin introduces the new recycled and recyclable Diver Net watch. The timepiece boasts the brand’s R-Strap that was unveiled in October 2020 and that is made entirely of fishing nets. The R-Strap, which can be used in several of the brand’s collections, was a revolution in and of itself. However, now Ulysse Nardin goes a step further, unveiling the concept Diver Net watch – the entire case of which is made from recycled PET plastic bottles and the trim and bezel of which are made from recycled fishing nets.
For this incredible creation, Ulysse Nardin turned to French company Fil & Fab (founded by three designers who created this first fishing net recycle center in France). The company recovers nets that are no longer in use and transports them to their workshops where they are sorted by color and material and ultimately are transformed into polyamide pellets. The pellets are highly resistant to friction and can be used for a host of purposes.
It was not enough, though, for Ulysse Nardin to use recycled bottles for the case, and recycled fishing nets for the bezel, the brand also wanted to use innovative materials for other parts of the watch. For instance, instead of using a traditional sapphire crystal for the watch crystal, Ulysse Nardin turned to transparent ceramic glass that is made in the Jura Mountains. The creation of the ceramic glass uses less energy in the manufacture than traditional sapphire glass.
The 44mm watch is powered by Ulysse Nardin’s UN-118 movement. The hour markers and hands feature an acid-green Super-LumiNova for easy reading underwater or in the dark. The green color carries over onto the dial, bezel, crown protector, and strap stitching. The watch, which is a concept watch, for now, will go into serial production sometime in 2021.
Ulysse Nardin and Shark Research
From sponsoring events that parallel its DNA to creating innovative watches that resonate with today’s issues and concerns, Ulysse Nardin continues to be true to its story. With so much commitment to the oceans, its strength, and its preservation, Ulysse Nardin also turns its attentions to its very own mascot: sharks.
In fact, the brand recently began a project that enables it to help tag and track sharks in the Atlantic Ocean. By teaming with Ocearch, the brand hopes to support the study of great white sharks by capturing them as un-invasively as possible in their own environment, studying and tagging them while onboard the ship’s water compartments, and releasing them back into the ocean. The information collected on the expeditions is studied for its medical values and other potentials and is shared with collaborating institutions.
Roberta Naas is a veteran watch and jewelry journalist who began her career in the early 1980’s, and was the first female watch journalist in the United States. She is the editor and founder of the authoritative watch blog, ATimelyPerspective, has written six books on watches, writes for numerous consumer publications (including Forbes and Elite Traveler) – and always brings forth in her work the essence of what makes watches tick. She tirelessly travels the world in search of watch news and stories that she turns into compelling and enlightening articles.