In 1846, at the age of 23, Ulysse Nardin founded his eponymous watchmaking brand in LeLocle, Switzerland. He apprenticed under Abraham-Louis Breguet, one of the most renowned horologists of his time. After completing his apprenticeship, Nardin set up his own workshop.
The Ulysse Nardin Story
A gifted craftsman, Nardin’s early success was due in no small part to the high quality and innovative nature of his timepieces. In 1860, for example, he patented a revolutionary system for producing precision balance wheels – a key component of all mechanical watches. The brand is known for its innovative designs and use of cutting-edge technology. Ulysse Nardin has a long history of producing high-quality timepieces, and this tradition continues to this day.
Nardin’s son Paul took over the business after his father’s death in 1865. Under Paul’s leadership, the company continued to produce exquisite timepieces. In 1867, Paul designed a marine chronometer that was used on several ships, including the ill-fated Titanic.
Over the following decades, the Ulysse Nardin brand continued to go from strength to strength. In 1876, it received the coveted ‘Gold Medal’ at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition; and in 1889 it was awarded a ‘Grand Prix’ at the Paris World Fair.
The early 20th century was a particularly fruitful period for Ulysse Nardin. In 1900, it released its first marine chronometer – an essential tool for navigation at sea; and in 1912 it unveiled its now-famous ‘Annual Calendar’ mechanism (one of only a handful of complications ever produced by the company).
But it was perhaps during World War II that Ulysse Nardin made its biggest mark on history. Like many Swiss watch brands, the company was commissioned to produce timepieces for the Allied forces; but unlike other brands, Ulysse Nardin also supplied instruments to both sides of the conflict. As a result, its products can be found in some of the world’s most prestigious museums – including London’s Imperial War Museum and New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
In 1983, Swiss businessman Rene Baumeister purchased Ulysse Nardin from Paul’s descendants. Baumeister hired German watchmaker Ludwig Oechslin to create new designs for the brand. Oechslin introduced a number of innovative technologies that are still used by Ulysse Nardin today.
In recent years, Ulysses Nardin has continued to innovate with new technologies and Materials while still paying homage to its rich heritage – as exemplified by its flagship ‘Freak’ model which features elements from across the brand’s 175-year history. Today the Swiss watchmaker is widely regarded as one of the finest purveyors of haute horlogerie in the world.