Before we wore time, we heard it. Clocks chimed in the heart of every medieval city. Clocks made by brilliant craftsmen who would, through miniaturisation, create domestic clocks, and then hand-held timepieces, capable, despite their small size, to strike the passing hours. Inspired by watchmaking’s past and the possibility of moving musical timekeeping into the future, Ulysse Nardin wants you to hear time again, not read it.
The mechanics of power
It has been several years in the making but Ulysse Nardin has found a new way to make sound. Introducing the Blast Hourstriker, an innovative new striking watch that breaks barriers in sound technology.
This art of marking the time with music has always been a part of Ulysse Nardin’s technical arsenal. It was revived in the 1980s, under the impetus of Rolf Schnyder and given a new lease of life in 2019 when the Swiss Manufacture collaborated with French audio technology company Devialet on the next level of watchmaking acoustics, which was launched in the Classico Hourstriker Phantom.
This year Patrick Pruniaux, Ulysse Nardin’s CEO, has again made the choice to make sound central to the brand’s drive for more futuristic ways to reinterpret traditional watchmaking crafts.
Ordinarily, to generate the sound needed to mark the passing hours, the hammers strike a wire gong wrapped around the movement to which it is attached. The acoustic wave spreads into the middle of the mechanism and is partly absorbed by it. In these conditions, the sound heard lacks power and its harmonics are partially muffled by the material of the timepiece.
For the Blast Hourstriker, Ulysse Nardin’s team of engineers decided to set themselves two challenges:
- Make the chiming mechanism visible on the dial side.
- Further improve the quality/power output ratio. A challenge that was already started with the Classico Hourstriker Phantom watch.
To achieve these goals, Ulysse Nardin’s engineers and watchmakers developed the UN-621 caliber. In order to guarantee optimal precision of Ulysse Nardin’s first in- house automatic striking manufacture movement, it is powered by a flying tourbillon; one that is equipped with a variable-inertia balance wheel, a silicon hairspring, anchor and escape wheel. Its contemporary lines have also been made sleeker and stamped with the now iconic X associated with the brand’s latest generation of timepieces.
The most complex phase of the Blast Hourstriker’s development involved redesigning the entire kinematics of this 330-component striking caliber to allow this highly sophisticated mechanism, which is usually hidden from view, to be seen dial side.
When the striker is on, the mechanical ballet that makes the watch’s sound is visible on the hour and half hour, but even its occasional activation is just as beautiful. By pressing the button located at 10 o’clock, the mechanism, driven by a specially dedicated barrel, is triggered. The hour rack and the inertia regulator start to turn; the hammers, visible in an opening made at 12 o’clock, hit the gong whose shape has been subtly worked to bypass the cage of the flying tourbillon.
Finally, to ensure that the Blast Hourstriker’s striking mechanism acoustic performance perfectly audible, this movement incorporates a titanium membrane developed in collaboration with Devialet – the French audio technology company with whom Ulysse Nardin worked on its torsion lever used in 2019’s Classico Hourstriker Phantom; one of whose co-founders is a direct descendant of the Ulysse Nardin family.
As in the Classico Hourstriker Phantom, the torsion lever connects the heel of the gong to the fine membrane. In this construction, it is pressed against a grid to prevent it deforming in the event of extreme external pressure. This diaphragm is 3/10th of a millimeter thick and treated with black DLC, which offers a large deformation area, which, when under load, moves a large volume of air, which improves the audibility of the sound produced.
The Blast line’s signature double X cut into the rose gold caseback, also ensures the security of this sensitive Devialet membrane, which, once in action, basically acts like a hi-fi speaker – releasing and amplifying the gong’s sound.
A design tailored to break the sound barrier
An exceptional mechanism requires an exceptional case. So Ulysse Nardin decided to encase a movement inspired by the power of nature in a design inspired by a powerful man-made machine – the stealth airplane.
To truly allow the sound of the Blast Hourstriker to resonate, the distinctive 45 mm Blast case was given a black DLC titanium middle, capped with 5N 18-kt rose gold, for improved acoustics. To silence this imposing timepiece with the button located at 8 o’clock on the middle must be pressed and then the ‘On’ or ‘Off’ ” position at the tip of the function selector hand located at 8 o’clock checked.
The three straps that come with the Blast Hourstriker allow its different personalities to be explored. The black high- tech, waterproof velvet option emphasizes its aerodynamism, while the alligator brings its more sophisticated side to the fore. In addition, a rubber strap is also available for this model. Whatever you choose, remember the Blast Hourstriker is made to be heard not seen.
|Case : 45mm – Rose gold 5N Black DLC titanium Glassbox Sapphire glass|
|Dial : n/a|
|Movement : UN-621 Manufacture Caliber Automatic tourbillon Automatic Flying Tourbillon for the movement /Manual-winding for the chiming|
|Strap : Alligator / Velvet / Rubber|
|Features : Flying tourbillon, hours, minutes Skeleton movement Hour striker (hours and half hours on demand) Devialet sound amplification system 330 components / 23 jewels 4 Hz / 28,800 V/H|
|Power-reserve : 60 hours|
|Water resistance : 30 m|
|Reference : 215-400/02 (Alligator) 6215-400-3B/02 (Velvet) 6215-400-3A/02 (Rubber)|
|Price : 99’000 CHF / 91’100 EUR / 104’400 USD|
Source: Ulysse Nardin