Blazing a path into the Manufacture’s bright future
Six years into the new millennium and 23 years after he guided Ulysse Nardin into the upper echelons of high watch making, you would think that Rolf Schnyder would be content to rest. The idea of resting is simply not part of Schnyder’s genetic blueprint. His desire to reach new levels of performance, his relentless search for new answers to ancient questions and his perennial passion for advancement billow the creative sails of Ulysse Nardin and propel it through the deep sea of human imagination towards its destiny as one of horology’s brightest one.
While Ulysse Nardin already dazzled us with high complications that challenge our intellects and strike a resounding emotional chord, in 2006, on the year of the Manufacture’s 160th anniversary, the curtain lifts on Ulysse Nardin’s first totally in-house conceived and executed self-winding base caliber. Moreover, this movement, like a comet blazing across the night sky, points the way forward for Ulysse Nardin.
At first look, it is a self-winding caliber with big date in a double window with a quick set corrector in either direction, a small second on the second wheel and a fifty-hour power reserve.
Not all small seconds indicators are created equal. Visually, the Caliber 160 features a small seconds indicator similar to that used in the Marine Chronometers which initially garnered the Manufacture its repute. Yet this indicator also expresses the Manufacture’s focus on functional movement design. In the new movement, this small seconds indicator is ‘direct drive’. This translates into zero loss of precision for this indication. In addition, the Caliber 160 is a hack seconds movement, meaning that the balance wheel is stopped when the crown of the watch is pulled out to set the hands. This allows the hands to be set precisely without having to compensate for a continually-running seconds hand.
A special heart – the Dual Ulysse Escapement
The Dual Ulysse escapement that was introduced in the Freak 28’800 V/h occupies the nerve center of the new Caliber 160 and provides it with a critical advantage over all other watch calibers: this micro mechanical marvel requires no lubrication and all but eliminates the sliding friction that is the downfall of the traditional Swiss lever escapement.
The Dual Ulysse Escapement has 2 wheels, allowing natural force transmission: the force and the move have the same direction, alternatively clockwise with the first wheel and counter-clockwise with the second.
The wheels have 18 active teeth, guaranteeing a good energy transmission to the oscillator. No lubrication is required - the transmission is made through a “gear like” mechanism. The impulse is given to an alternator which passes it further to the impulse pin. This alternator is a gear which turns alternatively in one direction and then the opposite direction. The innovative principle of the Dual Ulysse Escapement permits a dramatic reduction of the lift angle from the usual 50-52 degrees (Swiss Anchor) down to approximately 30 degrees. The lift angle is the arc run by the balance between its first contact with the escapement and its last contact. The shorter the arc is, the lower is the disturbance of the natural oscillation of the balance.
On the subject of materials: the Caliber 160 will utilize escape wheels made from nickel phosphorous. Because it has two escape wheels instead of one wheel (as in the Swiss lever escapement), the mass of these wheels must be radically reduced so that the power supply to the escapement does not have to increase. To accomplish this, Ulysse Nardin turned to LIGA technology, a special technique involving photolithography and electro-plating to literally build these escape wheels from nickel phosphorous from the etchings created during lithography.
This results in wheels that have incredibly intricate profiles including hollow teeth. By designing the wheels this way, one can create extremely light components even from a material like nickel that is not innately light. While nickel phosphorous is heavy at nine grams per cubic centimeter (as opposed to steel’s 7.8 grams per cubic centimeter), the radical skeletonization process allowed by LIGA technology makes the Caliber 160’s escape wheels virtually weightless.
Officially Certified Chronometer (COSC)
As a testimony to the Manufacture’s deep belief in the efficiency and precision of its new movement, every Caliber 160 is COSC tested and certified.
Despite having a built-in anti-shock device, the balance wheel of the movement is fixed to a full bridge that is anchored on both sides in the Caliber 160. Using this design rather than that of a balance cock provides even greater security and stability to this fine regulating organism even when the watch receives a major shock.
On the subject of the regulating organ, when you pull out the crown and the hack seconds feature stops it in mid flight, you can see that the Caliber 160’s balance wheel which is built completely in-house by Ulysse Nardin. It is adjusted for accuracy using four inertia screws that are recessed into its rim so as not to create aerodynamic turbulence once the balance is at its running speed of 28,800 vibrations per hour or 4 Hertz. It is important to note that save for the hairspring all the other parts of the balance are also made by Ulysse Nardin.
A revolution in movement architecture waits in the wings
The vital statistics of the groundbreaking Caliber 160 are appealing. The caliber boasts a mighty 50-hour power reserve which will be contained inside a single barrel. In the same way that it has done away with lubrication for its escape wheels, the Manufacture has also banished lubrication for the rotor assembly by utilizing ceramic ball bearings for the bearing race.
Anniversary 160 Limited Edition
The Caliber 160 is a fitting milestone for Ulysse Nardin’s Anniversary 160. Its focus on innovation and function combined with creativity has come to represent what Ulysse Nardin is about. It is the bridge between the past and what now looks like the vast limitless future. Anniversary 160 that will have as its engine the first examples of the Caliber 160 will be released in 2006 in two series of 500 watches.
Text and pics (c) Ulysse Nardin