Sunday, January 4, 2009

Ulysse Nardin anchors itself in the World of Horology

Brief History of the role Ulysse Nardin played in the success of Marine Chronometers.

When ships were the only way to cross the seas and the voyage was treacherous, many lost their lives simply because they became lost. On October 22, 1707, four British Men 'O War sank just off the Cornish Coast, 2000 men were lost, because they did not know their longitude.

Finding a precise timekeeping instrument was a matter of life and death.

Man's struggle to determine longitude spanning four centuries, fueled the inventions of precise timekeepers. Timepieces which lost time, lost men at sea, as they were unable to calculate their location, and wandered among invisible lines of longitude, weaving in and out of degrees.

Click here to learn about the Longitude Act of 1714

Ulysse Nardin FREAK
Through decades and decades of intense research and experimentation, and through much trials and tribulations, marine chronometers were introduced. The precision and the resilience of a marine chronometer was of the utmost importance: A life line between a sea captain and the success of his voyage. The instrument had to be precise to the half a second, if not, death and destruction to the entire ship was possible. You see, at the equator, a single second off, correlates to an error of 463 meters. 463 could mean sailing in deep waters or being ripped to shreds on jagged coastal rocks.

In 1846, a young boy of 23 years old settled in Le Locle to create his own chronometers. His name - Ulysse Nardin, and he was a technical genius. He had a wealth of experience too as he had worked under the intense guidance of Federic-William Dubois, a renowned specialist in the manufacturing of marine chronometers and astronomic watches. Although, Ulysse Nardin worked on his marine chronometers 1000 miles above sea level, his heart was at sea, and his chronometers quickly became known as an instrument to depend on. In the 1800's when industry burgeoned and goods were being moved at an increasing rate around the globe, people realized the importance of keeping their fleets safe. More and more people purchased Ulysse Nadin's marine chronometers. The instruments were shipped from Basel down the river Rhine to the toll ships which sailed across the furious seas.

As life depended on the precision of the marine chronometers, the House of Ulysse Nardin regularly submitted their Marine Chronometers to the Neuchtel and Geneva Observatories where they were subjected to rigorous testing. Each Chronometer underwent 9 tests each lasting 7 days, where they were exposed to temperatures of 36,28,20,12 and 4 degrees, then again 12, 20,28, 36 degrees. These tests were designed to examine the resiliency of the chronometers in extreme conditions such as what the chronometers may experience in the harsh realities of time spent at sea.
Ulysse Nardin's Marine Chronometers excelled at the tests and their development of such fine and precise instruments were honored with the highest possible extinction throughout the world.
With these Marine Chronometers Sea Captains could rest assured that there sea vessel remained on course and the safety of all on board could be certain. Ulysse Nardin's Chronometers were installed in over 50 navies on 5 continents. In addition the company claimed over 4300 1st prizes and 18 gold medals at world fairs and international exhibitions.

As the world becomes increasingly advanced satellites have replaced the marine chronometer, the sextant and other navigation instruments; however Ulysse Nardin's timepieces are sought after by collectors and watch lovers alike. It is no wonder that the company sports the ships anchor as their logo. It could be said that when a ship was floundering within murky misty waters off the rocky coast of Africa, a Ulysse Nardin Chronometer would anchor the vessel in a moment of precise time and the vessel would continue its secure unhindered voyage along its precise predetermined longitude.

A Marine Chronometer is not the same term used for a Chronometer today -A "chronometer" in today's term is a high-precision watch capable of displaying the seconds and housing a movement that has been tested over several days, in different positions and at different temperatures, by an official neutral body (COSC).
Each movement is individually measured. Any watch with the denomination "chronometer" is provided with a certified movement by the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres, the Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute or the C.O.S.C. All of Ulysse Nardin's Timepieces which carry the title Chronometer have been tested by the C.O.S.C and given the title of Chronometer.

Ulysse Nardin timepieces are not only incredibly precise, but exquisite. The vivid colors are the result of perfected enameling techniques. A technique which Ulysse Nardin has brought back from the brink of extinction. The subject of enameling will be discussed at a later date.

Today Ulysse Nardin is at the forefront of discovering the ultimate watch component materials able to withstand friction, magnetic fields, temperature changes, humidity, pressure changes and shocks while increasing wear resistance and decreasing the need for lubrication. Ulysse Nardin also focuses on reducing the weight of the component while increasing efficiency and power reserve. Water, Dust and Vapor resistance is also plays a major role in research.

One of its major watch component breakthroughs was the DIAMonSIL Freak, which was the first watch of its kind equipped with a synthetic nanocrystal diamond escapement grown on a silicium raw part. The watch component is a technological breakthrough to be produced in abundance as part of in-house Caliber 118.

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