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Ulysses Nardin Executive Tourbillon

Ulysse Nardin's Executive Tourbillon Free Wheel wristwatch delivers a touch of magic with a movement that looks like it was designed by Harry Houdini. Under a newly developed box-domed sapphire crystal, the Free Wheel's gear sets can be seen working together despite the fact that they don't appear to be connected in any way.

Once upon a time, watches and other timepieces had something of the aura of wizardry about them. In its heyday, a mechanical watch was the bleeding edge of technology and the knowledge and skills required to make them were on a par with the most advanced computer scientist or genetic engineer of today.

You can recapture some sense of that if you observe an expert watchmaker assembling a wristwatch. As the loupe flashes and the tweezers and tiny screwdrivers move back and forth with shocking speed and ease, you can't help but feel like someone in a school dissection class witnessing someone reassemble a frog.

It's this awareness of just how daunting a watch's workings are that is key to the Ulysse Nardin Executive Tourbillon Free Wheel's appeal. Like many skeleton watches, the workings are seemingly laid bare, but instead of a logical progression of gears and springs, the components of the Free Wheel seem to float in space and work together by some form of inanimate telekinesis.

This is achieved by essentially making the movement upside down. While the tourbillon, escapement and display are all visible, the connecting bits of the mechanism are hidden beneath the dial. Perversely, the reverse has a sapphire crystal, but it's opaque, so you still can't see exactly how the gear sets are linked together – heightening the illusion.

In a way, this is rather a pity because it detracts from the in-house manual UN-176 caliber providing the mechanical movement of the watch. Its Ulysse Anchor Escapement uses elastic flat springs to run a constant force escapement made out of silicon and features a circular frame with a pallet fork that is frictionless. The pallet fork is fixed in the center and is supported by two minuscule blade springs. This subjects them to a bending force that keeps them in a bistable state and maintains oscillations of the balance wheel at a constant rate without torque variation from the mainspring.

All of this is set in a choice of 44-mm cases available in 18-ct rose gold with slate dial or 18-ct white gold with black grid dial. This, along with the screw-down security crown give it a water resistance of 30 m (100 ft) and it's secured by a carbon leather matte alligator strap.

The Ulysses Nardin Executive Tourbillon Free Wheel is available for US$99,000.

Source: Ulysses Nardin

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