Dang and Blast! CEO of Ulysse Nardin Patrick Pruniaux
The eternal struggle in the world of Swiss watchmaking is the battle brands have when balancing innovation and heritage.
Most brands will either try to persuade you that while they continue to push the boundaries of watchmaking in the 21st century, they are all still grounded in the time-honoured principles established centuries ago, or vice versa.
In general, the more heritage a brand can justify to have, the more kudos it can claim. Although, too much reliance on heritage and not enough innovation can leave it seeming out of touch with the needs of contemporary customers. So how does one manage this tricky balancing act?
“Authenticity – that is the key thing people want from brands today,” says Patrick Pruniaux, the CEO of Ulysse Nardin. “I am cautious when I use that word, because everyone uses it all the time, but I really believe that is what we deliver as a watchmaker.”
On the heritage-innovation matrix, Ulysse Nardin scores pretty highly. The brand can trace its history back to 1860, when the original Mr. Nardin began making precision chronometers for sea-faring boats. While today the manufacturer is one of the leading producers of Tourbillon complications in the world. In terms of innovation, Ulysse Nardin made a big splash in 2001 when it introduced the world to a completely new type of watch, The Freak – a collection so removed from its contemporaries that The New York Times would later dub it as one of the 10 modern watches that reshaped the industry.
“When we released The Freak, it was a revolution. We showed that watches could be more playful, but with a complex movement and a super bold design,” he says. “I think we have carried on that spirit with this brand new collection the Blast.”
The Blast is Ulysee Nardin’s latest attempted disruption of the watch industry. Certainly on the innovation side of the scale, the brand new line is an evolution of the company’s successful Executive Collection – sharing its skeletonized hallmarks and design elements including the 3-horned strap fixing and ‘big square’, but the main selling point is how it uses its tourbillon.
“When we create a new collection we always ask ourselves ‘why should it exist?’. If the answer is ‘because we’ve identified a business opportunity, then that is fundamentally wrong,” says Pruniaux. “The reason the Blast exists, is because it carries the idea of how to carry a tourbillon in a very contemporary and modern way. Most tourbillon watches on the market are not made to be worn every day, and I believe a piece express who you are, so it should be able to stay on your wrist all the time regardless of what you do or where you are.”
Aesthetically, the Blast is very masculine. Its shape-within-a-shape-within-a-shape geometry is striking as the “X” and framed rectangle are prominently displayed within the circular case.
The 45mm piece is made from titanium with a PVD/DLC coating, and the caliber UN-172 movement is powered by an automatic, open-worked skeleton tourbillon with a micro-rotor – which gives it a three-day power reserve.
There is no doubt that this is a top piece of modern watchmaking, and Pruniaux will openly admit that you’re unlikely choose an Ulysse Nardin piece as your first watch purchase. It is a brand for someone who knows about watchmaking.
“People may not know the brand at first, but they get attracted by the aesthetics of a product. Only then do they delve deeper into the history of the brand – and it is the authenticity that keeps them there,” says Pruniaux. True to his word, when it comes to his belief about authenticity.
“I really believe a brand has a ‘soul’,” says Pruniaux, “and the soul of this company is first and foremost to be a technical company that specialized in marine instruments, but one that tries to innovate within every generation.”
Blast, by Ulysse Nardin is available from AED182,500
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