Simplicity is complexity
On August 25th, 2020, Ulysse Nardin unveiled their latest timepiece. A timepiece that is bound to send shockwaves throughout the watchmaking world. The Ulysse Nardin Blast comes as part of the brand’s executive collection, which features audacious timepieces that cement Ulysse Nardin’s legacy as a permanent innovator.
According to Ulysse Nardin, the Blast was created by drawing inspiration from a variety of sources. From fire and ice, magma and glaciers, violent lava eruptions and cascading ice shelves to mechanical, aeronautical marvels of fighter jets and stealth aircraft.
Just as incredible and powerful as earth and mother nature is with its wild extremities, the Ulysse Nardin Blast is comparatively a potent force in the watchmaking world. This technological wonder has a masculine design, from different shapes and sharp lines to an open-worked dial that is finished off with a tourbillon.
To encompass this latest creation, Ulysse Nardin is partnering up with Carsten Peter, a World Press Photo award winner who photographs some of the most extreme conditions on the surface of the Earth. His thirst for daunting and dangerous adventure to capture some of the most incredible photos has taken him to places many would dare not go; into tornadoes, over glaciers, and as close as possible to the intense heat of volcanoes.
Carsten Peter has several innovative techniques up his sleeve so that he can bring these extreme conditions to life through his photography for the world to see. Carsten Peter fits Ulysse Nardin’s ideologies and embodies the brand’s spirit. His work of chasing the extremes portray the source of inspirational creation used for the Ulysse Nardin Blast quite nicely.
The Ulysse Nardin Blast comes available in four different materials, distinctive to the case and dial. All four models come in a 45mm case size. The materials and colour choices for the models were chosen to represent the extreme conditions Earth has to offer (fire and ice), along with a precious metal that genuinely makes the timepiece a work of art.
The first variant of the Ulysse Nardin is available as an “ICE: White Blast”. The White Blast has a white ceramic casing with titanium being used for the bezel. The White Blast model also has touches of blue to be reminiscent of frozen lakes and glaciers. The aesthetics of this watch is so vivid that it immediately makes you think of snowy or cold conditions and sends shivers down your spine when you look at it.
An iconic model to this line, the “FIRE: Black Blast” has almost a stealth look, with touches of red completing a look representing a volcano. Volcanos in images are shown mostly as dark mountain tops with red and orange lava, which this watch comes very close to capturing. The Black Blast model features a ceramic upper-middle case and bezel with red X pattern and an all-new beautiful red balance wheel.
The third variation is the Ulysse Nardin “ICE: Blue Blast”. Representative of icebergs, the Blue Blast features a full titanium case and bezel. The openwork dial also has blue features such as the tourbillon cage, double ‘X’ pattern and the rectangular bridge.
We had the privilege of getting our hands on the fourth variation; the Fire – Rose Gold Blast prior to its official release. Forged from one of the most precious metals on Earth, the Rose Gold Blast has a DLC middle case with black ceramic bezel. The 45mm casing in all variants have a unique shape, with chamfered edges that make it known from the get-go; this is no ordinary timepiece. On the rose gold casing, these sharp lines are more prominent, adding to the whole masculine, refined look of the timepiece.
The lugs or “horns” of the watch have taken inspiration from stealth fighters. The designers at Ulysse Nardin have restyled and rebuilt the horns to make them stronger and geometric like the sharp wings of a stealth aircraft. The triangular patterns that make up the horns have different finishing. On the Rose Gold Blast, this alternates from polished to laser satinated finish.
The crown on the Ulysse Nardin Blast is beautifully created with the brand’s logo being carefully crafted onto the face. To wind the Ulysse Nardin Blast completely, you need to do 60 complete crown turns. This equates to roughly 12 turns per day (24hr period).
On the other side of the watch case, there is a screwed-on plaque in rose gold. The plaque has a unique inscription which is each model’s serial number.
The Ulysse Nardin Blast features an openwork dial, based on the brand’s Executive collection models. To see similar design watches in Ulysse Nardin’s Executive collection, WatchAdvice recently did a review on the brand’s Skeleton X watch, which you can find here.
Ulysse Nardin has used the “shape-within-shape-within-shape” geometry design that is a signature design in the brands Executive Collection. The circular case encloses the rectangular bridge which connects onto the “X”. The “X” is iconic to Ulysse Nardin and their timepieces, with it featuring in FREAK X, SKELETON X and DIVER X. On the Rose Gold Blast, the “X” is black along with the rectangular bridge. This makes it clearly stand out in the openwork dial among the rose gold hour indexes, inner movement and grey plates connecting onto the hour and minute hands.
Rose Gold has been used quite a bit throughout the dial from the hour indexes to the hour and minute hands, to the “outer ring” of the dial. The hour and minute hands along with the hour indexes have all been set with Super-luminova, which looks superb when lit on the skeleton dial.
There are two notable features on the Ulysse Nardin Blast. First, is the bi-colour silicium tourbillon at 6 o’clock, which has a cage that is a mixture of rose gold finish and black PVD. This automatic 60-sec flying tourbillon fits in nicely with the skeleton movement.
The second feature which may not be picked up straight away is the micro-rotor placed at 12 o’clock. This is one of my favourite features of this watch. This is the first time Ulysse Nardin has introduced a micro-rotor in their timepieces. The micro-rotor is made from platinum and also has mono-directional winding.
The intricate details of the micro-rotor don’t stop there. Taking a closer look at the micro-rotor itself and you will see that there are coordinates engraved into it; 06 45 12 8 E and 47 03 36.2 N. If you took a chance and said that these were the coordinates for Ulysse Nardin’s Manufacture location, then you guessed correctly!
The beauty of this micro-rotor is that, what is normally placed on the back and seen through the open case back can now be seen straight from the dial. To see the rotor working firsthand without needing to turn the timepiece over is a well thought out feature. This also opens the dial more, making the watch see-through. The case back of the Ulysse Nardin Blast is nearly as beautiful as the front. You can still see the rotor and tourbillon from the case-back along with the rest of the gears and mechanisms. The prominent feature of the case back is, of course, the “X”, now donned in full Rose Gold.
The Ulysse Nardin Blast comes in three different strap variations. Firstly, we have the structured black rubber strap that is well suited to the Rose Gold model. Next, we have an alligator leather strap, which makes the watch appear more detailed and dressier due to its finish. Thirdly, we have the exclusive velvet strap. This velvet strap is only available on the rose gold version and rightly so. It’s a unique strap option, one that adds a level of luxury to the watch and more exclusive particularly when paired with a watch with precious metal.
The self-deploying buckle used on these straps is indeed genius and very handy. On either of the straps, the buckle can be released effortlessly with just one click. Ulysse Nardin has used a new patented 3-blade system which opens in a synchronised manner as it snaps open. The flexibility of wearing this strap compared to a traditional leather strap is immense. Instead of having to adjust the pin every time the watch is worn or taken off, the strap can be set to one setting for a snug fit (or loose depending on personal preference) and easily taken on and off with just the push of a button! The finishing detail on the buckle itself is detailed too. Just like the lugs on the Ulysse Nardin Blast, the rose gold buckle has different finishing, varying from polished to satin-finish.
The Ulysse Nardin Blast is run by the Swiss brand’s recently created in-house UN-172 movement. The UN-172 movement is a new manufacture Caliber with an automatic tourbillon and micro-rotor. The UN-172 movement features an escapement wheel, anchor and balance spring all made from silicium.
Silicium was first introduced to the watchmaking world by none other than Ulysse Nardin themselves in the original Freak model back in 2001. Silicium has been used throughout Ulysse Nardin’s watches since its first inception due to antimagnetic and corrosion-resistant properties, enhanced stability to temperature variations and not requiring any lubrication.
Ulysse Nardin’s UN-172 movement has a frequency of 2.5 Hz (18, 000 vph) and a power reserve of 72 hours (3 days). The “X” on front of the dial and on the case back is used to connect and hold the movement together. A smart way of bringing design and performance together in one.
The UN-172 movement has 137 components with 25 jewels. Ulysse Nardin have turned simplicity into complexity. What looks complex on the surface, Ulysse Nardin have kept it simple with so few parts used in the movement. The UN-172 movement also has Ulysse Nardin Performance certification and is also anti-magnetic according to NIHS standards.
How does it wear?
The Ulysse Nardin Blast is quite a sight to behold when worn on the wrist. Honestly, we found this watch hard to put down when looking at it. From the skeleton movement, to the tourbillon to the micro-rotor, everything comes together nicely without over cluttering the dial to provide a stunning visual effect.
The watch might be bit too big for smaller wrists due to the 45mm case size, however the lugs are designed in a way to provide a better fit. The lug to lug length of this watch is 55mm. On a 6.5inch wrist, we initially thought it would be too big for my wrist and that the watch would stick out but was quite surprised at how the lugs tapered into to hug the wrist.
The Ulysse Nardin Blast certainly feels sporty thanks to the skeleton dial, but this doesn’t mean it won’t go well with dressy attire. Match it with the leather or velvet strap and it’ll certainly bring a level of class to any outfit. The different strap options available for the Ulysse Nardin Blast also help with the wearability of this watch as it provides versatility. Having the option of rubber strap can make it easier on those summer months, while the leather can be used for formal functions/colder months.
The velvet strap certainly adds the extra “wow” factor but can be susceptible to dust especially if you plan on wearing it regularly. Having said that we would only buy the Rose gold Blast in the velvet strap, this combination just works, its like rose gold and velvet are meant to be together. The velvet strap feels ultra-luxurious and lusciously black that cannot be matched by either the rubber or the leather straps.
Taking the watch on/off is super easy too, thanks to the newly developed deployant buckle, just one press on the side pushers and the whole clasp effortlessly opens.
At times we all get lazy and avoid winding a watch. Instead, we just give the watch a couple of quick shakes, set the time and off we go. But, that is not the case here. Even though this is an automatic watch, you would want to take your time to wind it every chance you get. Why, you ask? Well, since the Micro-rotor is visible on the dial rather than on the case-back, when you wind the Ulysse Nardin Blast, you get to see the gears move and the micro-rotor just come alive spinning at full speed. It’s hard to think of another watch that brings this much joy when you wind it.
Overall, it was an absolute pleasure to try and review this watch. It’s visually striking, simple yet complex and captivating. Ulysse Nardin has always challenged the norm and this watch is a prime example of that.
We highly recommend seeing this watch in person if possible. You can find the retailers here
Ulysse Nardin Rose Gold Blast Specification:
Model Reference: T-1725-400/02
Case Diameter: 45mm
Dial: Openworked Skeleton showcasing Tourbillon at 6 o’clock and a Micro-rotor at 12 o’clock
Case: Rose Gold, Sapphire crystal on case-back
Functions: Tourbillon, hours and minutes
Movement: Caliber UN-172
Power Reserve: 72 hours
Water Resistance: 5 ATM / 50 meters