Ulysse Nardin Diver Chronometer Great White Limited Edition

The Ulysse Nardin Diver Chronometer Great White Limited Edition upholds the Swiss Maison’s fascination with the sea. Angus Davies examines this remarkable diver’s watch and points out its numerous technical attributes.

In 1846, Ulysse Nardin, a 23-year-old watchmaker, founded his eponymous watch company. The Maison soon gained an impressive reputation for making exceptional pocket watches and, more pertinently, marine chronometers. It would seem that the die was cast, the Le Locle based firm would forever enjoy a close relationship with the marine world.

More recently, Ulysse Nardin has aligned itself to diving and yachting. Indeed, whether above or below the ocean’s surface, Ulysse Nardin has repeatedly strived to unite the fields of horology and marine pursuits.

The Swiss watch brand enjoys a close relationship with the Monaco Yacht Show, underscoring the company’s love of aquatic activities. In September 2018, Ulysse Nardin unveiled four new divers’ watches, each designated as a ‘chronometer’.

The four references are each presented in a different colourway, but all incorporate the same functions. While every option is housed in a 44mm case and shares the same silhouette, each reference has its own distinctive look.

Image – Diver Chronometer Blue Dial. Ref 1183-170-3/93

The standard, non-limited, Diver Chronometer is offered with a blue or black dial. A third model, the Diver Chronometer Monaco Limited Edition, is presented in a titanium and 18-carat rose gold case and features an exhibition caseback, marked with the Monégasque coat of arms. Lastly, the Ulysse Nardin Diver Chronometer Great White Limited Edition eschews the conventional tones often associated with watches intended for subaquatic use, but incorporates stunning white hues, more typical of a feminine creation. However, I must confess it is the white toned diver’s watch which appeals to me the most and is the focal point of this feature.

The dial

A prerequisite of any diver’s watch is that it confers absolute readability. Certainly on terra firma, the Ulysse Nardin Diver Chronometer Great White Limited Edition proves eminently legible.

Ulysse Nardin Diver Chronometer Great White Limited Edition

The silver-hued hour and minute hands are lined with a liberal application of luminescent coating. Each hand has a pointed tip, albeit the tip is slightly blunt. However, the centre line of each hand points to the indexes and minuterie with laser like precision, making read off user-friendly. Moreover, the minute hand kisses the white strokes of the minuterie, further heightening legibility. Bold white indexes, again featuring luminescent coating, indicate each hour.

Ulysse Nardin Diver Chronometer Great White Limited Edition

A small seconds display is positioned at 6 o’clock. It employs both blue and white tones to impart meaning. At the base of the small seconds display is a circular aperture framing the prevailing date. The date is depicted in blue against a white background and proves effortless to read. Watchmaking convention would lead one to describe the indication as a ‘small seconds display’, however, on this watch its scale is greater than the norm with the indication filling the lower hemisphere of the dial. Once again, the dial detail on this Ulysse Nardin Diver Chronometer Great White Limited Edition heightens readability.

Positioned below noon, a power-reserve indicator succinctly indicates the available energy stored within the lone spring barrel.

The epidermis of the dial is a mottled grey, with random flecks of pale grey and white enriching its appearance. The brand’s nomenclature and the words ‘Great White’ span the dial. In addition, an applied anchor, the brand’s logo, sits above the dial plane, boosting the allure of the horological vista even more. In my opinion, this is an incredibly handsome dial which surpasses the utilitarian looks of many divers’ watches.

While the three other aforementioned versions of this watch encompass different colours for their dials and cases, they share the same dial topography as the Ulysse Nardin Diver Chronometer Great White Limited Edition, a point worth noting if white is not your colour.

The case

The Ulysse Nardin Diver Chronometer Great White Limited Edition measures 44mm in diameter. While the dimensions could never be described as lilliputian, they are not too large when compared with other divers’ watches. Personally I found the size of the watch most agreeable, appreciating the timepiece’s masculine wrist presence.

Ulysse Nardin Diver Chronometer Great White Limited Edition

Despite its size, this watch is not unwieldy. This is because the case is made of titanium, an ultra lightweight metal widely used in the aerospace industry. Titanium is also known for its hypoallergenic qualities and is often used for medical applications. Its skin-friendly properties may well appeal to those would-be wearers who are allergic to nickel.

Ulysse Nardin Diver Chronometer Great White Limited Edition

The bezel is unidirectional and proves ideal for measuring the dive time. The numerals and markings are presented in relief and, along with the concave bezel profile, invite inquisitive fingers to explore the tactile delights on offer. Indeed, there is nothing perfunctory about the composition of this bezel.

Ulysse Nardin Diver Chronometer Great White Limited Edition

Manipulating the crown proved simple, courtesy of its prominent grip, however, at no point did the crown gouge or chafe my skin when the watch was affixed to my wrist. White crown protectors further contribute to the model’s overall robustness.

Unusually, Ulysse Nardin has set aside convention, equipping both versions of the non-limited Diver Chronometer with an exhibition caseback. Historically, divers’ watches were always fitted with a solid caseback, however, an increasing number of watch companies are now choosing to sidestep tradition and indulge the desires of horological voyeurs. As previously mentioned, the Diver Chronometer Monaco Limited Edition also features a pane of sapphire crystal on its dorsal flank but in this instance it is also embellished with the Monégasque coat of arms.

Image – Diver Chronometer Monaco Limited Edition. Ref 1185-170LE-3/BLACK-MON

Normally I like to be nosey and see the balance wheel oscillate to and from like a whirling dervish, however, the Ulysse Nardin Diver Chronometer Great White Limited Edition features a solid caseback incorporating a depiction of a menacing great white shark. The stamped motif cannot be felt when worn but looks spectacular once the watch is removed from the wrist and viewed at close quarters.

The watch is supplied on a white rubber strap paired with a pin buckle. Just beneath the horns, the path of the strap is interrupted with a rectangular panel of titanium. On the Ulysse Nardin Diver Chronometer Great White Limited Edition, this panel is adorned with a shark motif, however, the other models are marked with the brand’s revered name or ‘Monaco’. It is a small detail on the watch but it is the accumulation of numerous small details which makes this watch feel special.

Few owners of divers’ watches ever explore the full capabilities of their cherished timepiece. However, the Ulysse Nardin Diver Chronometer Great White Limited Edition is undeniably a genuine diver’s watch evidenced by its impressive, maximum water resistance of 300 metres.

The movement

Ulysse Nardin continues to be headquartered in its ancestral home of Le Locle. In addition, it has another facility in nearby La Chaux-de-Fonds. The Swiss brand is a ‘Manufacture’, a term which denotes that the company manufactures watches in their entirety, including the movement.

Image – Diver Chronometer Blue Dial. Ref 1183-170-3/93

At the heart of the company’s paradigm is an unwavering passion for innovation. This is manifest with the DIAMonSIL escapement and silicium hairspring fitted within this watch. Ulysse Nardin was an early adopter of silicium, a material which has subsequently been employed by others.

DIAMonSIL is made from a combination of silicium and synthetic diamond, conferring low frictional properties. By using the virtually friction-free material for the escape wheel and pallet lever, these components do not require periodic lubrication. In addition, owing to their low mass and friction-free characteristics these parts mitigate energy consumption. Furthermore, the silicium hairspring is not susceptible to corrosion or magnetic fields.

The Manufacture movement, Calibre UN-118, has a parsimonious thirst for energy and, despite the movement having just one barrel, its power reserve is a prodigious 60 hours.

Another attribute of the Calibre UN-118 movement is the fitment of a variable inertia balance.

When a balance is fitted with a regulator, a competent watchmaker can adjust the rate by increasing or decreasing the effective length of the hairspring. This type of system is fitted to the majority of mechanical watches. However, with a variable inertia balance, the length of the hairspring remains fixed. The rate is altered by adjusting timing screws fitted to the rim of the balance wheel. This changes the moment of inertia, causing the rate to increase or decrease depending on the position of the screws.

On a regulator type balance, the hairspring is positioned between two curb pins on the regulator. However, a downside of this type of system is that the curb pins slightly disturb the hairspring, impairing its ability to breathe concentrically and, by default, compromising precision. With a variable inertia balance, there are no curb pins to nip the hairspring, therefore, the concentricity of the hairspring is better, leading to superior precision.

Ulysse Nardin has also set the screws ‘in-board’, i.e. they are fitted within small recesses in the rim of the balance wheel. This design mitigates air turbulence when the balance wheel oscillates to and fro, hence aiding precision. All of these movement enhancements confer a notable degree of accuracy, manifest with the ‘chronometer’ status of the watch.

Looking through the exhibition caseback of the non-limited Diver Chronometer, one can appraise the movement execution at close quarters. The open-worked oscillating weight features straight graining, the bridges are embellished with circular Côtes de Genève motif, the bridge bevels are pleasingly polished and blued screws abound.

Closing remarks

The Ulysse Nardin Diver Chronometer Great White Limited Edition stands apart from other divers’ watches, courtesy of its white torso. This characteristic may prove off-putting to some would-be buyers, however, the Swiss brand does offer three alternative options which exhibit a more conventional persona.

Image – Diver Chronometer Black Dial. Ref 1183-170-3/92

Image – Diver Chronometer Monaco Limited Edition. Ref 1185-170LE-3/BLACK-MON

In terms of aesthetics, the Ulysse Nardin Diver Chronometer Great White Limited Edition may be a highly practical ownership proposition, however, it is not utilitarian. Quite simply, this is an attractive all-action hero.

If the wearer chooses to explore the ocean bed, this watch has a maximum water resistance of 300 metres. While few buyers of this watch will ever explore its full potential, it does proffer excellent legibility and an impressive degree of robustness, two qualities which also prove useful on dry land.

The stamped case back features a menacing depiction of a great white shark. I adore this aspect of the specification. However, beyond its handsome appearance, this watch possesses a brilliant mind, incorporating an impressive Manufacture movement, enriched with several features.

The Ulysse Nardin name has been in existence since 1846 and has always been closely aligned to the sea. It is a brand which has shrewdly employed new technologies while respecting traditional craftsmanship. The Ulysse Nardin Diver Chronometer Great White Limited Edition embodies everything that makes this Maison special while providing a new take on the ubiquitous divers’ watch. 

Personally, I appreciate the clean, unsullied characteristics of this watch and would urge all gentlemen to try it upon their wrist and venture beyond the limits of their comfort zone. This watch looks distinctive and proves an incredibly handsome companion, befitting all occasions, even those taking place in most stylish of environs.

Further reading


Technical specifications

  • Model: Ulysse Nardin Diver Chronometer Great White Limited Edition
  • Reference: 1183-170LE-3/90-GW
  • Case: Titanium; diameter 44mm; water resistance 30ATM (300 metres); sapphire crystal to the front and solid caseback
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds; date; power reserve indicator
  • Movement: Calibre UN-118; automatic movement; frequency 28,800VpH (4Hz); 50 jewels; power reserve 60 hours
  • Strap: White rubber strap with pin buckle
  • Price: CHF 8,900 (RRP as at 22.7.2019)
  • Limited Edition: 300 pieces