Ulysse Nardin Torpilleur Military 44mm Bronze

The Ulysse Nardin Torpilleur Military 44mm Bronze is limited to just 300 pieces. It is housed in a bronze case and successfully combines both classical and modern elements to glorious effect. Angus Davies reviews this contemporary chronometer at close quarters.

Ulysse Nardin Torpilleur Military 44mm Bronze

Bronze timepieces burst onto the watchmaking scene a few years ago. They promised to age gracefully, acquiring a becoming green patina with the passage of time. Some brands with a naval-themed history, authentic or faux, associated their watches with an array of bronze maritime paraphernalia, including bells, sextants and diving helmets.

As time has passed, the public’s appetite for bronze watches has grown exponentially and this popularity shows no signs of waning. Indeed, several brands with no links to the maritime world have showcased bronze watches, no doubt eager to enjoy some of the commercial spoils.

There is no question that Ulysse Nardin has authentic maritime credentials. In the 19th century, the Maison was known for making marine and pocket chronometers. Indeed, such was the firm’s prowess for making marine chronometers that it supplied numerous navies and shipping companies. The luxury marque was synonymous with making highly precise instruments, an essential requirement for safe navigation of the seas. It is this overriding obsession for accuracy which continues to shape the brand’s modern-day products.

The limited-edition Ulysse Nardin Torpilleur Military 44mm Bronze indulges horophiles with a midnight blue dial, bronze case and chronometer status (COSC). It builds upon the success of the steel version, launched at SIHH 2018. As well as unveiling this bronze cased model, the brand from Le Locle has released a further limited-edition model, encompassing a black DLC case paired with khaki details. Both models exhibit a high quotient of military-style, a look much favoured by fashionistas.

Image – Ulysse Nardin Torpilleur Military 44mm – Ref. 1183-320LE/BLACK

While both limited edition models proffer much eye-appeal, I personally prefer the bronze version, as I predict the specification of this variant will prove less susceptible to changing fashions. It is for this reason that I have fixed my gaze upon the warm tones of the Ulysse Nardin Torpilleur Military 44mm Bronze and made it the focal point of this review.

The dial

Ulysse Nardin has shrewdly chosen a ‘midnight blue’ dial. It has a softer complexion than the ubiquitous black dials seen in every jeweller’s window display and happily coalesces with the bronze case.

Ulysse Nardin Torpilleur Military 44mm Bronze

The spade hour and minute hands evince a classical character. Their sinuous contours exude an air of elegance and the bronze tones beautifully coalesce with the dial and case ensemble. Most notably they proclaim the time clearly and free of ambiguity.

The hours are denoted with Arabic numerals sans serifs. While the hands appear classical, the hour markers are unequivocally modern. However, both dial elements sit together in tasteful concert.

A small seconds display is positioned above 6 o’clock. It features snailing and is framed with a chemin de fer. Located beneath the fulcrum of the subdial are the two letters ‘C.W’, denoting that the Ulysse Nardin Torpilleur Military 44mm Bronze is a ‘Chronometer Watch’. The scale of the small seconds dial is extraordinary, occupying a significant portion of the lower dial area. This scale aids the readability of the indication, yet does not mar the agreeable dial proportions.

A crisp minute track frames the dial’s epidermis, augmenting readability.

The case

The Torpilleur Military is generously proportioned, measuring 44mm in diameter. I found it conferred an incredibly comfortable fit, however, its immensity may prove an issue for diminutive wearers. As with all watches, I would recommend prospective purchasers to try on the watch prior to acquisition.

Ulysse Nardin Torpilleur Military 44mm Bronze

Since the advent of bronze watches, different brands have selected various types of bronze. Some alloys acquire a patina very quickly, while others age quite slowly. Furthermore, this patination can sometimes resemble verdigris, however, others merely assume a darker tone with time. The bronze on this version of the Torpilleur Military 44mm is comparatively pale and yellow. In addition, the tone of the alloy has a neutral quality, hence the watch should complement a diverse array of garments. 

In my opinion, Ulysse Nardin has chosen a bronze hue which is very attractive and it will be interesting to see how the patination develops over time. The brand has not stated how readily the bronze will form a patina. If the rate of patination is of concern, it may be worth chatting to one of the brand’s authorised retailers and enquiring about the alloy’s behaviour in the long term.

The bezel features a castellated edge, providing a very agreeable tactile encounter. The screw-down crown, featuring the brand’s logo on its vertical flank should mitigate the risk of dust or water ingress.

In some instances, contact with bronze can lead to an adverse reaction. This is because it is estimated that approximately 6% of people suffer from a nickel allergy. However, Ulysse Nardin has equipped the Torpilleur Military 44mm Bronze with a stainless steel case back, mitigating the likelihood of any such problems.

Ulysse Nardin Torpilleur Military 44mm Bronze

The Ulysse Nardin Torpilleur Military 44mm Bronze is equipped with a solid caseback, endowed with a stamped depiction of a torpedo boat. The watch is fitted with a dark blue veal strap paired with a bronze pin buckle.

The movement

The Ulysse Nardin Torpilleur Military 44mm Bronze features the brand’s trusted Calibre UN-118. This movement has been in existence for a number of years and can be found in an array of models.

The movement features a ‘silicon anchor escapement’. Ulysse Nardin was the first watch brand to use silicon (sometimes termed ‘silicium’) in a watch. Silicon is a glass-like material which is not liable to corrosion and is not influenced by magnetic fields. In addition, silicon can be used to make unusually shaped components that would be impossible to create using traditional materials.

Ulysse Nardin has equipped the Calibre UN-118 with its own type of variable inertia balance. When contrasted with a simple index-adjusted balance, the variable inertia balance delivers superior precision. In addition, the balance is less susceptible to positional errors.

The Calibre UN-118 is COSC certified and has a power reserve of 60 hours.

Closing remarks

In my opinion, the Ulysse Nardin Torpilleur Military 44mm Bronze is a highly practical watch, brimming with military chic. Its scale, spade hour and minute hands and its notably plump hour markers provide peerless readability. The midnight blue dial sits comfortably with the yellowy tones of the bronze case. Ulysse Nardin has skilfully paired shades and textures to comely effect. Quite simply, this is a devilishly handsome timepiece.

The bronze case of the Torpilleur Military is comparatively understated, fair-skinned and, therefore, I expect it will retain its allure better than some of its contemporaries. 

Residing behind a solid cashback, the Calibre UN-118 may be hidden from view, however, its magnificence is already well-known. The silicon hairspring and the variable inertia balance provide a heady mixture, guaranteed to intoxicate most self-respecting horophiles.

Since 1846, the Maison has been known for making highly precise instruments such as marine chronometers. With its COSC certified movement, the Torpilleur Military perpetuates the firm’s enviable reputation for crafting fine, accurate watches.

Further reading

Technical specifications

  • Model: Ulysse Nardin Torpilleur Military 44mm Bronze
  • Reference: 1187-320LE/63
  • Case: Bronze; diameter 44mm; water resistance 5ATM (50 metres); sapphire crystal to front and solid caseback.
  • Functions: hours; minutes; small seconds
  • Movement: Calibre UN-118; automatic movement; power reserve 60 hours
  • Strap: Dark blue veal strap paired with a bronze pin buckle
  • Price: £8,100 including VAT (RRP 11.2.2020)
  • Limited Edition: 300 pieces

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