The Manufacture of Freedom presents silicon as an artistic material in its launch for Geneva Watch Days 2023. The Blast Free Wheel Marquetry combines technical, aesthetic, and material creativity that truly represents its pursuit of horological freedom.
Defying Odds in its Disruption
The new Blast Free Wheel Marquetry presents silicon as more than an ultra-technical material, but also one with artistic merit. It also makes a nod to the movement of the iconic Freak, the first watch to incorporate silicon in 2001, with the Blast Free Wheel Marquetry’s UN-176 Manufacture calibre revealing its technical construction on the face of the watch.
At the heart of this edgy Haute Horlogerie complication, the original and innovative UN-176 movement seems to defy not only the laws of attraction, but also the very principles of watchmaking construction.
The flying tourbillon of the Blast Free Wheel Marquetry located at 6 o’clock is composed of 45 components and boasts a revolutionary constant escapement. Challenging the principle of the traditional anchor escapement, the Ulysse Anchor Constant Escapement features a circular frame with a pallet fork fixed in the center, supported in space on two blade springs less than a quarter of the thickness of a hair in diameter. Mounted perpendicular to each other, these are subjected to a bending force that curves them and maintains them. This major technical achievement directed by Ulysse Nardin guarantees a perfectly even impulse on the balance wheel, irrespective of the watch’s power reserve. Thanks to the silicon technology also incorporated in the hairspring and the escapement-wheel, the jewels of the usual escapement-wheel become superfluous, as does the anchor pivot. This exceptional tourbillon, which took two years of research and development to perfect, reflects Ulysse Nardin’s triumphs in terms of innovation, and it proudly won the Tourbillon Prize at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève in 2015.
In a totally disruptive way, the flying tourbillon, anchor and wheels reveal their dance, offering an insight of the mechanical interactions at work, masterfully created by Ulysse Nardin, the orchestrator of this daring ode to silicon and innovation.
Other elements seem to float over the silicon dial, such as the flying barrel at 12 o’clock, without any visible attachment on the surface. The energy it accumulates provides the Blast Free Wheel Marquetry with an exceptional autonomy of seven days, indicated by a highly original power reserve display at 4 o’clock. The indicator remains static, unlike the display disc: three bands opposing the indicator mean that the watch is fully wound, while a single band means that the power reserve is almost empty.
In addition, several additional flying mechanisms are displayed on either side of the barrel: on its left, an intermediate wheel, a power reserve differential, and a reduction gear; on its right, the winding mechanism that connects it to the crown’s winding stem.
A New Canvas
This is the first time Ulysse Nardin’s silicon marquetry has been expressed in the Blast collection. 103 radiant blue marquetry slivers adorn the dial, turning it into a captivating artwork. Because of the variation of micron-precise matt and mirror-polished surfaces and the use of two different thicknesses (0.30 and 0.35 mm), their changing reflections and contrasts accentuate the piece’s three-dimensionality to spectacular effect.
Assembling the small silicon plates to decorate a single dial represents multiple hours of work for the artisans, who must demonstrate incredible dexterity to avoid breaking or marking these extremely fragile jewels. The case back of the Blast Free Wheel Marquetry is embellished for the first time of a blue silicon plate, proving that the use of this high-end material has been taken to the very last detail.