Vintage Ulysse Nardin watches are luxury Swiss timepieces offered in dozens of different models. Contemporary Ulysse Nardins are sold exclusively only through authorised dealers, but vintage models command top dollar among collectors and are usually found only through online sellers. The value of a vintage Ulysse Nardin is similar to Rolex, Omega and similar luxury watches.
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Ulysse Nardin watches are named after their founder, who was born in 1823 in Le Locle, Switzerland. Nardin founded his watch company in 1846. Nardin died in 1876 and his son, Paul-David Nardin, assumed the business. Ulysse Nardin focused on manufacturing marine chronometers, considered the most accurate mechanical clocks produced. Production of these clocks ultimately led to developing pocket and wristwatches. The watchmaker earned a reputation for producing the most accurate watches worldwide, earning more than 4,300 Swiss accuracy certificates between 1846 and 1975, according to Ulysse Nardin.
Ulysse Nardin watches were immensely popular in Europe, but were little known to the casual buyer in North America. Like many Swiss watchmakers, the advent of the Japanese battery-powered quartz watch in the 1970s had a profound impact on makers of mechanical watches and many Swiss companies failed or merged with other manufacturers. In 1983, Ulysse Nardin was purchased by an investment group led by Rolf Schnyder, who expanded the watch company’s reach worldwide.
Ulysse Nardin watches can be separated into two categories: pre-1983 vintage models that are rare and highly collectable, and the post-1983 versions that occupy a top tier among luxury watch offerings. Vintage Ulysse Nardin watches are difficult to locate in brick and mortar stores and are usually purchased through online sellers at premium prices. These watches, like contemporary Ulysse Nardins, often fall victim to counterfeiting due to their collectibility. The definition of vintage is in the eye of the beholder and many Ulysse Nardins 10 years and older are often considered vintage because they are highly desirable and feature timeless styling.
Among the highly sought Ulysse Nardins are some of the 1970s automatics that hung on in the market during the quartz flood. The 25-jewel automatic features 36,000 beats per hour and is featured in a traditional tonneau case measuring 35mm wide and 40mm long. These versions easily sell for more than £650. A late 1940s chronograph commands top dollar among collectors. The 37mm wide version features movable lugs, two subsidiary dials and an outer pulsations scale. The single rectangle chronograph button is located at 2 o’clock. Buyers can expect to pay upwards of £2,600 for these vintage chronographs.
Homage to Vintage
Contemporary Ulysse Nardin watches, such as the Classico, pay homage to past models. The Classico automatic features a 40mm wide 18k gold case, blue enamel dial and 42-hour power reserve. The Perpetual Ludovico complication features a 38mm silver dial, 48-hour power reserve features an 18k white gold bracelet. Complication watches feature functions beyond simply telling time, such as calendars, chronographs and moon phase features. These watches provide the look of vintage Ulysse Nardins, but feature contemporary technology. Buyers on a budget, however, may prefer pre-1983 models that provide the same features as contemporary models and nearly the same accuracy but are considerably less expensive.
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