THE ULYSSE NARDIN GMT ± BIG DATE
A Review by Michael Disher
December 14, 1999
The GMT ± Big Date combines two of Ulysse Nardin’s patented complications in one watch: the oversized double disk date and the hour hand adjusted via pusher buttons, with 24 hour home time display. These features make for an all around useful watch that is very handy for traveling. The model reviewed here is ref. 353-22-7.
The Dial and Hands
This GMT Big Date has the blue guilloché dial. The color and texture are very pleasing, and attention to detail is excellent. The tiny print is flawless, even at high magnification, as shown below. The dial layout is somewhat asymmetrical, and the oversized date and home time displays are very legible. The hands are dagger shaped with a generous tritium inlay. Small tritium dots are placed above the hour markers, and nighttime legibility is very good. Overall, the design and workmanship are excellent.
The Case, Crystal, Pushers and Crown
The case is highly polished stainless steel and it is very well finished. Even the space between the lugs and the inside surface of the lugs are immaculate. This watch measures 40 x 11.8 mm not including the crown, and 47 mm lug tip to lug tip. According to my rather imprecise scale, the watch with bracelet weighs approximately 5.4 ounces or 153 grams. The watch sits very nicely on my 7.5 inch wrist. The fit is excellent and the feel is very solid.
The crystal is anti-reflective coated domed sapphire. The screw-down crown is protected by shoulders in the case, and the crown has a tiny yet perfectly engraved UN anchor logo with a beautiful blue material applied to add a bit of color and sparkle.
The case back is stainless steel and has the Lion of San Marco figure shown in relief. Each watch is engraved with an individual number. The case back is held in place with six small screws. The watch is rated water resistant to100 meters.
This watch features two of Ulysse Nardin’s patented complications. The Big Date display is a two disk system, with a smaller disk (left date digit) turning inside a larger disk (right date digit) so that both disks are on the same level. The date can be adjusted quickly forward or backward using the crown, and as described below, the date also changes forward or backward when the hour hand moves across midnight via the pushers. This Big Date mechanism was developed by Dr. Ludwig Oechslin, Ulysse Nardin’s in-house movement design genius. The Big Date system first appeared in UN’s Ludwig Perpetual, and it is also used in their GMT ± Perpetual and recently released Michelangelo Big Date. Aesthetically, having the disks on the same level gives a much cleaner look.
The second patented complication is an hour hand adjustable via push buttons, shown below, coupled with a digital home time 24 hour display. The pusher at 10 o’clock advances the hour hand in one hour increments, while the pusher at 7 o’clock moves the hour hand back. As you travel across time zones, this system allows you to adjust the time without removing the watch and without interfering with the timekeeping function. The home time display is located at 9 o’clock, and it shows the time in digits from 1 to 24 so you will always know whether it is a.m. or p.m. When you’re not traveling, the home time display can be used as an a.m.- p.m. indicator, which comes in handy if the watch runs down – there’s no guessing if it stopped in the morning or evening.
Perhaps the best feature is how the Big Date and GMT ± complications work together. The date moves forward or back when the hour hand, adjusted with the pushers, moves across midnight. This is the first dual time watch that allows the date to be adjusted in this manner. This is very handy for those who travel across the international date line, for example from the U.S. to Asia, which requires setting the date back one day.
The bracelet is stainless steel and very well crafted. The top is highly polished, and the back is very nicely brushed. The bracelet has a butterfly clasp, which opens using two spring-loaded buttons. The bracelet is solid and quite comfortable. A series of links on either side of the buckle are held in place with screws that can be removed to size the bracelet. The removable links are of two different sizes, helping assure a good fit.
The movement is denominated UN-22, and it is based on an ETA 2892-A2. The base 2892 movement contains 64 parts. Ulysse Nardin adds another 79 parts in-house to create the final movement consisting of 143 parts. This is an automatic winding movement measuring 25.6 mm in diameter and 5.35 mm thick. This movement has 23 jewels and is tuned to 28,800 oscillations per hour. It features hours, minutes, center seconds, large date, quick adjust hour hand, and home time 24 hour display. The movement uses a Nivarox 1 balance spring, Incabloc shock protection and an Etachron fine regulation system. The power reserve is 48 hours.
This watch proved to be a very good timekeeper. After a few weeks of run-in time, I tested it over seven days, wearing it every day and placing it dial up, crown up and crown right at night. The watch ran at an average of + 4 seconds per day.
The Ulysse Nardin GMT ± Big Date offers a unique look, an extremely well crafted case, dial, hands and bracelet and a movement with two very handy complications, both of which are patented. If you’re looking for a well built and distinctive looking travel watch, the Ulysse Nardin GMT ± Big Date deserves strong consideration.
Other Versions, Reference Numbers and Prices
Listed below are reference numbers and MSRPs in US dollars as of January 1, 2000:
*Limited Edition of 50 pieces in platinum, silverized dial, strap: ref. 229-80, $17,900
*Limited Edition of 100 pieces, 18 K red gold, rose guilloché dial, strap: ref. 226-88, $11,900
*Yellow 18K gold, silverized guilloché dial, strap: ref. 221-88, $10,900
*Steel, blue guilloché /romans dial, strap: ref. 223-88-383, $3650
*Steel, blue guilloché/romans dial, bracelet: ref. 353-22-7, $4250
*Steel, white guilloché/romans dial, bracelet: ref. 223-88-7, $4250
*Steel, black/arabics dial, strap: ref. 223-88/52, $3650
*Steel, copper/arabics dial, strap: ref. 223-88/CU, $3650
*Steel, yellow/arabics dia, strap: ref. 223-88/54, $3650
Manufacturer’s USA e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
© 1999 Michael J. Disher