Time Lines September 17, 2002 admin
The Ulysse Nardin Marine Chornometer 1846
I purchased my Ulysse Nardin 1846 in December, 1998, and I originally posted this review of it in June, 1999. In the fourth quarter of 2000, Ulysse Nardin restyled the 1846 slightly, making the date display larger and easier to read. Last month, I had an opportunity to photograph two of the new “round date”1846s. In this updated review, I am adding some images of the new models, plus current pricing and product information. I have also added some personal reflections on the 1846 after nearly two and one-half years of ownership.
I first spotted the yellow gold version of the 1846 in a magazine advertisement shortly after the watch was introduced, and I knew immediately that I was looking at a watch I must own one day. The design is very pleasing – a watch with a personality, yet not overstated. A classic. As with many watches that catch my fancy, the price placed it beyond my reach. Then I learned that Ulysse Nardin made a stainless steel version, and at a price I might afford. I stored that information away. Some time passed, then I saw the gold and the stainless steel versions in person for the first time in San Francisco. As is often the case, the watches looked even better in real life than they did in the magazine photographs. After seeing the real things, I knew it was time to act. I sold two formerly prized watches and purchased my second Ulysse Nardin, the Marine Chronometer 1846 in stainless steel. I still covet the gold version. Maybe someday.
The Dial and Hands
Design is what initially draws my attention to a watch, and in this area, the 1846 excels. The 1846 dial appeals to me for several reasons. First, it has personality. It offers rich texture, with raised numbers, subseconds, and power reserve indicator. The bright red “1846” provides a dash of color. I’ve always liked seconds at 6, and these oversized seconds at 6 are especially nice. The dial layout is somewhat atypical, with the power reserve at 12, and the Ulysse Nardin name and location almost in the center of the dial. This is one of the few watches you’ll see photographed set for 8:17, not 10: 08.
My favorite feature is the power reserve. I have several watches, and I don’t own a winder, so I find the reserve indicator very useful. The 1846 is the first watch I’ve owned with a power reserve indicator, and it has spoiled me. I miss this feature on my watches that lack it.
Perhaps the sole issue one might raise about the original dial design (shown directly above) is the date, located at 6 with the subseconds. The smallish rectangular window and date disk set a bit below the dial make the date somewhat difficult to read. Toward the end of 2000, Ulysse Nardin improved the date display, making it larger, round in shape, and definitely easier to read. Having had a chance to see the new design up close, I consider it a clear improvement over the original.
The 1846’s hands are another strong design element – they are blued beauties. These hands have graceful, curving lines and in the right light, they have a a deep blue color, as can be seen in the images below. The watch is very legible, both day and night.
The Bezel and Crystal
The dial is complimented by a very thin, highly polished stainless steel coin edge bezel and a flat, anti-reflective sapphire crystal. I like the coin edge style, and the minimalist design keeps all attention on the dial, where it belongs. The coated crystal prevents reflections from interfering with your enjoyment of the 1846’s beautiful face.
The Case and Crown
The center section of the case has a somewhat unusual shape, in that the diameter at the top where it meets the bezel is larger than at the bottom, where it meets the back. This gives the case sides a gentle curve. This shape avoids the “tuna fish can” look. The case and lugs are very nicely finished. There is no distortion or unevenness where the lugs meet the case – just a very smooth transition. The watch takes a 20 mm strap. Every 1846 has a small plaque on the 9 o’clock side of the case bearing that watch’s unique number. The plaque is held in place with two tiny, blued screws. The overall outside dimensions of the watch are 38 mm across, not including crown, and 10.5 mm thick, based on my own measurements. The crown screws down, as one would expect on a watch that is water resistant to 200 meters. The crown is easily gripped, and it has a nicely executed UN anchor logo on the end. The two images below show the 1846 with the satin finish case.
The 1846 caseback is titanium, so it’s very light and not “cold” like stainless steel. The back polished around the edge and brushed in the center, and it is engraved with the names and dates of the 18 competitions in which Ulysse Nardin won the gold medal. The back is held in place by six blued screws. The back employs an excellent gasket system, helping to ensure resistance against water and dust.
The 1846 bracelet is available in two versions. Mine is fully polished, and very shiny. For those who prefer less shine, there’s another model with satin finished outer links and a single row of polished links in the middle. The spring bars are easily accessible, so changing frombracelet to strap can be done quickly at home. After six months of use, my bracelet bears one tiny scuff mark of unknown origin. If you’re going to wear your 1846 while rock climbing, I’d suggest the satin finish bracelet or a strap.
The bracelet is well made. The links and endpieces are solid stainless steel. The first center links at 6 and 12 bear a small UN anchor logo. The inside of the links have a nice satin finish. The bracelet has six removable links of two different sizes, which assures a near-custom fit. I sized the bracelet myself using my Bergeon screwdriver set from the TimeZone Watch School tool kit. The bracelet incorporates a butterfly style deployant clasp. The bracelet opens easily by way of two spring-loaded push buttons located on either side of the clasp. The clasp on my bracelet has not opened inadvertently on any occasion, and the bracelet will not open when only one of the buttons is depressed. Overall, I’d rate this a solid and well executed bracelet.
The 1846 uses a Ulysse Nardin modified COSC certified ETA 2892-A2. The specifications are as follows: Caliber 11 1/2″ UN-26, 25.6 mm diameter, 5.1 mm thick, 28 jewels, automatic winding, 42 hour power reserve, quick set date at 6, hacking seconds at 6, UN designed powerreserve and date modules, 3 spoke Glucydur balance, flat Nivarox 1 spring, Incabloc shock protection, 28,800 pulsations per hour. The movement contains 58 parts not original to the 2892-A2. Base plate and bridges decorated with perlage. The rotor has a matte finish with the Ulysse Nardin name and anchor logo in a polished finish. The primary movement components are rhodium plated. Rhodium is a white metal that is harder than gold, and it is generally considered superior to gold for movement plating.
I examined the movement in my 1846 using 4x and 10x Bausch & Lomb loupes, supplied with the TZ Watch School tool kit. The bridges have beveled edges (anglage), polished to a good smoothness. The screws are stainless steel and polished to a mirror-like finish. The screw holes have slightly beveled edges. All other stainless steel parts are very well finished and highly polished. The wheels are nicely finished, with beveled, polished teeth. Even the space between the teeth on the smallest visible wheel is highly polished. The jewels are friction set and they are very clear. The rotor is constructed with extra weight at the edge to aid winding.
The following information was provided by Ulysse Nardin. The adjustment of the Marine Chronometer movement is designed to meet the requirements of the official chronometer tests carried out by the COSC. To guarantee that virtually all movements presented for the certificateexam will pass the test, UN conducts in-house tests in two different phases. First, movements are tested alone with a full range of internal controls to verify that the quality of the product tallies with the official requirements. Then a second flight of tests is performed once the movements have been cased to become finished watches.
To achieve such controls, UN places the movements or finished watches on a winding machine for two hours, which is sufficient to fully wind the instrument. UN then checks to ensure the movement is still ticking after 48 hours (a power reserve greater than that UN guarantees). During this two-day period, the control requires six positions, making UN’s internal controls more demanding than the COSC’s five position testing.
My own 1846 is a supremely accurate timekeeper. After synchronizing the watch with my atomic radio signal clock, I tested it over three weeks. I wore the watch between 5 and 17 hours per day, setting it dial up or crown up at night. After 21 days, the watch was an amazing + 5seconds, for an average gain of about .24 seconds per day. This watch is without question an excellent timekeeper.
The watch comes in a very nice quality dark blue padded leather inner box with the Ulysse Nardin name and anchor logo in gold lettering on the top. The outer cardboard box is a matching color with gold lettering as well. Two COSC certificates are enclosed The large format certificate is enclosed in a soft leather portfolio case of its own. Also provided is a smaller COSC certificate. The owner’s manual is printed on very heavy paper, and it provides some company history as well as operating instructions.
Other Models and Prices
The following information is current as of May, 2001. Prices are USA retail. The Marine Chronometer 1846 is available in two sizes and a variety of models and dials to suit all tastes. In the 38 mm size, there are gold models on strap ($8500) and bracelet ($16,100) with silver or white lacquer dials. Steel 1846s are available on strap ($3300) or with bracelet ($3900). The steel versions can be all polished or a combination of polished and satinized. Available dial colors include silver, white lacquer, dark blue, yellow, orange and red.
The 1846 is also available in steel in a 36 mm size, on strap or bracelet, with silver or blue dial. Prices for the 36 mm models are the same as the 38 mm version.
If you prefer more exclusive pieces, Ulysse Nardin offers a Limited Edition of only 5 pieces produced in platinum with silver dial on strap at $17,500. There is also a Limited Edition of 250 pieces in white gold with silver dial on strap, priced at $9900.
You should consult a Ulysse Nardin dealer for currently available models and prices.
Update and Conclusion
I have now owned my 1846 for about two and a half years. I am as happy with it today as the day I purchased it, perhaps even more so. It has been trouble free, has not received or required any service, and still keeps remarkably good time. I recently re-checked the accuracy over 3 days using an atomic radio signal clock as a reference. The 1846 gained 1.5 seconds per day. This watch has perhaps the most enduring appeal of any I’ve ever owned. This is due in part to its versatility. The 1846 looks great on bracelet or strap, and my silver dial model will take almost any color strap, from light tan to black. To my eye it looks best on light and dark brown, cordovan, dark blue and black. I’ve heard 1846 owners say that owning one is like owning three watches, and they’re right. The watch remains among my most comfortable, and the size is perfect at 38mm, neither too big nor too small. I still think it looks great, and I enjoy wearing it as much as ever.