The Ulysse Nardin Blast Free Wheel Marquetry is the ultimate tribute to silicon The Ulysse Nardin Blast Free Wheel Marquetry is the ultimate tribute to silicon

The Ulysse Nardin Blast Free Wheel Marquetry is the ultimate tribute to silicon

Zach Blass

Ulysse Nardin do not always get the credit they are due as a watch manufacture. I bet most of you watching this video were not aware that Ulysse Nardin is an independently owned, vertically integrated manufacture – among the rare few who are able to build their watches fully in house. While certainly versed in more classically styled timepieces as well, over the last 22 years the brand has become a haven for outside-the-box and highly technical designs. Long ahead of the curve, their 2001 Freak was the first watch to use silicon in its movement – something other still haven’t gotten around to doing these days. Today, Ulysse Nardin pays tribute to their pioneering silicon work with a new Blast Free Wheel Marquetry flying tourbillon that not only uses silicon in the movement, but on the dial as well.

The case

The 30-metre water-resistant 18k white gold case, like other Blast models, stands out with its multi-faceted lugs that richly alternate between hairline-brushed and mirror-polished finishes. These futuristic lugs are designed through a complex laser method, indicative yet again of Ulysse Nardin’s mastery of modern machining, elevating industrious methods to a haute horology standard. Looking at the sides of the case, you will notice the top of the lugs slope down into a caseback – leaving the sides of the case exposed. With an ultra-glass box sapphire crystal, you are able to the appreciate the dial, and the movement components visible dialside, from all angles.

The dial


As striking as the case is, the dial is what will ultimately catch your eye first. Now, this is not the first time Ulysse Nardin has done a silicon marquetry dial – they have featured previously in several limited editions of the Freak X – but this is their debut in the Blast collection. Comprised of 103 slivers, Ulysse Nardin artisans painstakingly set each of the silicon pieces into the dial – a puzzle that takes extreme dexterity to complete. One wrong move, and the fragile silicon pieces can blemish or break. Each marquetry piece alternates between micro-precise matte and mirror-polished surfaces. Interestingly, the matte slivers are 0.3mm thick, while the polished slivers measure in at 0.35mm, highlighting their fragility during the setting process. These precisely cut fragments and their subtly varying thickness and finish create depth and mesmerising light play.

The movement

The in-house UN-176 flying tourbillon calibre is a baffling and beautiful movement, with the movement components visible on the front, seemingly floating over the dial without any visible attachments. So, what are the functions of these components? At 12 o’clock is the decorated flying barrel with storing a full week’s worth of power reserve. At the 2 o’clock position is a decorated winding wheel, and beneath it a power reserve indicator. The indication remains static, with the rotating bands beneath it reveal the amount of stored energy. Three bars signal that it is fully wound, while a single bar warn of low energy. A reduction gear sits at 8 o’clock, just beneath the power reserve differential and intermediate wheel. Lastly, at the 6 o’clock position, the flying tourbillon with a Ulysse Nardin Anchor constant escapement comprised of 45 components. It’s complex in design, which challenges the notions of a traditional escapement, and delivers a perfectly even impulse on the balance wheel no matter the status of its power reserve. Of course, the balance wheel and hairspring are made of silicon – highly resistant against magnetism.

While there is an exhibition caseback, it does not really exhibit the movement – everything you need to see is on the dial – but what it does show is a blue silicon wafer which again pays tribute to the material in a novel way.

The strap

The watch is compatible with other Blast tourbillon straps as well, but is offered with two integrated straps. One is a blue waterproof rubber strap with a velvet effect, and the other a blue alligator leather strap, each secured to the wrist via the provided 18k white gold depolyant buckle.

The verdict


It goes without saying this watch is not for everyone, and its US$137,200 price tag confirms it. But for those who can afford it, this Ulysse Nardin Blast Free Wheel Marquetry is an absolute flex in my opinion. The fact that its design is both highly technical, while also stunning and artistic, is reflective of how Ulysse Nardin’s distinct mastery in watchmaking can yield a watch unlike anything else in the industry. No other watch has ever given silicon such a platform, both in function and visual beauty. It has an irrefutable wow-factor that will have onlookers curious and wanting to know more.

Ulysse Nardin Blast Free Wheel Marquetry pricing and availability:

The Ulysse Nardin Blast Free Wheel Marquetry is available now for purchase. Price: US$137,200

Brand Ulysse Nardin
Model Blast Free Wheel Marquetry
Reference Number 1760-401-3A/3A
Case Dimensions 45mm (D)
Case Material 18k white gold
Water Resistance 30 metres
Crystal(s) Box-domed sapphire front and flat sapphire caseback
Dial Blue, silicon marquetry
Strap Blue velvet-effect rubber, blue alligator, 18k white gold deployant
Movement UN-176, in-house, manual winding, silicon escapement
Power Reserve 7 days
Functions Hours, minutes, power reserve, flying tourbillon
Availability Available now
Price US$137,200