Imperial Designs

Imperial Designs

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< In Person >

Ulysse Nardin CEO Patrik P. Hoffmann tells Mitrajit Bhattacharya that ladies watches is still an untapped territory which the Manufacture plans to explore in future

Let’s start with the Imperial Blue. I think it’s really going to set new standards in watch making.
Imperial Blue took us a long time to come out as a product and we had a few obstacles to overcome. We took the advantage of the knowhow from Alexander the Great, the Flying Tourbillon and the Royal Tourbillon, from the look, to the bridges which are out of sapphire. We combined all the knowhow into that timepiece. But it’s really a continuation of our craftsmanship.

Apart from it’s technology, it’s also a very good looking watch. How did you manage that?
In this particular case it was the size that made the difference. You have to put in everything that’s required for the timepiece and still make it look attractive. Besides, it sounds good too. The sound in that piece is actually one of the best we had. It’s very open and it’s very big. Bigger the case, its easier to make the sound. In fact, from that point of view the sound was actually not the biggest challenge. It was actually the size. We had to make sure that it wouldn’t become too bulky.

Perpetual Calendar is another userfriendly utility. How does it differentiate from the rest of the market?
The perpetual calendar is of course very iconic to Ulysse Nardin, because it was the first perpetual calendar that was launched in 1996. Over the last few years we put that iconic movement into very different looking timepieces. We tuned down the sound of the timepieces, it’s not so loud anymore.

What are the challenges to have the forward and backward movement in a perpetual calendar? Is it very complicated?
I wouldn’t think so. Of course, I have to talk about the talented watchmaker, Ludwig Oechslin. Making it complicated doesn’t interest him. If I go to him and say, “Hey, I have an idea for a function, but can you do it with less parts and make it an uncomplicated one.” That would interest him. When we look now at the perpetual calendar, what he did there was very untraditional. Earlier the perpetual calendar had clutches and springs; that’s why it couldn’t go back. When we developed the perpetual calendar in 1996 with Ludwig Oechslin, it was the first time it had a gear system which is why you’re able to go back and forth.

Ever since you have been at the helm of the company, a lot of in-house movements have come in. Last year you had five of them, while you have one this year too. What percentage of your watches have in-house movements?
It’s about 60 per cent. By 2016-17 we plan to scale it up to 95 percent. The developments over the last 12 months are the fruits of investments which were done over the last 12 years.

What significance does the Anchor Escapement have for the company’s future?
The Anchor Escapement makes things user-friendly and uncomplicated. It’s not just an ordinary escapement. There is no shaft, no gearing, no bearings and no oiling needed. We at Ulysse Nardin want to make things less complicated, user-friendly, servicefriendly and that’s really what the new Anchor stands for.

But you have still not put it in a watch, right?
Not yet. It doesn’t have to be in the form of tourbillon or in the form of carrousel, it can be in a very normal time piece, but you have to make it look appealing. You have to put it into a time piece where people can look at it and appreciate and talk about it. When we launch it next year in a timepiece, it will be in a manner where you can see and appreciate it.

Do you feel The Jazz minute repeater on the lines of Genghis Khan has become a hallmark?
The Jazz is very traditional. I would call it a true craftsmanship. Of course, it brings us back again to some of our important history. For me the Jazz is just a very normal evolution of what we are doing.

I saw a beautiful watch from the collection of Jade for women. Are you really focussing on women or is it just a one-time affair?
We still don’t put enough effort into women’s watches. This year we are launching a few new pieces including a new ladies’ diver collection. There is still a lot of untapped territory which we will explore in the future. The big advantage for a brand like Ulysse Nardin is the trend of women wearing bigger watches. As we only produce mechanical watches we have to have a certain size and the trend of bigger watches helps us.

How has the performance of Ulysse Nardin been so far?
I think we are where the industry is. Every territory is not the same. In India we are taking a long-term strategy and hope to see more and more fruit. For us India has been on our map for a long time now.