Ulysse Nardin was born in Le Locle, Switzerland in 1823. Following in his father's footsteps, he trained as a "remonteur" and eventually set up his own workshop. In 1846, the Ulysse Nardin company was founded. Little more than a counter, its watches displayed high-quality craftsmanship and were signed by their maker. It was the beginning of an enterprise that has lasted more than 150 years. Nardin's first watches were sold in Central and South America through a Paris go-between, Lucien Dubois, who was Nardin's only customer for two years.
In 1860, Nardin moved into a larger factory and the firm became known as "Ulysse Nardin, fabricant d'horlogerie sur les Recues 33". He also acquired a high-precision astronomical regulator to rate his pocket chronometers. This is the well-known regulator constructed by Jacques-Frederic Houriet in 1768. It is now in a museum in Le Locle. Minute repeaters, highly complicated watches and pocket chronometers carry the reputation of the House far and wide, so much so that the United States became a viable market for the young firm's products in the early 1860s.
In 1862, Nardin received the "Prize Medal" -- the highest possible honor -- at the London International Exhibition, in the category of "complicated watches, pocket chronometers". This award put the watchmaker in the lead internationally among pocket chronometer makers. Three years later, the company moved again, this time to its present location at 3 rue du Jardin. Thanks to its reputation as the leading maker of chronometers, the business expanded. Unfortunately, Nardin was felled by a heart attack in 1876, prompting his 21-year-old son, Paul-David Nardin, to take control of the company.
Paul-David Nardin proved himself an able leader, as the firm won a Gold Medal at the Paris Universal Exhibition in 1878, was awarded two Swiss patents in 1890, won First Prize at the Chicago Universal Exhibition in 1893 with a magnificent chronometer made of silver and gold, constructed nine pocket chronometers with tourbillon escapements -- the list goes on and on. By 1915, the standards of the firm were so high that at the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., Ulysse Nardin took first place among 60 marine chronometers entered. In the same trial, the company took three of the first five places among 217 deck watches entered.
Needless to say, Ulysse Nardin won many more awards, further adding to its stellar reputation as a maker of highly precise and finely made timepieces. To put the accomplishments of this firm into proper perspective, the Neuchatel Observatory published its last official publication concerning the performance of chronometers in 1975. (The performance of mechanical timepieces was no longer relevant when quartz watches became commercially available.)
According to the official reports during this period, Ulysse Nardin obtained: 4,324 certificates of performance for mechanical marine chronometers out of a total of 4,504 awarded (approximately 95%); 2,411 prizes of which 1,069 were First Prizes and which include four series prizes awarded to chronometers heading the list; 747 First Prizes in the categories of deck watch, pocket chronometer and wristwatch; and lastly, in various exhibitions, Ulysse Nardin and his successors obtained:
* 14 Grands Prix (First Prizes)
* The "Prize Medal" and the "Progress Medal"
* 10 Gold Medals
* 2 Prix d'Honneur
* 2 Silver Medals
Like many great Swiss brands, the 1970s were not kind to Ulysse Nardin and the firm fell on hard times. But in 1983, an investment group headed by Rolf Schnyder purchased Ulysse Nardin and launched the famous Astrolabium Galileo Galilei series. Named after the great physicist, astronomer and humanist, the watch was a remarkable improvement on the perpetual calendar and allowed the firm to recapture its past glory. The watch even made it into the Guiness Book of World Records in February, 1989.
Since then, Ulysse Nardin has produced the San Marco, a limited edition minute repeater wristwatch available in gold or platinum, as well as the Tellurium Johannes Kepler and the patented GMT watch, which is intended for frequent travelers. In 1996, the company's 150th anniversary was celebrated with the introduction of the marine Chronometer 1846 as a wristwatch and the revolutionary Perpetual Ludwig was named after its creator, the brilliant and talented watchmaker/scientist, Dr. Ludwig Oechslin, the man behind the Astolabium series.
The single-button chronograph "Pulsometer" to commemorate Ulysse Nardin's birth in 1823 was introduced in 1998, yet this was eclipsed the following year when the firm debuted the GMT Perpetual, two unique and exclusive Ulysse Nardin creations integrated into one watch.
What is certain to remain consistent is the company's dedication to producing only the finest quality timepieces. Indeed, their commitment to this ideal is evidenced in a recent statement by company president Rolf Schnyder, who remarked of his employees: "Their faith, loyalty, talent and commitment are essential to us in our quest to redefine the boundaries of mechanical watchmaking and to keep Ulysse Nardin in its pre-eminent position for the next 150 years."