Like drifts in the snow glistening in the morning sun, the watchmaking marvel features the diamond-setting technique known as snow setting. Performed by highly trained craftsmen, the complex method involves placing diamonds of varying sizes side by side to completely cover the surface like a blanket of fresh snow. The artisans at Art Setting, a Geneva-based workshop, have been perfecting this process for over 30 years.
Along with its parent company Kering, Ulysse Nardin is dedicated to sustainability and endeavours to leave Earth a better place for future generations with each innovation: “At Ulysse Nardin, we adhere to the Kimberly Process to ensure that all of our diamonds are ethically sourced,” says Patrick Pruniaux, CEO of Ulysse Nardin.
All 2,251 pavé diamonds on the Sparkling Free Wheel are rigorously selected and weigh a combined total of 5.9 carats. The diamond setting alone takes about 120 hours of laborious work to complete. So stellar is the quality of the diamonds – all VVS or VS with an F/G rating for purity and colour – that their brilliance is visible to the naked eye. From the face of the gray gold dial to the horns and even the barrel cover, this stunning showpiece is encrusted with diamonds. The carbon soft-touch, black alligator band features a clasp also set with diamonds using the snow setting technique.
But the Sparkling Free Wheel’s most astounding features are the dial’s tourbillon bridges and the seven-day power reserve indicator at four o’clock, which fashioned like boomerangs and look like they are floating on air. This visual feast also extends to the hour and minute indicators as well as the gorgeous gear trains. The sapphire glass box housing these floating elements is another standout achievement. The structure’s complexity and finish, especially the polishing of the box angles, were extremely difficult technical challenges to achieve, requiring lengthy and painstaking trial and error.
The mechanical movement powering this beautiful creation is the UN-176, entirely developed in-house at the Ulysse Nardin manufacture in La Chaux-de-Fonds. Its flying tourbillon is the Ulysse Anchor Escapement, a pioneering technology replacing the traditional Swiss lever escapement system and uses Ulysse Nardin’s signature low friction silicium instead of metal or synthetic rubies.
(All images: Ulysse Nardin)