It’s an arduous, almost rudimentary task these days, to find a watch that excites. The traditional aesthetic of the watch hasn’t changed all that much over the decades, with similar designs and themes carrying over through entire collection generations. What we know and love about watches is also the same thing that can be quite the bore. So finding something that is a little out of left field, a touch out of whack with convention and that has merit of being extra ordinary and somewhat against the grain is, in a word, invigorating. Enter the Ulysse Nardin Diver X Skeleton.
In an age of openworking, of inverting, of skeletonisation and of a superficial hype-driven market, an air of pessimism is one that seems to weigh heavily over the maisons that don't fall under the collective umbrella of the big four. And so when I got my hands on the Diver X Skeleton, my presumptuous attitude towards it was, embarrassingly so, solidified and unwavering. But boy was I in for a shock. Revelling in its openworked beauty, its modernity, its theatrics and its harmoniously balanced aesthetic, I realised that the grass can be greener on the other side.
The Ulysse Nardin Diver X Skeleton is like a shock to the system that has been accustomed to seeing the same-same everyday. Its aesthetic is balanced and intriguing from every which angle. Transparent and airy, the Diver X Skeleton's visual drama begins with the 44mm blue PVD coated case, offset by pops of orange giving the monochromatic colour palette some vibrancy. This contrast is extended to the openworked dial, whereby the distinctive "X" which acts as the focal point of the Diver X Skeleton features the same colourful display. My favourite part of the exterior of the Ulysse Nardin Diver X Skeleton is the blue Carbonium® bezel, which adds a lovely textural component to an otherwise very sterile and precise aesthetic.
Continuing on with the dial, and the depth of detail that would otherwise be amiss with regards to the piece's skeletonisation is offset again by the harmonious layering of visual elements. From the prominent "X" in the centre of the dial, to the floating hour markers, the bold luminescent hands and the exposed components of the movement, there is an enormous amount of attention to detail in the Diver X Skeleton.
Powering the Ulysse Nardin Diver X Skeleton is the manufacture UN-372 which was heavily redeveloped and redesigned from the base UN-371 calibre (which itself is based on the UN-171 calibre). The reworked movement features a variety of upgrades, including a rotor designed in the shape of Ulysse Nardin's iconic "X", a barrel made from blue Carbonium® which matches the bezel and a silicon escape wheel, anchor and balance assembly. The UN-372 beats at a frequency of 3Hz and has a respectable power reserve of about 96-hours.
The model I went hands-on with came with a blue rubber strap which was supremely comfortable and easy to adjust. It allowed the watch some movement but not enough for concern, with the piece sitting nice and snug on my wrist. Not too tight, not too loose, just right. It also comes on an orange rubber strap which I think looks spectacular and would definitely be my choice of the two strap options.
My final thoughts on this commemorative piece, which celebrates the 175th anniversary of the maison, is wholly positive. I love the openworking, I love the meticulous attention to detail that, even under a loupe, I could not falter. I love the case design and size, while the rubber strap just worked to enhanced the piece's wearability. Overall, the vibe of the Ulysse Nardin Diver X Skeleton is one that is akin to casual haute horlogerie, where the act of watchmaking here is completely and undeniably evident but is essentially masked by the very sport-luxe look of the watch. Comparative to a Richard Mille or a Roger Dubuis? On certain levels, definitely. An alternative to either? A resounding yes.