Ulysse Nardin was born in Le Locle in 1823. Starting out as an apprentice to his father Léonard-Frédéric, he went to work with William DuBois, one of the greatest experts of his age in precision timepieces. In 1846, at the tender age of 23, Ulysse Nardin founded the company that still bears his name today, in Le Locle. His pocket and marine chronometers soon set the benchmark in both civil and military realms. When he died in 1876, his son Paul-David took the helm.
The Ulysse Nardin company continued to grow, and its spirit of innovation ensured it enjoyed ever increasing success and renown. Crowned by more than 4,300 watchmaking awards including 18 gold medals, the firm nonetheless had to be put up for sale in 1983 after falling victim to the quartz crisis. Living in Asia, where he worked in the watchmaking industry, Rolf W. Schnyder stepped in to take over the company. A visionary, a gifted businessman and a lover of beautiful watches, he was convinced this small firm could become an innovative brand on the market.
Ludwig Oechslin supported this idea. About to complete an apprenticeship in watchmaking and antique timepiece restoration, he had already studied archeology, ancient history and Greek by the time the two met. Rolf W. Schnyder had seen one of Ludwig Oechslin’s first creations, an astrolabe, which he greatly admired. From then on, Schnyder was determined to miniaturize this timepiece and create one of the most complicated wristwatches in the world. Out of this ambition was born the legendary Trilogy of Time collection: the Astrolabium Galileo Galilei, the Planetarium Copernicus and the Tellurium Johannes Kepler greatly impressed connoisseurs and confirmed the comeback of Ulysse Nardin as one of the greatest names in Swiss watchmaking.
Among the timepieces that followed were the GMT± Perpétuel, boasting an unusual perpetual calendar with a second time zone that can be adjusted forward or backward, the Freak, which was the first timepiece to use silicon for its escapement with two impulse wheels, and the Genghis Khan, the quintessence of the Jaquemarts minute repeater, which was brilliantly revived in 1989 with the San Marco model.
The common quality that links all these timepieces is innovation. This impetus led the brand to work with silicon before all the others, in 2001. In 2006, in a joint venture with Mimotec in Sion, Ulysse Nardin set up Sigatec, which specializes in the production of silicon components. In the same year, the Manufacture introduced its first caliber designed and made entirely in-house, the UN-160. Two years later, it helped establish DIAMAZE Microtechnology, which created DIAMonSIL, a technology that involves coating silicon with nanocrystalline diamond. And in 2011 it acquired Donzé Cadrans, its longstanding partner in traditional cloisonné and Grand Feu enameling.
Rolf W. Schnyder died suddenly in April 2011 in Kuala Lumpur, a few months after his 75th birthday. Today, his widow Chai Schnyder is President of the Board of Directors. The position of CEO is held by Patrik P. Hoffmann, formerly Vice-President and Director of International Sales and Marketing. Today, Ulysse Nardin is more faithful than ever to its spirit of bold innovation and independence.