The world may be increasingly divided by ideology and rhetoric, but one indisputable truth binds us all: we depend on the priceless ecosystem services generously bestowed upon us by nature. Among these gifts are the essential elements of life — clean air, fresh water, fertile soil, green spaces, and a stable climate. These are just a few of the countless benefits nature provides.
From the intrepid trek fishermen navigating the waters of False Bay to the avid hikers traversing serene forest trails, from the diligent maize farmer to the participants in the sacred reed ceremony in Eswatini, the threads of our lives and economies are intricately woven into the tapestry of our environment’s well-being. Unfortunately, it’s often not until these services are taken away from us that we appreciate them.
Let’s not forget how many vacation plans were crushed and how the local economy was shattered by the “critical” E. coli levels along Durban’s coastline last year. Ensuring the sustainability of nature’s gifts for future generations requires a deviation from the status quo: something Ulysse Nardin understands. It is redefining not only watchmaking but also its relationship with nature.
In the luxury industry, a growing number of watch brands acknowledge the perilous threats mismanagement and unsustainable production and consumption patterns pose to these invaluable services. Ulysse Nardin, positioning itself as a guardian of both time and the ocean, traces its deep-rooted connection to the sea to 1846, with the introduction of its first precision marine chronometers. More recently, it has embarked on a mission to combat the plastic crisis, partnering with the Plastic Odyssey laboratory ship on a transformative three-year voyage that began last year in the Mediterranean and is charting a course along the coasts of West Africa, Latin America, Asia-Pacific, and East Africa.
A testament to this commitment, the Ocean Race Diver Watch emerged as a pioneering diver collection crafted from upcycled fishing nets in the same year. As the “Time to Act” partner of The Ocean Race — the “ultimate ocean marathon” celebrating its 50th anniversary this year — it jointly promotes the responsible use and conservation of our oceans through action, an award-winning sustainability programme, and scientific research aligned with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 14: “Life below water.” Milestone dates have been set to keep the mission on track and the first date for positive results is 2030.
The new Freak One is the scion of the instantly recognisable Freak watch with “no dial, no hands, and no crown” launched 22 years ago. The Freak 2001 was also the first wristwatch to use a natural escapement with silicon parts. Perpetuating the disruptive design codes of the original, the Freak One is a celebration of mechanics with its in-house calibre UN-240 automatic movement taking centre stage to convey the time on its own. With a 90-hour power reserve, its orbital flying-carrousel tourbillon, rotating on its own axis and featuring an oversized silicon oscillator, counts the minutes through a full rotation while a V-shaped indicator on a black sunray-engraved barrel cover points to the hours.
The escapement is finished with DIAMonSIL, a patented plasma treatment made from silicon and synthetic diamonds to ensure that the movement is abrasion- and shock-resistant. Time is set through the bezel made from pink gold, which is 100% ethically sourced through Responsible Gold and follows a chain-of-custody procedure with blockchain-based proof of provenance and traceability.
Ulysse Nardin is also committed to more circular manufacturing processes, with the integrated rubber strap on the Freak One made of 30% recycled production waste. On the case back is the patented Grinder winding system with its rotor linked to a four-blade frame, ensuring double the efficiency of a regular winding system.
44mm black DLC titanium Freak One, US$68 600 (around R1.3-million)
• From the October edition of Wanted, 2023.