Perpetual calendars are one of the legendary “grande complications” that make collectors swoon, and this Ulysse Nardin GMT ± Perpetual Limited Edition is even more special. It features the ultimate perpetual calendar, along with an easy-to-use pushbutton GMT function in a compact and wearable 40 mm red gold case.
Calendar mechanisms are simple in concept, but the absurdity of our monthly and annual cycles make them devilishly difficult to get right. Most watches feature a simple monthly calendar of 31 days, forcing the wearer to reset the date every month or so. Some have an annual calendar, adjusting the date automatically according to the current month. Then there are so-called perpetual calendars, which are capable of accounting for the four-year leap year cycle.
Most calendar mechanisms use a “finger” to advance the date wheel. This simple solution has been in use for decades by nearly every brand but suffers from two deficiencies: It is fragile, with the calendar advance finger susceptible to breaking if the watch is set at the wrong time, and it can only advance the date. If you miss the right date, you must roll through the entire month to get back where you were!
In the 1990’s, legendary watchmaker Dr. Ludwig Oechslin designed a new and elegant perpetual calendar solution that used gears and could be adjusted both forwards and backwards. For this work, he was awarded the “Chronos Innovations Prize” by the German “Chronos Magazine” in 2000. Ulysse Nardin licensed Dr. Oechslin’s work and brought it to market in this watch.
Dr. Oechslin also invented a novel GMT mechanism that uses push buttons to advance or retard the second timezone relative to the first. Similar mechanisms are now found in many high-end dual-timezone watches, but finding this incredibly useful feature in the same watch with the perpetual calendar is really something special!
This Ulysse Nardin GMT ± Perpetual is a Ref. 322-88 Limited Edition model with a 40 mm case in red gold, introduced in 2000. Unique to this model is a deeply-textured guilloché dial and COST chronometer certification. The series number is on the face rather than the rear, and this watch is number 48 of 500. Here is a contemporary review at Timezone.
It includes an automatic movement, Caliber UN 32, with rhodium plated components and Fausses Côtes decoration. This is a historic movement, descended from the Lémania 1340 but thoroughly reworked to be a true in-house design. More information is available here.
This particular watch is listed over at PuristSPro for just $16,800, a substantial discount over the $30k MSRP and less than similar pieces go for on Chrono24. The seller is an infrequent poster but has been registered for quite a while, and claims it was his father’s watch. We see no reason to doubt his story, as the watch includes the original box and papers. A fine modern classic with real horological significance!