When I introduced you to the new Classico Manufacture earlier this week, I mentioned that it was this model Ulysse Nardin chose as the flag bearer of the manufacture’s first in-house movement. While this watch is very much the same as that original model, and still utilizes that in-house caliber, the real appeal of the Grand Feu its caliber, but rather, its enamel dial and the value-for-money proposition the watch tries to offer.
The Grand Feu will retail for $8,800 in the United States, which makes it one of the most affordable mechanical watches with a champlevé grand feu dial. Not only is the price appealing, but also the watch itself cuts a fine figure in the metal. The case is on the conservative side, built with very traditional styling and an easy to wear shape. It measures in at a highly-wearable 40mm in diameter, and it has an elegant profile. The watch slid gently under a dress shirt cuff when I tried it on yesterday and I enjoyed the way the lugs held the case to the wrist. All in all, the basics are just how they should be.
The dial is the main attraction though. It is a beautiful dark blue color with a wave-like guilloché patterns that shimmers under the light like the ocean in the night – appropriate, given the company’s many ties to the nautical world. The enamel over the guilloché pattern has a distinct richness to it that makes it clear from first glance that this is something special and not the more common lacquer dials you’d find on many watches in this price segment. There is no doubt about the dressy nature of the watch either, despite the luminous hands.
The white Roman numerals and softly-curved hour and minute hands provide a nice pop, and lighten up the dial of the watch. The same goes for the date disc at six o’clock, which is both discreet and very legible when it needs to be. Does it need to be there at all? I’m not sure. It’s certainly there to be functional, though I suspect the dial might be more beautiful without the intrusion. It doesn’t ruin the watch though, not even close.
One good reason for the date is the manufacture-made caliber UN-320, a signature of this collection. Sure, Ulysse Nardin could tweak the movement or develop something new, but then we end up with a very different watch entirely. In any case, the UN-320 an impressive movement, with a silicon hairspring and Ulysse Nardin’s hallmark anchor escapement, and a moderate 48-hour power reserve. It’s visible through the caseback, where it becomes clear what we have here is another small movement in a big case. The maritime theme continue on the rotor, which is engraved with rows of waves.
The Ulysse Nardin Classico Manufacture “Grand Feu” is an addition to the main collection and is priced at $8,800. It is only available in stainless steel with a leather strap.
For more information, visit Ulysse Nardin online.