Ulysse Nardin SA is a Swiss luxury watchmaking company founded in 1846 in Le Locle, Switzerland.
The company became known in the nautical world for manufacturing highly accurate marine chronometers and complicated timepieces used by over fifty of the world's navies from the end of the 19th century till 1950. According to the last official report of Neuchâtel Observatory in Switzerland, Ulysse Nardin had won numerous awards and honors for its marine chronometers from 1846 to 1975, including 4324 certificates, 2411 special prizes and 18 gold medals at International Exhibitions.
The company was later taken over and re-invigorated in 1983 by Rolf W. Schnyder who transformed it into a profitable business again. Since 2014, it has been a subsidiary of the French Kering Group. Ulysse Nardin has operated out of the same building headquartered in Le Locle, Switzerland since 1865.
The company today designs and manufactures luxury watches, dual time watches, marine chronometers, and sells its products through a network of distributors and several boutiques around the world.
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Ulysse Nardin was born in 1823 in Le Locle, Switzerland. During the long and snowy winters, inhabitants used to produce timekeeping instruments to survive, as they couldn't live from farming alone. Ulysse Nardin first trained as an apprentice horologist under his father, Léonard-Frédéric Nardin, and perfected his skills under the tutelage of Frédéric-William Dubois and Louis JeanRichard-dit-Bressel, two master watchmakers who were experts in precision watches and whose fame extended beyond the mountains of Neuchatel, Switzerland.
In 1846, at the age of 23, Ulysse Nardin founded his own company in Le Locle where its headquarters are still located. Despite Ulysse Nardin growing up in the Jura mountains, he was fascinated by the sea and produced nautical timekeeping instruments. His company became one of the first to manufacture marine chronometers and high-precision seafaring instruments for commercial ships and navies throughout the world. His pocket and marine chronometers became reference products in civil, military and scientific realms.
Ulysse Nardin acquired a high-precision astronomical regulator, built by Jacques-Frederic Houriet in 1768, to rate his pocket chronometers. It is now in a museum in Le Locle. Minute repeaters, complicated watches and pocket chronometers carried the reputation of the company.
Rolf Schnyder and Ludwig Oechslin
At that time, famous horologists were French and English. Ulysse Nardin went to London to challenge the best pocket chronometers makers. At the 1862 International Exhibition in London, Ulysse Nardin was awarded the Prize Medal in the category of "complicated watches and pocket chronometers". The prize was the highest distinction for watchmaking in the United Kingdom. In 1867, Ulysse Nardin obtained the first series of certificates from Neuchâtel Observatory for its marine chronometers.
In 1876, Ulysse Nardin died at age 53, and his son Paul-David Nardin succeeded him as the head of the company which continued to expand. In 1889, Ulysse Nardin won a Gold Medal at the Paris Universal Exhibition, was awarded two Swiss patents in 1890, won First Prize at the Chicago Universal Exhibition in 1893, and many more.
In 1902, the company started to deliver marine chronometers to the US Navy. The brand regularly won Washington Naval Observatory competitions and became the official supplier for the US Navy's torpedo boats. The company has since provided timepieces to the navies of the United States, United Kingdom, Russia and Japan. Since the 1870s, over 50 navies and international shipping companies had been equipped with Ulysse Nardin marine chronometers.
In 1975, the Neuchâtel Observatory published the last official edition on the performance of chronometers from 1846 to 1975. According to this report, Ulysse Nardin was awarded 4,324 performance certificates for mechanical marine chronometers out of 4,504 submitted (95%).