Style / World of Watches (WOW)

Striking Watches: Ulysse Nardin Animated Dials

Ulysse Nardin roped in miniature automata to help animate the picturesque dials of its latest striking complications.

Mar 14, 2016 | By Staff Writer

After such delightful and entertaining motifs as a jazz band and a circus scene, Ulysse Nardin turns to more serious, though no less inspirational, themes to adorn the dials of its two favourite striking complications, the classic minute repeater and the hourstriker, which chimes the hours and half hours in passing and on request.



The first brings us back to the time of the Second Punic War (218-201 BC) fought between the Carthaginians and the Romans. The great Carthaginian general, Hannibal Barca, dominated the fight so much that this war as also called the Hannibalic War by the Romans. Indeed, Hannibal became infamous to the Romans when he successfully marched his army on the back of elephants from Iberia over the Pyrenees and the Alps into Italy.

Depicting this monumental journey, the Ulysse Nardin Hannibal Minute Repeater reflects the general’s courageous spirit with hand-carved 18K white gold figurines wielding spears and shields, some on the back of a magnificent African elephant, and one on horseback – Hannibal himself who wields a sword. These figurines are all geared to the movement underneath the dial and each time the sliding lever on the side of the case is pulled and released, not only can the chimes of Westminster carillon be heard, but the figurines also begin to move. Following the rhythm of the chimes, the figurines bring the dial to life, seemingly re-enacting Hannibal’s legendary crossing.

In the background, mountains in hand-carved 18K white gold give a sense of perspective, reminding one of the scraggly cliffs of the Italian Alps, but what truly roots this watch to that gruelling terrain is the dial, which is made of natural granite sourced from the very mountain range where Hannibal and his brigade had marched over. Shimmering and glittering as the light falls on it, this granite dial, together with the moving automata, tells the tale of a brave general whose military prowess was unequivocally one in a million. Below the granite dial, a wide aperture displays the tourbillon with much fanfare, but even an all-time favourite complication like the tourbillon cannot draw any attention away from Hannibal and his soldiers.


  • Dimensions: 44mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, Westminster carillion minute repeater
  • Power Reserve: 70 hours
  • Movement: Manual-winding Calibre UN-78 with tourbillon
  • Water Resistance: 30 meters
  • Material: Platinum
  • Strap: Black alligator leather with folding buckle



From the distant past, Ulysse Nardin’s next jacquemart-animated timepiece takes you to the present where heavy industries like oil and gas unearth fuel to power the world. Picturing a scene out at sea where huge oil rigs drill deep into the ground to recover crude oil, this model might be especially interesting to those in the oil trading industry. Here, the jacquemarts are the pair of oil rigs that are geared to the hourstriker mechanism, and so when the watch is chiming, the rigs move up and down, in sync with the hammer and gong. An additional function allows the owner of this watch to switch off the chimes. Simply push the button at two o’clock to turn the indicator towards the hourglass to silence the watch, and push it again to turn the indicator towards the gold dot to reactivate the chimes.

The watch is crafted in either rose gold or platinum, but both models are equally alluring especially since precious metal is paired with rich black enamel. Ulysse Nardin has always been a consistent producer of beautifully hand-enamelled timepieces, although the Hourstriker Oil Pump is much more than that. Apart from the use of automata, which is already a feat on its own, the dial here is also engraved by hand before being painted with enamel. The engraver handcrafts the gold plate, giving it a three-dimensional effect with varying depths and shapes, before the master enameller comes in to fill the cavities with powdered enamel and firing the dial repeatedly until the desired colour is obtained. Once that is achieved, the craftsman then sands down the enamel and polishes it to give a shiny brilliance.

Not the usual garden variety métiers d’art motifs like flowers or animals, the Hourstriker Oil Pump would certainly make for the most interesting table conversation at your next evening soiree – if you’re lucky enough to be one of the few to own this limited edition watch. There are only 18 each in rose hold and platinum. Just remember to switch the chimes off when it’s time for the host to make a speech.


  • Dimensions: 42mm
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, automata, hourstriker
  • Power Reserve: 42 hours
  • Movement: Self-winding Calibre UN-610
  • Water Resistance: 30 meters
  • Case: Rose gold or platinum
  • Strap: Black alligator leather with folding buckle


Story Credits

Text by Celine Yap

This article was originally published in World of Watches

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