The invention of sounding watches dates back to at least 1300, even before traditional dials and hands made their appearance, when monumental clocks were designed to strike a bell at precise time so they could be heard from a distance or at night.
Over time, the bells on these mechanisms were made increasingly smaller, until they fitted into table-top clocks, then pocket watches and finally wristwatches.
The Grande Sonnerie is still one of the mot exclusive complication in Haute Horlogerie and, for sure, Ulysse Nardin has a relevant place in the history of Sonnerie watches. In 1893, at the Chicago World’s Fair, it was the only watchmaker to win a gold medal for its minute-repeater chronograph. A century later, Ulysse Nardin was also one of the first to revive the tradition of Jacquemart watches (where figures appear to strike bells), with the San Marco in 1989, followed by the Genghis Khan.
With the new Imperial Blue, Ulysse Nardin combines a Sonnerie Westminster Carillon which automatically strikes the hours and repeat hours, quarters, minutes on demand with a flying tourbillon and a large date display.
Every hour the Grande Sonnerie melody rings but, if desired, the on-off pusher at 11 o’clock on the back of the case allows the owner to disable sounds. A safety system stops the sounding of the passing hours while the time is being corrected.
The minute-repeater, featuring a Westminster chime played on four notes (Sol, Do, Re and Mi which are also engraved on the hammers), is activated using the slide on the case middle at 9 o’clock.
Energy management was one of the main challenge in developing such a complicated watch and Ulysse Nardin implemented a truly efficient and elegant solution.The sounding of the passing hours, as well as the hours, quarter-hours and minutes on demand, is powered by the same barrel. This barrel is wound either partially by activating the repeater slide or fully by rotating the crown counterclockwise. When rotated clockwise, the crown winds a second barrel that is dedicated to the movement, with a 50-hour power reserve.
The round white gold case of the Ulysse Nardin Imperial Blue (ref. 9700-125) has a diameter of 46 mm. Just 20 numbered pieces will be produced.