round 30 adventurers will set off from Les Sables d’Olonne on Sunday November 8th, at the start of the 9th edition of the Vendée Globe, the ineffable non-stop and unassisted yacht race around the world. A circumnavigation of 21,638 nautical miles (40,075 kilometers) which only takes place every four years and for which Ulysse Nardin is the Official Timekeeper.
The Swiss watchmaker has been making marine chronometers for explorers since 1846 and continues this tradition by supporting the Vendée Globe. This year, the yachtsmen will spend a minimum of 70 days at sea before returning to Les Sables d’Olonne and crossing the finish line. During this odyssey, they will inevitably be confronted with the 5,000 billion pieces of the floating plastic that pollutes the ocean.
Ulysse Nardin has turned its efforts towards researching and developing solutions for the growing plastic pollution crisis in our oceans. The watchmaker has implemented a dedicated research unit to studying materials from the sea, particularly the characteristics of oyster shells, algae, marine PET (plastic bottles) and polyamide fishing nets. The team is currently researching several avenues of sustainable innovation for future watchmaking projects.
In October 2020, Ulysse Nardin marked the first milestone in its commitment to the marine circular economy with the launch of the new “R-STRAP”. The strap made of fishing nets is compatible with the DIVER, MARINE and FREAK X watches and made from recycled fishing nets, one of the main sources of ocean plastic pollution.
Today, Ulysse Nardin is taking their commitment further by introducing the DIVER NET, a concept watch in which each trim element has been designed to be as environmentally friendly as possible. A totally innovative and “upcycled” watch for which the search for suppliers was key.
For the case, middle, back and bezel decoration of the DIVER NET, Ulysse Nardin has placed its trust in three young Breton designers who have created the first fishing net recycling sector in France. FIL&FAB recovers nets that are no longer in use from harbors and transforms them into polyamide pellets, a raw material that is highly resistant to friction. These partners have an industrial design and transition background, with a real sensitivity to the product.
“A design object is creating one which has been thought out from start to finish to fulfill its functions without damaging the environment”, emphasizes Yann Louboutin, one of the three founders of FIL&FAB. “Our association with Ulysse Nardin is natural: it is inevitably first and foremost linked to the sea, to Ulysses, the Odyssey, adventure, exploration, gusts of wind, salt spray and so on. We also share the desire to produce reliable objects, made to last, while reducing the ecological impact. Today, we are devoting our energy to trying to curb environmental problems, and no initiatives should be considered too small. Recycled materials are a necessity for the future.”
The research around the DIVER NET has consisted of redesigning its trim elements, leading the watch to feature a wrist strap made from PET plastic from the sea, transformed into reels of thread by the Swiss company TIDE. This supplier is also working to stop the production of virgin plastic at its source and use the huge resources already available. In its search for low-impact solutions, Ulysse Nardin has also replaced the traditional sapphire glass by a transparent ceramic glass, machined in the Swiss Jura. The transparent ceramic glass is a material used with the goal of having a lower environmental impact by limiting energy when it is manufactured. The innovation department has thus appraised and tested several solutions, which may be extended to other products.
The DIVER NET is a concept watch that explores important environmentally-friendly innovations while keeping the brand’s tradition alive. In fact, the silicon technology of the UN-118 movement can be admired through the back of its 44mm case. This concept diver watch is equipped with a concave inverted unidirectional bezel, also made of recycled fishing nets, with a curved transparent ceramic glass instead of a traditional sapphire glass.
The white, gray and green dial, with its majestic white “UN” lettering, heralds the mechanical marvel that sits within it. On the hour-markers and hands, the acid green Superluminova makes it easier to see the time in the dark. Green touches - symbolizing nature - are omnipresent: on the dial, bezel, crown protector and on the stitching on the recycled PET strap. The dial also features a power reserve indicator at 12 o’clock, as well as a date window and a small second hand at 6 o’clock.
To convey the message of this nontraditional watch, Ulysse Nardin has chosen Mathieu Crepel, a “Ulysses” of the company, as its ambassador. World champion snowboarder, Olympic medalist and surfer, he instinctively glides from snowflakes to waves and is heavily involved with The Water Family, an organization dedicated to the education of water protection and health of the planet.
In addition to Mathieu, another Ulysses will participate in the Vendée Globe race. The celebrated yachtsman, Sébastien Destremau, will face the Everest of the seas for the second time. In the previous edition, after a Dantean journey of 124 days, he received a hero’s welcome. “I was convinced that there would be nobody left, but they were all there, cheering and clapping me. Thousands of people! I’ve never forgotten that moment and I decided to take part in the 2020 Vendée Globe as a thank you to them,” Sébastien Destremau says. This year, he will be starting aboard the “Merci” (Thank You) monohull.
Price on request.