True watch collectors and aficionados are typically well-versed in the extraordinary watches. You know, the ones people tout as highly complicated, or, in watch terms, grand complications. Often these include automatons with moving parts on the dial, minute repeater and chiming watches, or over-the-top celestial watches. Celestial watches are an arena that Ulysse Nardin (recently purchased by the Sowind Group from its management Kering) has a superb reputation in – having hired Ludwig Oechslin (an engineer by trade who went on to become a master watchmaker) to create an entire trilogy that today is legendary. Now, the brand once again turns to this master watchmaker for the all-new $73,900 Moonstruck Blast watch.
The new celestial timepiece houses a top-notch mechanical movement that was originally created by Oechslin for the Moonstruck watch, and is revamped for the Moonstruck Blast in order to showcase the sun’s trajectory and the precise lunar cycles in a bold three-dimensional work of art for the wrist. The Moonstruck Blast displays the celestial mechanisms on the dial side for a graphic rendition and intuitive display – with a rotating orb and center map of the Earth. The 335-part movement offers the days of the lunar month, tidal coefficients, a dual time indication, a world timer and the positions of the sun and moon as they move around the globe.
As mentioned, Ulysse Nardin turned to master watchmaker Ludwig Oechslin for this creation. It was just about 40 years ago in the 1980’s that Oechslin created the astronomical trio of watches today known as the Trilogy of Time. The first astronomical watches developed by him under the vigilant eye of then-owner of Ulysse Nardin, Rolf Schnyder, took seven years. The Astrolabium Galileo Galilei, followed by the Planetarium and the Tellurium – each as complex as the next.
Talking at length with Oechslin is a real treat. This man thinks on a different plane than others when it comes to watchmaking. I have had the privilege of interviewing him on multiple occasions, including at an observatory with the launch of one watch and in New York with the launch of the Freak watch. Yes, that’s right, Oechslin also is the creator of the brand’s famed Freak watch, introduced in 2001, that incorporated silicon into the mechanism for the first time.
The newest Blast Moonstruck watch is powered by the UN-106 automatic caliber made entirely in house. Each of its 335 parts is meticulously finished and hand assembled to ensure incredible beauty and precision. It is neatly housed inside the brand’s beloved 45mm Blast case made of black ceramic and DLC titanium.
A tour around the fascinating multi-level black and gold dial of this watch reveals so many surprises. Starting at the center of the dial is a convex globe with a depiction of the Earth on it as seen from the North pole. The map is actually at the center of the sapphire crystal and boasts a 3-dimensional effect since the land masses are micro-engraved on the inside of the domed crystal. Surrounding that, an inner gold disk acts as the date indication. Another disk on a lower surface surrounds that and boasts the rotating moonphase indicator that depicts the moon’s rotation and makes one complete rotation per day to follow the course of the sun. The moon phase, though, is not set to our calendar’s 24-hour day, but instead, of the synodic rotation of 29 days, 12 hours, 41 minutes and 9.3 seconds. To ensure accuracy, the moon hides ever 24 hours via a special angling – making it incredibly accurate in its depictions of the waxing and waning phases.
As we move toward the raised outer two rings. The top showcase the cities of the world for the world timer and the one immediately beneath it features the rotating sun disk. That disk is made of a bronzite material and carved in relief for depth and dimension. The time display is set against a disk made of aventurine glass to emulate the sparkling night sky. The watch boasts a user-friendly system of pushers on the left side of the case for setting the principal time and local time with either a forward or backward motion.
In all the Blast Moonstruck is a visually alluring timepiece with so much information chocked into it. The watch boasts a transparent sapphire case back for viewing of the movement, complete with a 5N rose gold oscillating weight. It offers 50 hours of power reserve and is finished with a black alligator strap, or, if one wishes a rubber or velvet strap. It is being produced in limited numbers due to its complexity.
According to Oechslin, he created this astronomical watch “Because everything that has regular cycles can be reproduced mechanically and be read on a dial. Encapsulating time is the watchmaker’s art. Freeing it is that of the philosopher. In a way, the Blast Moonstruck encapsulate, but above all, it liberates the mind. It is that simple.”
(This article by Roberta Naas first appeared on Forbes.com)