As we saw from March 20t12 at Baselworld, Ulysse Nardin came with a very strong lineup of new watches year, both technically and aesthetically. I am particularly fond of the 2012 Marine Chronometer which is equipped with the new manufacture caliber 118 (equipped with high-end escapement technology, DiamonSil). In addition, I have throughout the year covered other great pieces such as the Black Sea Chronograph, the Black Sea (Yellow), and ed hardy replica. The last piece of the 2012 introductions that I would like to cover now is the (now available) Sonata Streamline.

Alarm with cathedral gong. Countdown indicator. Dual Time system with instant timezone adjustor. Big date in a double window. Quick date correction in both directions.

Ulysse Nardin indicates that the reception to this watch was very positive, and I do find it to be a compelling timepiece (actually there are two variations). But at the same time this piece reflects some meaningful evolution away from the historical DNA of the Sonata series, which itself is worth a closer look. We’ll explore it all, below.

First, some quick background. The first Sonata was introduced in 2003, after seven years of development of the caliber, and received much praise. It was/is an alarm watch with a countdown indicator and dual time system with the instant time zone adjustor (as conceived by Dr. Ludwig Oechslin and featured in many Ulysse Nardin watches). The Sonata Silicium came in 2008, and it is my favorite of the series, with a dial cut out of a silicium wafer (and presented in its natural color) as well as the logo inlay on the winding rotor visible through the exhibition sapphire back of the case (the original did not have a sapphire case back). And now, 2012, the Sonata Streamline.

Sonata Silicium

Ulysse Nardin states that the Sonata Streamline is inspired by the aerodynamic aesthetic of superyachty, and while the overall result is sleek, I do find it also to be very masculine and technical looking, accentuated by skeletonized lugs and a geometrically busy dial — certainly a departure from prior Sonatas. More on the dial in a moment. First, the case.

We see this year the use of a 44mm titanium case with rose gold inserts, with choice of ceramic bezel or rose gold bezel. Both features (metal and size) are new to the Sonata series (prior case size 42mm). It is interesting that while the positive acoustic effects of titanium compared to gold or stainless steel are well known, titanium has long been the domain of sportier watches; its use in more exclusive and expensive watches was not acceptable. But this has changed in recent years, though I can not say from experience what it has done to the alarm acoustics of this watch.

The ceramic bezel model has a matching black dial; the rose gold bezel model has a white dial. There is quite a noticeable difference in the two models (note the date windown and how the upper sub-dials are/are not framed) and I think that the model with black dial and ceramic bezel is clearly superior.

44mm titanium case with rose gold, ceramic bezel (Ref. 675-00)

44mm titanium case with rose gold, rose gold bezel (Ref. 675-01)

Now as to the dial. The overall look of the dial has changed quite a bit. Gone are the fat, curvy hands that are the hallmark hands of the Sonata. But I did not like them anyway :-) and I find the new hands to be a nice change. The fonts are also different, but they look good and of a nice style. The ref. 675-000 (black dial/black ceramic bezel) has a superb looking ribbed finish to the dial and the upper subdials are very nicely framed. On the other model (white dial), I do find the exposed date wheel to be very distracting and wholly unnecessary. As well, the unframed subdials up top are not nearly as attractive.

The hand at 9 indicates if the Alarm is activated or not, ON or OFF. The alarm settings are shown on the top of the dial: 1) a sub-dial at 2 o’clock that indicates the hour and minute alarm setting, and 2) a countdown indicator positioned above 10 o’clock. The two chrono counters are nicely framed and given more emphasis than earlier Sonatas, which I believe is appropriate. The countdown indicator is based on a 24-hours mechanism, allowing the timepiece alarm to be set 24 hours ahead. It calculates the time left on a 24-hour scale until the alarm chimes. This permits easy reading of whether the alarm is set for a.m. or p.m.

You will notice also the printing on the rehaut ring — a feature not present on earlier Sonata dials. In addition to the numbering you can see that the rehaut ring also marks the “Countdown” “Alarm Setting” and “Dual Time” sections of the dial. I think this fits with the overall watch style, though I can see that some might say that it adds to an already busy dial.

Caliber UN-67

The Sonata Streamline is run by a patented self-winding manufacture caliber developed about a decade ago by UN. The caliber and are the same as prior models, except vs. the original there is now the use of silicium escapement.

The movement combines a 22-karat-gold rotor with a silicium insert. As you may know (but if not, now you do know), Ulysse Nardin was the first to use this new material innovation (silicium components) back in 2001 with the Freak. The hairspring is also of silicium. UN sources all its silicium components through Sigatec, a member of Ulysse Nardin’s group of companies.

A look at old vs. new

note change of case/lugs, change of hands, and more

The main point I want to make here is that this piece, with its many subtle changes, has become more sporty, more technical than its predecessors. Whether it is any more or less sonorous is perhaps in the ear of the beholder. But that it has lost some its softness, its soul, its charm is something that yes, I can see. But for me this does not make the Sonata Streamline any less attractive, it just makes it attractive in a different way. At the same time, I do find the black dialed version with ceramic bezel to be much, much more attractive than the other reference.