Not many brands make concept watches – timepieces made purely for research and not for sale. Ulysse Nardin created their Innovision 1 watch in 2007, and the inventions in that piece were progressively transferred to their production watches. Ten years on, the brand intends to do the same with its InnoVision 2. It comprises ten new features, and ten patents filed and obtained. The most obvious innovation is the method of displaying time, which combines Freak-like minute and hour hands with hour numerals that displays the hours 1 to 11 first, and then those from 13 to 23. The digits are on a ring moved directly by the barrel, and the transition to the next set of 12 hours takes 15 minutes at midday and midnight. The two sets of hours, before and after midday, appear in the windows in different colours. The appearance of the piece is heightened by the use of SuperLuminova, set into channels in the glass balance bridge.
Here is a brief summary of the innovations and patents:
Dual constant escapement
The escapement is the heart of any watch, and Ulysse Nardin have done a vast amount of research into this assembly. The Dual Constant Escapement stores pulses of energy in flexible silicium blades, so that the amount of energy transmitted to the balance wheel are constant over time. This improves precision. The origin of this escapement design can be traced back to Ludwig Oechslin’s revolutionary “Dual Direct escapement” used in the Freak watch. For this part of the timepiece, two patents have been issued, one is still pending.
Direct silicium bonding
The escapement is made by Deep Reactive Ion Etching using monocrystalline silicium, a material that requires a lot of technology because, though it offers advantages of anti-magnetism and isochronicity, it doesn’t have the ductility of metal, and is difficult to bond. This bonding process is based on the use of pressure and temperature to create stable silicium oxide joints. One patent pending.
Silicium balance wheel
Ideally a balance wheel should have all its mass concentrated at its circumference. The balance wheel in InnoVision 2 approaches this, with a structure in ultra-light silicium, and four solid gold elements fixed to the outer edge. The total mass is lower than that of conventional balance wheels, which increases efficiency and power reserve. One patent pending.
The Grinder self-winding system
This is a totally new automatic winding system, in which energy transmission from oscillating weight to mainspring is performed both directly, and by using the flexibility of linking components to transfer energy. One patent obtained, one patent pending.
Sapphire-coated silicium bridge
In collaboration with the EPFL High School of Lausanne and the company Sigatec, Ulysse Nardin has developed a method for coating silicium with a thin film of sapphire. This makes for harder surfaces and greater mechanical stability. One patent obtained.
In InnoVision 2, hard gold is used for gear wheels. The material apparently increases the efficiency of power transfer, which decreases energy consumption and increases power reserve. It also makes these components more visually attractive.
Usually the shock protection system for the balance comprise five components. Ulysse Nardin has developed a new integrated system with fewer components. It is made of glass.
SuperLuminova and the glass balance wheel bridge
The new balance wheel bridge is made of transparent glass, and provides extra surfaces that can be coated with SuperLuminova for unusual light effects in the dark.
New time display
InnoVision 2 displays time in a different way, with hours displayed digitally through windows providing a 24-hour system. One patent pending.
Glass minute hand
The minute hand is a three-dimensional sculpture in glass, laser-cut, and stabilized by a thin metal plate to ensure durability even when the watch is subjected to violent impacts.