Rolf Schnyder, the visionary behind the resuscitation of the brand Ulysse Nardin, passed away on April 15, 2011 after a short illness, the company reports. Always a maverick and lover of life, for his 75th birthday this year Schnyder celebrated by going skydiving. He bought the company Ulysse Nardin in 1983 and for his entrée into haute horlogerie introduced the astrological watch Astrolabium Galileo Galilei, conceived by frequent collaborator Ludwig Oeschlin, which became part of the trilogy of time.
Ulysse Nardin was also known for their minute repeating automatons, chronometers and perhaps most famously the groundbreaking Freak, a 7 day-tourbillon-carrousel that told time through the movement without hands, dial or a crown. Known for their innovative use of materials, Ulysse Nardin was the first to use silicon in their movements, a once verboten substance that is now regularly used in balance springs and escapements across the industry.
Other materials Ulysse Nardin experimented with in their watches under the stewardship of Mr. Schnyder were grown Diamond and a combination of Diamond and Silicon referred to as DiamonSil, all to reduce friction and improve watch performance.
To mark the beginning of the new millennium in 1999, Ulysse Nardin introduced the GMT± Perpetual, a very functional and practical perpetual calendar that could be adjusted forward and backward without hurting the movement.
Just two years ago, Ulysse Nardin launched the Moonstruck and Planet Earth, going back to their astronomical roots. The Moonstruck kept track of the moon phases, had a 2nd timezone and date as well as showed the position of the tides globally.
I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Schnyder a few times and can attest to his lust for life and passion for watchmaking. In a short time he reinvigorated the company with his energy and inspiration, making it an exciting place of experimentation and discovery in high watchmaking. He was very proud of Ulysse Nardin’s status as a true manufacture and five years ago in 2005 showed the first in-house self-winding base caliber UN-160. He had many other plans to surprise us in the coming years. A succession plan is in place to continue Mr. Schnyder’s wishes at Ulysse Nardin and his work. He will be missed.
I wish Mr. Schnyder’s family and his family at Ulysse Nardin all the best, sending my sincerest condolences and warmest regards.