Interview: Ulysse Nardin CEO Patrick Pruniaux

Interview: Ulysse Nardin CEO Patrick Pruniaux

February 25, 2019

Ulysse Nardin CEO Patrick Pruniaux was in America last week to help the company christen its new Marine Mega Yacht during the Watches and Wonders show in Miami. (Pictured above with Cellini President Leon Adams)

The watch’s complicated movement and ornate decoration show off some of the Swiss manufacture’s specialties to great effect. “It’s one watch, but it does a good job of conveying the scope of what we’re capable of as a brand, both technically and artistically,” Pruniaux said.

During his trip, Pruniaux also visited Cellini Jewelers where he took a moment to chat with us about the new Freak X and Skeleton X collections.

Ulysse Nardin is talking a lot about the “X factor” this year. How do you define what that is?

Pruniaux: “It’s very simple. It’s about offering people a highly recognizable and technologically advanced movement that’s unique in its price segment.”

How do you strike that balance?

Pruniaux“Creating a strong value proposition – a great watch at a fair price – is important. But ultimately, I think people wear our watches because they’re excited about the design, not because they love the price. Everything begins with a strong design.”

That being said, I am surprised to see what other brands offer at similar price points. I’m not saying we’re an anomaly, but when you spend money on a luxury watch, I think you deserve to get one that stands out. And that’s our promise: a movement, a design, and a story that are exceptionally distinctive.”

The Freak X and Skeleton X are poised to make fine watchmaking accessible to a wider audience.

Pruniaux: “It’s true. It may be overly ambitious for us to think this way, but my goal is to make things that are so nice that people who wouldn’t normally consider buying a luxury watch, get excited about watches. It’s a challenge, but one I happily accept.”

Do you think the new X watches will compete with the originals?

Pruniaux: “No, I think they appeal to different kinds of collectors. For example, some are willing to accept a Freak that has a crown. Others prefer the original crownless design. For them, we’ll always offer the Freak Vision, or whatever comes next.”

What’s coming next?

Pruniaux: “I can’t say too much, but very soon we’ll announce a massive evolution of the Freak. It has a technical innovation that’s truly mind blowing.”

The Freak has always been a laboratory for Ulysse Nardin to experiment with new things.

Pruniaux: “Absolutely. It’s been 18 years since the launch of the collection. If you think about it, the Freak is finally legal in most countries. We’re going to have to do something about that!” (Laughs)

Ulysse Nardin has never been shy about trying new things. This year, the company began making cases from Carbonium, an advanced aerospace material. How did that come about it?

Pruniaux: “When we innovate – whether it’s with a movement, a design or a material – it must be true to our identity. Carbonium was a good fit for us.

“First of all, it just looks really cool. On top of that, it’s light, comfortable and – to a certain extent – sustainable. Granted, it’s not easy to machine, but as the saying goes: ‘no pain, no gain.’”

The Diver and Marine collection are an integral part of Ulysse Nardin’s heritage. The styles of those watches are fairly specific. Does that limit your options?

Pruniaux: “It’s somewhat counterintuitive, but when your choices are limited, you have to be more creative than when you have total freedom. The Marine Torpilleur that came out last year is a good example. That entire line was extremely popular because the design resonated with people. It goes back to what we were discussing earlier.

“Strong design gets people excited. I truly believe that everything flows from that starting point.”