It’s rare that a new watch comes out that immediately can receive a nickname. I’m going to go ahead and call this one the “Darth Maul®”. With its red and black flowing lines reminiscent of the iconic villain’s skin and facial tattoos, the Skeleton X Magma is a step into a new world of watch design for the company. Ulysse Nardin has generally been at the forefront of materials when it comes to the soul of the watch (see all the news of their integration of silicon into their movements over the last decade), but has been fairly stagnant with regard to outer materials. This isn’t necessarily a bad (or a good) thing, but just “is”.
Today Ulysse Nardin released something very unexpected, yet very cool. The Darth Maul® is a very refreshing take on a Ulysse Nardin Executive-style watch. The general layout of the Executive receives a much need facelift in the new Skeleton X Magma. Aside from the general color, Ulysse Nardin’s foray into more “experimental” materials now shows up on the exterior in what Ulysse Nardin is referring to as a carbon magma case. The red and black finish creates a watch where the overall aesthetic will become an option for many who would typically look to Hublot for something a little more “edgy”. Furthermore, someone who likes the look of some of the red Roger Dubuis Excalibur models, but is operating with a smaller budget will immediately enjoy the look of the new Darth Maul®. Ulysse Nardin’s UN-371 movement also gives buyers a 96-hour power reserve which definitely doesn’t hurt the appeal of the watch. At 43mm the watch is large enough to have significant wrist presence, but isn’t so big as to be obnoxious. Wearing a red and black cased watch isn’t exactly a subtle accessory choice to begin with so the typical wearer wouldn’t necessarily want for it to be subdued, but this watch does do a good job of being loud yet fairly tame. Also, for those who enjoyed the Ulysse Nardin Executive Skeleton Tourbillon “Stars and Stripes” edition a few years ago, this watch will be a more affordable option with a similar uniqueness in its color scheme.
The Magma X is priced at $25,000. I would really like to see it priced lower than that… something around $12-14,000 would have been the sweet spot. If I were running Ulysse Nardin I’d want to price my more “edgy’ watches a bit lower than what Hublot does with theirs in order to gain more marketshare, and then later start to raise the cost of “entry” into the brand. Ulysse Nardin could do fine with this more “exclusive” approach, but it’s a fairly high price of entry especially considering that it’s a growingly saturated market segment. This is their current competition: the majority of Hublot’s watches, some of Zenith’s new Defy pieces, colorful Royal Oak Offshores, Omega’s unending stream of Speedmaster and Planet Ocean ceramic color combination releases, etc. This is all before we hit a higher price point of Roger Dubuis, Richard Mille, HYT, etc. We’ll see what happens, but I feel that despite this being a cool watch, that it won’t have staying power with some of the more established players in this segment especially considering the price point.