My Weekend With Ulysse Nardin at the America’s Cup World Series

The Swiss watchmaker is a sponsor of Artemis Racing from Sweden

When I was 22 and finishing up my senior year at UCLA, I became obsessed with the idea of sailing the world. I took a semester’s worth of lessons aboard a 16-foot Hobie parked in Marina del Rey and promptly applied to an ad in the back of my college paper seeking crew members for an around-the-world sail.

After interviewing with the wealthy California businessman who was organizing the sail, I was told that my tentative acceptance required a trial sail around the Caribbean island of Antigua aboard the Swan 61—the Rolls Royce of sailing yachts—he’d just bought. What happened next is a long story, best shared over stiff drinks. In short: I made it to Antigua, but my around-the-world sail was over before it began.

This past weekend, I was reminded of that long-ago dream as I watched the America’s Cup World Series in New York City as a guest of Ulysse Nardin. A year ago, the Swiss watchmaker signed on as a sponsor of Artemis Racing from Sweden, one of six teams competing for the cup, which will be awarded next year in Bermuda. The weekend of races on the Hudson River was a precursor to the 2017 final.

Artemis didn’t have a great weekend—the team took last place in the New York race and is now fifth in overall standings—but the outcome of the 2017 America’s Cup is as unpredictable as the wind. On Saturday, the day I joined the boat that followed the competitors, the conditions were lackluster. Officials almost abandoned the race due to lack of wind. But for me, the chance to see the extreme skill and athleticism required of the men who sail the Formula 1–like boats that compete in the world’s most prestigious sailing contest was enough to make for a super-exciting weekend.

In addition, I was thrilled to get better acquainted with Ulysse Nardin. Watch executives like to talk of “DNA” to distinguish their brands’ attributes from the competition, and while that can feel like a cliché, there’s no denying that Ulysse Nardin’s 170-year history of producing marine chronometers makes the partnership with Artemis feel authentic to the core. The sponsorship forms the backdrop to an overall repositioning, unveiled at Baselworld, that focuses on the brand’s well-established connection to the sea (not for nothing does the Ulysse Nardin logo include an anchor).

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The Artemis Racing boat in Gothenburg, Sweden (photo courtesy of Ulysse Nardin)

CEO Patrik Hoffmann spoke about that connection at a cocktail event the brand held on Friday night at the Commissioner’s Bar at Pier A at the edge of Manhattan’s Battery Park (also known as Liberty Gateway for the role it played as the VIP entrance to Ellis Island).

“It’s the first time we’ve brought the Basel novelties to the United States,” Hoffmann said, alluding to showcases in the back of the room displaying a handful of 2016 timepieces, most of them from the Marine collection, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. “It was the year of the Marine for Ulysse Nardin. And one piece, the Grand Deck, hit the social media more than we expected. And it really represents the spirit of Ulysse Nardin, the spirit of the sea, and also the spirit of innovation. I remember one and half years ago when I went to see the base of the Artemis racing team in San Francisco, I was amazed at the innovation that goes into those boats. And the same is true of our timepieces. And this timepiece, the Grand Deck, really represents that.”

Here’s a look at my three favorite Ulysse Nardin maritime-themed models, including the Grand Deck, which features a patented boom display that sweeps across the handcrafted wood marquetry dial to indicate the minutes.

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Grand Deck Marine Tourbillon in 44 mm 18k white gold case, $280,000

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Classico Schooner America in 40 mm 18k rose gold case with enamel cloissoné dial, $39,800

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Marine Chronograph Annual Calendar in 43 mm stainless steel case, $11,900