Ulysse Nardin gold watch case making

This project will show rather simple case production in classic “antique” design. We will reconstruct the traditional manual wristwatch case making process of early 1900’s.

Old Swiss Movement

A little noble movement to make a new watch. This one was produced in 1890’s by Ulysse Nardin manufacture based on LeCoultre & Co “ebauche” movement blank. Small size movement originally was produced as gold ladies pendant watch… until once it has gone to scrap gold. We’ll dress it into a new gold wristwatch case.

The movement is in great “antique” condition, gold plating in good condition with only faint natural marks. Stamped “ULYSSE NARDIN – LOCLE” on mainplate.

Our goal is for converting the orphaned movement to elegant shape wristwatch suitable for daily use. The body should not interfere and take away the focus from the dial.

Custom gold case making

Movement’s mainplate dimension is 27,5 mm, which means that the minimum external diameter of the body should be 30 mm.

First stage is about sizing and drawing. The drawing is always built individually for every particular movement.

We start manufactoring with ring-blanks made of 14K gold. The rings are made of thick gold strip and are soldered.

Machining is performed strictly according to the drawings. As a result, we’ve got a set of rings-the-blanks.

Case body sizes adjusted to snap-on bezels well. Little by little, it gets in its right shape…

Next, we machine “olive pieces” for lugs. Classic “antique” shape of the first wristwatch cases are from early 1910’s.

Note, one “olive” has got a cast defect, it sometimes happens with gold casting and some case parts need to be machined twice.

Next step is soldering “olives” to case body.

At this stage, we’ve got lots of gold shavings to be used for furniture parts.

Some gold particles get lost in the state of case, it’s impossible to catch all chips when machining and melting. Forced losses constitute about 4-5% of pure weight.

Movement fitting and furniure machining

Time to fit the movement into an empty case. Looks good! It does motivate for further works.

The dial is original with early-type sprawling “Ulysse Nardin Locle” signature. Enamel is in a perfect unrestored preservation, just one hour to replace the hand.

Time to use gold chips. We melt and cast gold cuttings into a solid rod to make stem-setting button. The button is made in few simple lathe steps shown below.

Button fitting targeted opposite of setting lever. Riveted from inside to fix into hole.

Vintage new-old-stock gold crown fitted, rose gold color corresponds to other case parts. Gold setting pin is machined longer to adjust the final length on the watch assembly.

Next step to make wire lugs. Gold chips used again to cast long bar and pull gold wire. Thick 1 mm diameter wire looks solid and bent well.

Case is then polished, movement is fitted and glass crystals fixed with modern UV glue. Yeah!

Case making works are complete. New gold case is graceful, of moderate thickness and perfect size to wear on lady’s wrist.

Eventually we have reconstructed a work of early 1910-1920’s workshops who machined custom-ordered cases for old-fashioned pocket watches just to satisfy customer’s demand in new-fashioned wristwatches. This case type does not allow any water resistance, but it has a true vintage look. Just maybe our case is more solid, more shiny in comparison to vintage examples.

The only modern feature used is glazed caseback. Fascinating ticking movement should be visible and gratify an eye.

Standard movement cleaning performed, movement runs well with good timekeeping for 120-years machine.

Classiс genuine leather strap fitted… Complete and ready to wear!

Classic old casemaking technology turned up suitable for individual cases, but rather complicated for serial production. The product has harmonious dimensions, moderate gold content and keeps well-mannered vintage/modern design ratio.

Next projects to be made for bigger “gents” 45-46 size dimensions.

Hope you liked it, any your comments and questions are appreciated! 🙂