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Ulysse Nardin boss Patrick Pruniaux

Words by Rob Chilton

The watch company CEO talks about authenticity, sailing and free diving

When did your interest in watches begin?
When I was six years old, my dad bought me a Mickey Mouse watch; Mickey’s hands indicated the time. I remember it being my first significant personal gift and it really meant a lot to me.

How did your interest develop?
During my teen years, my interest in timepieces grew stronger, particularly for products that encapsulated strong values. When I started backpacking, travelling and living in different places around the world, watches became an obvious interest.

Watches with nautical roots

You’re a keen sailor, aren’t you?
I am indeed. I started learning to sail when I was living in Mozambique 20 years ago. Since then, I have had many opportunities to go sailing in different parts of the world. However, I still need to practice a lot more.

What do you like about free diving?
I find it to be a fulfilling experience with numerous mental and physical benefits. It’s like meditation and it allows me to discover amazing and wild environments. It requires practice and time.

How do you think your previous job at Apple helps you at Ulysse Nardin?
My Apple experience helps me step back from a pure watchmaking perspective and facilitate a fresh view on things.

Skeleton X from Ulysse Nardin

What was the first idea you implemented at Nardin?
I wanted to write a new chapter, but of the same story. Since 1964 Ulysse Nardin has been creating fabulous dive watches. The first pieces were sold to professionals, working mainly for the military, or in offshore petroleum business sectors. As a free diving enthusiast and because the sea has always been Ulysse Nardin’s playground, I wanted to strengthen and amplify our products in that segment.

How important is the Middle East market to the brand?
It’s a key market for Ulysse Nardin. The love for the sea, sailing and diving is strong in this region plus the Middle East has a tradition based around discovery and exploration.

Superyacht owners are getting younger. Does this impact on watch design?
We cannot ignore that there is a new wave of younger owners who are very connected and much more attracted to luxury than previous generations. The only way to reach this new clientele is to be creative and disruptive while staying authentic.

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