Yacht envy

May 28, 2016 01:00 PM

Hedge fund managers live in a “bigger is better“ reality. A bigger asset base plus bigger returns means bigger fees. All good. 

As bigger boats go, a notable market high among hedge fund managers was acheived in 2006 when Elena Ambrosiadou, best known for setting up IKOS, one of the most successful hedge funds in the world, purchased the 289-foot Maltese Falcon — the largest private sailboat in the world — for $120 million. A couple of years later, Renaissance Technologies’ James Simons purchased the 220 foot Archimedes for $100 million -— the new normal.

But now comes some good news for aspirational traders that wish to keep up with the Simons’ — an entry-level yacht starting at just under $300,000! 

The Ulysse Nardin Grand Deck Marine Tourbillon — one of the most buzzed-about timepieces introduced at this year’s Baselworld — is described as a sailboat for the wrist that surprises for its innovative mechanisms and unique dial design. Cutting-edge technology and innovative mechanisms are all aboard this high-precision craft decked out in a nautical-inspired design.

The watch’s dial miniaturizes elements of the deck of a classic racing yacht, including a wood deck, winches, lines and a mainsail boom. The dial is made of inlaid wood in a color and curved design intended to resemble the deck of a classic yacht. A blued aluminum minutes hand represents the boom, the horizontal spar used to angle the mainsail on a racing boat. It swings down from the 12 o’clock position, sweeping across a retrograde minutes scale that extends from three to six o’clock. It is literally pulled across the scale by strong high-tech fibers that wrap around two rigging screws and two pinions designed to resemble — and function as — the winches on the deck of a racing yacht. 

The winches use a drive gear, a spiral tensioning spring, and two lock pins to tack the boom. The lines are thinner than a human hair, measuring 0.0357 mm in diameter, and are capable of withstanding traction of 1.41 kg (about 3.10 pounds) without stretching. They are made of polyethylene Dyneema, a fiber used in ship’s rigging that is many times stronger than steel.

On the watch’s dial, four little silver pins function like winches (those metal spools you use to crank in the sails) pulling the boom — the pole at the foot of the sail — across the watch’s face over 60 minutes. Every hour, the watch’s “boom” swings back across the its face. (This is the point on an actual boat when you yell “Jibe ho!” or at least politely tell everyone to watch their head.) 

The Grand Deck Marine Tourbillon is a high-tech tribute to the 170-year-old Swiss watchmaker’s nautical history, Ulysse Nardin launched in 1846 and made its name manufacturing marine chronometers: Highly accurate watches designed for keeping time at sea. Accompanied by the complex manual-winding Manufacture movement, Caliber UN-630, and a 48-hour power reserve, this watch proves to be stylish, as well as practical.

If luxury watchmakers are fretting about the 3.3% dip in Swiss watch exports in 2015, they certainly have a funny way of showing it at Baselworld 2016, the international watch and jewelry fair where brands show off their latest designs  and technology of  their  most ultra-expensive, super limited-edition watches. This is where Ulysse Nardin introduced its Grand Deck Marine Tourbillon, and where  representatives from Fendi talked about raising prices; Hermès showed watches with big cats hand-carved and painted onto their enamel faces and Chanel launched a collection of timepieces housing tiny sculpted gold birds in their cases. 

Brands use these watches to tell their stories at Baselworld, just as some luxury enthusiasts use watches like these to enhance their personal brand.

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