Caveat Emptor (Caliber: Made-Up Ulysse Nardin)

Fake Ulysse Nardin Side

Occasionally in the course of my work, I wind up in a situation where I have a massive waiting time for parts to come in for the various projects and I find myself unable to complete a project really worth writing about (or i give it back to my customer before remembering to photograph it.) Given the amount of things awaiting completion on the bench I am confident that I will return to watchmaking adventures soon. In the meantime (and given a recent experience with a guy I do a lot of vintage work for) I think it is important to start writing about one of the most pervasive elements in collecting and one of the things that really keeps a lot of people out of this great world; forgeries. The vintage watch world is unfortunately rife with dishonesty, and there are many tricks people pull to make a buck. Some of these are incredibly obvious to spot like re-dials, and some are entirely unintentional mistakes like over-polishing, or not noticing a crown difference, but some can be crafty and downright sinister.

The Ulysse Nardin that this guy bought started off on the wrong foot. The watch he received was clearly not the watch pictured (it is also worth noting that this seller then listed another watch with the same picture.)

While this seller has often changed username and relisted the same watch, the original listing can be found here:


Fake Ulysse Nardin Bottom Dial Fake Ulysse Nardin Top Dial Fake Ulysse Nardin Flat

The dial was a bit more roughed up. When he showed it to me I was immediately suspect. It just didn’t feel right. Sometimes its easy to spot fakes because not everything is properly signed. In this instance however, the watch did fit all of the first general criteria: signed movement, signed case, and signed dial. Turns out however that this was an intentional and misleading tactic. The case didn’t match the movement condition. The case was in phenomenal shape but the dial and movement had seen better days. Generally the opposite is the case. This was some clear evidence that something was up.

Fake Ulysse Nardin Case Fake Ulysse Nardin Movement Bridge

Stylistically, the dial did not match the bezel. I have never before seen a watch that has a redundant tachymeter. It was more likely mounted in a more plain case as was common at that time. A professional opinion on the piece confirmed my suspicions that this was a “franken-watch” and while it is all technically Ulysse Nardin components (possibly) it is not a Ulysse Nardin as they had intended it and thus not an original piece, and has no value as a Ulysse Nardin.

Fake Ulysse Nardin Tach Close up

If you are in doubt, walk away. In my experience if it either looks too good to be true (like a perfect dial from the 50s), or something seems just a little off, it’s generally not a collectible piece.

The best advice I can ever give is: educate, educate, educate, and consult a collector or professional. Most of all, find a dealer and a watchmaker you can trust.



Glycine Airman Special (Cal. AS 1700/01)

Glycine Airman Feature

Within military watches there are two sub-divisions. There are military specification and then there are watches that were common among G.I.s, SEALs, pilots, etc. This Glycine, like the Zodiac Sea Wolf, belongs in the latter category, but you wouldn’t know it from the design and build. The 24-hour dial is unmistakably military, and the bezel and hands fit perfectly on the wrist of a pilot, and that is exactly where these gained their popularity during the Vietnam War.

According to Hans Brechbuler, the managing director of the company (and its purchaser in 1984) the Airman evolved based on feedback directly from pilots. According to him, US fighter pilots were very active in providing feedback on their needs from a timepiece in the cockpit. While this watch gained significant popularity between its introduction in 1953 and the 70s, like so many others on this blog, it came to a very abrupt drop-off when quartz hit the market. Things got so bad for the company that they where whittled down to a skeleton staff, and eventually purchased by their current owner. Fortunately, our fascination with mechanical pieces has picked up drastically, and modern Glycine watches are still available and can be found at a very reasonable price/quality ratio.

Glycine built a a hack function around the movement making it a somewhat unique mechanism. Unlike other hack functions this one stopped the hand only at 0 (or 24 or 12 depending on your perspective.) The idea being that like with other hack functions, squadrons could precisely coordinate time. Unlike most hack mechanisms Glycine built their function into the case rather than the movement.  Because of this there is no way to get the necessary part should something go wrong. This has led to an unfortunately large amount of these fantastic watches to not have a working hack function. This watch came without it, but that didn’t stop me from restoring or appreciating it. In addition to the hack function, they also built a locking bezel and a small GMT spike off the back of the hour hand to coordinate with the bezel.

Glycine used two different base calibers. One from AS and one from Felsa. The one here is an AS 1700/01 movement with the slight modification of the motion works (the gears where the hands are attached) which makes it revolve only once every 24 hours. Although it is slightly odd at first, once you are used to the dial it is fantastic, and its look really does have a style befitting a cockpit (see the Hamilton 37500 for reference.)

Glycine Airman Movement 1 Glycine Airman Movement 2

As with all military watches, I put a canvas band on this one as well, but thought black was better than the green.  Also, as this is the most valuable military wristwatch I have worked on, I opted for the padded rather than plain. Unlike the other military pieces, this one combines history with utility. It is sized and wears on the wrist like a modern piece.

Glycine Airman Side Angle

While I am not positive, I believe this is probably one of the last really famous mechanical military wristwatches before they all switched to quartz. Back together it is one of the most wearable military timepieces I have worked on. It will be a tough call whether to sell this one or add it to the personal collection….

Glycine Airman Bezel 2 Glycine Airman Side Glycine Airman Side Angle Glycine Airman Dial