Ulysse Nardin Sonata Streamline - First impressions THREE YEARS LATER

Published on 10 January 2023 at 18:53


When I launched my web page, I tried to transfer all of my old reviews, which were already published in the local watch portal sometime in the past, also here. When this morning I put Ulysse Nardin (further on UL)  Streamline Cathedral on my wrist it just crossed my head: "Hey that was one of the first watches that I reviewed and yet that review is still not published on my pages!" I checked the original text and realized that it needs modifications. Therefore I decided to upgrade the original review with some necessary additional information already inside the original text but on a such a way that the added text will not ruin "the first impression feeling". The result of all this modifications is the next chapter - an upgraded version of my review - or better say short notice - about the first impressions from 2019. For better transparency all those upgrades are marked in italic.

That is not the end of the story. To conclude everything properly, I decided to add at the end another chapter - today's perspective or better say a long time user's perspective of the watch.

As said, the original review was published before  on our local forum "Portal Satova" (on March 19, 2019 to be precise). 

Original first impressions:

The latest novelty in my alarm collection is one of the - by my opinion -  most controversial watches. I am talking about a watch which is a technical masterpiece yet it has several problems that do not allow the watch to be put on the pedestal of the most admired watches.

First problem is that it is made by a "wrong" brand - Ulysse Nardin, so by the brand which, despite the undoubted quality of it's watches, is not very desired among watch enthusiast in our region. And then there is even more problematic issue - a general outlook or better say the design of the watch. The watch is either repulsive either exiting. I am talking about the watch from the Sonata Streamline Cathedral collection.

Streamline Cathedral was first launched in 2003 and release of that watch shocked the watch world. Even though UL was known to be one of the brands which constantly had mechanical wrist watches in the collection, until then all UN alarm watches were using third party alarm movements, mainly AS 5008. But in Sonata the new in house alarm movement UN67 was introduced. And this UN67 was by far the best mechanical alarm movement ever produced until then. It was the first alarm movement which introduced 24h alarm setting, where the alarm is time zone independent (alarm rings at the right time even if the time zone is changed), and as a cherry on the top, alarm does not sound as standard buzzing or dinging but has a beautiful church bell gong - that is why Cathedral is part of the watch name.

Even though movement itself and a complications used were state of the art, the collection was not successful. The biggest problem of those watches was the design of the watches. Just simple basic google search will show you some really awful watches from that collection, with terrible hands and sub dials. Hard to digest. 

My version is a newer release (from 2013-2014) limited edition with titanium case, golden pushers and crowns. What makes the biggest difference compared to other watches in streamline collection is the design of the upper two dials. Here they

are not white colored but have the same color as basic dial. So those two dials are not so outstanding. All the hands as well are a bit more normal and again not so extremely outstanding as on other models.  

As said, movement itself is a mechanical masterpiece (even though it looks quite standard, right?). It consists of over 400 pieces, it has 107 jewels, hairspring and escapement are made of silicon. But the most important things that shows a masterpiece are the supported complications:

1) It is a mechanical alarm movement where - in contrast to 99,9% of all mechanical alarm watches - alarm can be set 24h in advance, while almost all other movements can be set only 12h in advance. Both upper subdials serves for the alarm settings. The dial in the upper right corner shows the alarm ringing time (and can be set very precise for the mechanical movements - within the one minute). The left sub dial counts down the time until the alarm rings. 

On the picture on the right side you can see that the alarm is set to 7.10 (right sub dial) in the morning. How do we know, that it will not ring at 19.10? Check the hour hands (plus Dual 24h time dial), you can see that it is 8.13 in the morning. And the upper left sub dial shows that it is still 22 hours and 57 minutes before alarm will ring.

What is also worth mentioning is that alarm can be set in both directions (also not so common in the world of mechanical alarm movements!)
2) Watch simply has the marvelous GMT complication, I can say the best  I have encountered for. The small dial shows home time in 24h format while standard dial shows local time. Setting the local time is done by right (one hour back) or left (one hour forward) pusher. Each push changes the local time for exactly one hour. And you don't even have to take of the watch from your wrist to set the time. The watch only does not allow the half an hour time zones, which do exist in some part of the world. And there is no way you can change it manually without changing the home time as well.

But, that is not all. The best part is yet to come! When you set the local time and pass midnight in one or other direction, date follows the change. If for example you just arrived from Paris to Istanbul and in Paris is 23.00 on 9th in the month, press the left pusher twice and your watch is set  to 01.00 and date is set to 10th.  If you then return from Istanbul on 15th at 01.00 Istanbul time,  press the right pusher twice and your watch is set to  23:00 on the 14th. 

That of course can not work when the month does not have 31 days! In this case you have to change the date manually or press the pushers so many times to get the right date!

And even that is not all! Together with the time zone alarm setting follows your new time. So if you want that alarm still rings at 7.10 am local time, you don't have to do anything. By switching the time zone the count down timer will reduce or increase the time to alarm.
3) Big date complication itself in interesting, but not so special. What is special is the fact, that date can be set in both directions. So you don't have to turn whole month to set the date one day backward. That is especially important if this is not your only watch and you do not wear it all the time.
4) Watch has a beautiful alarm sound. It does not buzz as majority of the mechanical alarm watches, but has a pure church bell sound. And that is the main reason why it has it's name Cathedral. The mechanic behind follows the minute repeater watches. You can check the sound of ringing in the following video:

Watch of course also has an easy access to alarm off/on function. By just one push to the pusher on the left crown you can turn alarm on or off. If you do not stop the ringing, the alarm rings approximately 20 sec, each second two gongs.

I wear this watch today for the first time. It is very light, fits on the wrist nicely. Even though size of the watch is "merely" 44mm, and even though it has plenty of pushers and crowns on both side of the watch (with crown protector), watch does not feel big on the hand, neither optically nor in the wrist itself. Watch can easy be worn as a dress watch. Alligator strap with clasp is 22/18, soft, elegant. No complains at all.

Watch has a top quality package. It comes in a huge wooden box, all documents are packed in a leather case, for which a separate drawer in the box is made.
That is it, folks. For now...

P.S.: unfortunate I just noticed the sound of the alarm on my video is not very loud. That is due to my poor video. In real, alarm rings much louder.



What else should be said? First, I have to say something about the movement itself. It runs with 28.800 bph, power reserve is 42 hours. It is very accurate, there is very slight positional error, watch runs from -2 to +2 sec/daily depends on the position. The regular use gives less than +3 sec weekly! For watch geeks for which precision is everything, I have a bad news. Movement does not have a hacking function, so you can not set time to the second.

What I really miss here is the power reserve indicator, at least for the alarm. It seems that movement has one joint barrel, for alarm and for watch. After alarm rings off, you can set next alarm at least half hour later and alarm will ring again. That gives me an indication that one giant barrel is used. But I might be wrong and watch use two separate barrels.  I could not find that information anywhere, so if you know what is true, please let me know  or add a comment below the review.

The tricky thing is, that you can't be sure if the alarm (not the watch) barrel will have enough power to ring. 

As can be indicated from the pictures, hands have illuminated hand endings. Hour indexes are also illuminated. Unfortunate, those hands endings are very small, I would be more happy if the whole hands (or at least major part of it) would be filled with luminova. Hands would look better plus night view would be easier. Luminova itself is decent, nothing spectacular. For sure not as good as in some diver's watches, but that is in a way expected. Local time and home time are illuminated, but to be honest, you need a very good eyes to see the home time in the dark. Check the pictures in the semi and full dark condition. Illumination lasts somewhere 6-8 hours.

I have to say that I am surprised that in those three years no serious negative comments to the watch were received. Quite opposite, more positive than negative. I expected different distribution of comments, I must admit.

Since I reviewed here relatively old model of the watch, let me also give you some information what has happened with the sonata streamline until now. 

Somewhere around 2015 (I think it was 2014 but I am not quite sure), UN changed it's owner. The new owner recognized that sonata is a great watch with very unhappy design. And they reacted. In 2016 they released the new Sonata Streamline Classic. I don't own this model so I had to "borrow" the picture from the web.

What have they done here? The most important thing is that they removed count down dial, as a result the watch dial is cleaner. All hands now have pure, clean lines, no bulky extravagant shapes anymore. For my taste this new look is a huge improvement. And they have added an alarm power indicator (hmm, that indicate two barrels??). They have listened the users, obviously.

But not everything is better. As I have read, they changed the GMT complication, so that left and right pusher now changes small dual time hand and not the central hand. If that is true, it is for sure a big mistake. If you travel a lot, you always want to have local time on a main dial, and not on a small dial. 

I think that this change was needed in order to keep the 24h alarm setting without the count down dial. Alarm is now linked to the dual time function, so this helps setting the 24h alarm time but in order to keep the traveler alarm change, they needed to swap home and away time. 

Again - important disclaimer! I did not have a chance to see this watch in person or  to check the functions. All stated is based on a few articles about that watch. I even found an instruction manual but from there you can not conclude how watch really works. I will be more than happy if you will comment below the review the real situation here.

All Sonata watches has been and still are very expensive. As far as I know, there is no new watch available now. The last price was around 25.000 USD (plus taxes) for the steel model. Also the used ones are on chrono24 priced well over 10.000 USD, closer to 15.000 USD. For an UN brand surprisingly good keeper of the initial value. At this price you really have to think more than twice before purchase. I admit that I bought the watch primarily for filling the collection with the UN67 movement (which really is a must be in every serious alarm collection). But watch has become one of my favorite watches  in my entire collection! It simply is so intuitive, so practical, that you simply have to love it.

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