It was the navigator’s first time participating in this challenge. His time of 4 hours, 8 minutes and 25 seconds yielded him fourth place in the category Queen - Ultime. This legendary transatlantic race connects every four years in Saint-Malo, from France to Guadeloupe, in the French West Indies.
Romain was supported in his adventure by Ulysse Nardin, a watchmaker of the seas. While not the highest-performing sailor of the fleet, Romain is an adventurer close to nature and he was carrying a project that immediately resonated with the Swiss watch manufacturer.
Romain’s mission for embarking on this crossing of the Atlantic was above all, to promote circular economy with his boat “Remade - Use It Again.” Based on the reuse of goods and materials, the concept of circular economy aims to achieve a mode of consumption with minimal or no waste.
“Climate change concerns and affects us all,” explains the navigator. “Through this project, I wanted to prove to the public that circular economy and performance are compatible.
The project was born from the history of the boat on which Romain sailed. A legendary boat, the very same trimaran was used by British sailor Dame Ellen MacArthur when he broke the world record for the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe in 2005!
“I told myself that this trimaran still had big potential and a good career in it if it was put back to perfect condition,” explains Romain. He knew the boat was exceptionally well-designed when it was built for Ellen in 2003.
Romain took on the project to restore the vessel in May 2016. “Even if it was hard to see when we recovered it in Brest after several years spent on a dock, we thought it was worth it to invest in bringing it back to satisfying safety condition for running off,” he explained.
Two years later, the Ultime trimaran “Remade-Use It Again” was making waves afresh. On the Sunday of November 4, 2018, it cut the starting line of the 11th Route du Rhum, to convey its message of environmentalism. The energy needed for the smooth running of this boat is produced from natural sources - solar panels, wind turbines and hydro-generators, only to reiterate the leitmotif of Romain Pilliard’s entire campaign; “reduce, reuse, recycle.”
For Patrick Pruniaux, CEO of Ulysse Nardin, this partnership was self-evident as the history of the brand is closely linked to the maritime world. One of Pruniaux’s favorite phrases to repeat is, “our brand is for today’s Ulysses. For those who like to break the rules, to let loose, to swim against the tide. For the beautiful freaks.”
Crossing the finish line after 21 days of racing with his Ulysse Nardin Diver Chronometer firmly around his wrist, Romain Pilliard won his bet: to finish this epic crossing of the Atlantic and to hoist high up the colors of circular economy, proving that reuse of materials can be compatible with performance.
Léonard-Frédéric Nardin was a consummate Swiss watchmaker, determined to make his company a preeminent, world-recognized, innovative name in watchmaking, particularly in marine chronometers.
He taught the craft to his son Ulysse. The latter opened the company that bears his name in Le Locle, Switzerland, in 1846, determined to establish himself as a trailblazer in the watchmaking world. He set out to conquer the South American continent, starting in Argentina, where his accurate timepieces were a hit.
His son, Paul-David, who had participated at competitions alongside his father, took over the company and proved to be an astute businessman and, just like Ulysse, a prize-winning watchmaker. He excelled in the marine chronometer category, winning first prize at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. In his search for constant improvement of these timepieces, Paul-David collaborated with the best in the field, men such as physicist Charles-Edouard Guillaume and James C. Pellaton, a specialist in escapements and tourbillons. As a result, Paul-David was able to constantly innovate his timepieces: in 1903, the brand replaced the basic detent escapement with the first Swiss lever escapement, a much more accurate complication.
Ulysse Nardin greatly benefited from another innovation, miniaturization, as Paul-David was able to produce 64 mm chronometers, which had the same precision as larger models, yet offered much greater mobility. In fact, Ulysse Nardin models became so technologically advanced that its competitors slowly stopped their production of marine chronometers, leaving Ulysse Nardin as the main manufacturer in the field.
The goal of both father and son Nardin had always been to become one of the official suppliers of the US Navy, and they reached this great objective (and beyond), when the manufacture won top prizes from the Naval Observatory in Washington, DC. The English, the Japanese, the Russian and Brazilian navies eventually adopted the Ulysse Nardin chronometers, with the brand thus leaving an indelible mark on maritime culture and military history.
The Ulysse Nardin timepieces have also played as integral role in prestigious sports competitions, with models like the 24” split-second pocket chronograph, introduced in 1935, capable of measuring one-tenth of a second.
The brand’s consistent record-breaking history continued with the launch, in 1985, of the Astrolabium Galileo Galilei watch, the result of a fantastic partnership between the company’s Rolf W. Schnyder and famed watchmaker Ludwig Oechslin. The remarkably intricate complication paved the way for Ulysse Nardin’s entry into the Guinness Book of Records in 1989. In another ode to astronomical history, the brand released the Planetarium Copernicus in 1988, followed by the Tellurium Johannes Kepler in 1992.
The launch of the Freak, in 2001, with its cutting-edge 7 day-tourbillon-carousel, is a first in watchmaking. With no true case, crown or hands, its movement pivots on itself to indicate time. This astonishing innovation garnered the Swiss brand the 2002 Innovation Prize, Watch of the Year. In its distinguished history, Ulysse Nardin has won more than 4,300 awards, and registered the greatest number of patents for mechanical watchmaking of any watchmaker.