Ulysse Nardin Freak S was launched during Watches and Wonders 2022. Part of the Freak family, the new model bears 21 years of history and represents a star in the sky of Ulysse Nardin‘s Vertical Odyssey.
Ulysse Nardin Freak S
In 2001, Ulysse Nardin Freak started a revolution in the way we see watches and watchmaking by breaking free from all the rigours of traditional horological constraints: no hands, no dial and no crown. Even now, the number of crownless wristwatches is very low. No hands, again just a few. Combining all and one can get only a hyperwatch. Two extraordinary minds, Carole Forestier Kasapi – a goddess of horological out-of-the-box thinking and Ludwig Oechslin a philosopher and a genius, brought to reality something that even today is hard to imagine – the Freak.
This year, the independent brand released the Freak S – the very first automatic double DIAMonSIL oscillator with a vertical differential packed in a daring combination of ceramic, titanium and gold.
A master of materials
Not only the Ulysse Nardin Freak S uses the prominent silicium technology developed by the brand in the last two decades but also has the case with an unusual combination of ceramic and two other metals. The 45mm case accommodates effortlessly the palatial construction. One might expect such a large case to impose difficulties for a smaller wrist, but the development involved in the other collection (like Blast, Marine and Diver) was put to good use in creating an ergonomically and easy-to-wear wrist companion.
I am more than pleased with the wearing style and feel of the Freak S. I am not a fan of larger than 41mm pieces, but this watch stroke me as how comfortable it is. I was expecting more of a sloppy, chunky boy, like many other watches at 45mm. But no, it feels natural, almost organic to have this rochet on the wrist.
The opulent contrast of black and gold comes from the use of black DLC titanium, rose gold and black ceramic. Even the engravings on the brand’s traditional limited number plate and the time-setting lever follow the same theme. (note, the P7 comes from the prototype number – 7 in this case; the final numbering is using xx/75 style). The lever is used to lock/unlock the time-setting mechanism – the rose gold bezel can be rotated in both directions for setting the right time (see the above hands-on video). The Ulysse Nardin Freak S uses no crown. The time is set via the bezel while the winding is done by the black DLC titanium back bezel (caseback).
The back of the case offers a view not of the movement but to the Grinder. This winding mechanism is an improved version of the one used in the Ulysse Nardin Innovision. The system has double winding efficiency compared with the classic automatic winding. Four blades capture even the small wrist’s movements via an oscillating weight giving the winding system twice the angular stroke. The flexible guiding mechanism reduces friction, resulting in increased efficiency.
A marvel of engineering
The front of the watch is reserved for all the marvels that the Ulysse Nardin Freak S has to offer. The view is grandiose. Following the original idea of the Freak, a top bridge rotates with one revolution per hour and is used to indicate the minutes. The rotating carousel is “floating” above an aventurine disk representing the sky and the stars. The deep black mineral decorative plate, sparkling with golden particles was not a “by coincidence” choice. It serves the idea of never-ending cosmos and the limitless of the Ulysse Nardin Vertical Odyssey – a poetic choice with practical usage. The edge of the “universe” holds a “SciFi-ish” arrow that rotates with the entire disk and serves as an hour indication. The details of each visible element sustain this “sky is not the limit” idea in a very cohesive manner.
The Ulysse Nardin Freak S spectacularity continues with the twin balances that use the 2009 patented DIAMonSil technology (developed by Ulysse Nardin and Sigatec, the DIAMonSIL benefits from the advantages of both materials: silicium and synthetic diamonds combined using plasma coating technologies). The twin free-sprung balance wheels are made of silicium and feature unusual shaped and adjustable gold weights for poising and adjustment. Of course, the use of silicon hairspring is mandatory.
Another particularity and exceptionally technical detail is the automotive-inspired differential. In cars, the differential is used to split power between two wheels that rotate at different speeds in corners. In the Ulysse Nardin Freak S, the power distribution is to each balance wheels that have slight other timings. The two balance wheels are angled at 20 degrees from the calibre horizontal plan and they can be easily regulated. Using the differential, the positional and timing errors can be mediated. Plus it offers a spectacular view.
The movement is king
In the case of Ulysse Nardin Freak S, the movement is not only king but also an alchemist and a space explorer. Ulysse Nardin managed to increase the complexity of the Freak technically and visually. Beyond the superb technical achievement, the Freak S is an outstanding appearance. The Calibre UN 251 is an automatic movement offering an impressive 72 hours of autonomy regulated by a complex differential that combines two splendid 2.5 Hz Si escapements.
The “space program” side of the Vertical Odyssey is a visible technical success and I am amazed by the complex approach used by Ulysse Nardin. The watch so complex but easy to wear (also considering the 30 m water resistance) is the result of years of daring development of out-of-this-world ideas, bold usage of high-tech materials and a love for innovation.
Ulysse Nardin Freak S Technical Specifications
Reference: 2513-500LE-2A-BLACK-5N/1A – Limited edition of 75 timepieces: CHF 130’000 / EUR 123’500 / USD 137’200 / GBP 114’040
- Calibre UN 251
- Hours and minutes indicated by the movement’s rotation
- Flying carousel
- Baguette movement: one rotation per hour
- Grinder automatic winding with blades, flexible guidance and shock absorber
- Extra large inclined double balance wheel in silicium with inertia blocks
- Vertical differential
- Power reserve 72 hours
- Frequency: 2 x 2.5 Hz (2x 18’000 vph)
- Black ceramic, titanium with black DLC, 5N rose gold
- Bezel: 5N rose gold
- Time set with the front bezel, lever lock
- Manual winding possible with the back bezel
- Diameter: 45 mm
- Hour disk: Decorative movement plate in black aventurine
- Water resistance: 30 m
- Crystal: Sapphire domed box with anti-reflective treatment on both sides
- Case back: Titanium with black DLC, 6 screws, visible “Grinder” through an open sapphire case back
- Bi-material black alligator & golden calf strap or black alligator strap
Ulysse Nardin – Manufacture of Freedom
Ulysse Nardin is the Manufacture inspired by the Ocean, producing freaky timepieces for explorers in pursuit of freedom.
Founded by Mr Ulysse Nardin in 1846 the company owes its reputation to its links with the sea its onboard marine chronometers are among the most award-winning and reliable ever designed.
A pioneer in innovative technologies and the use of high tech materials such as silicium, Ulysse Nardin is one of the few independent and integrated manufactures with the in house expertise to produce its own high precision components and movements.
To underscore its commitment to its favourite environment, Ulysse Nardin is active in supporting the preservation of the Ocean, focusing on two major areas encouraging upcycling to reduce marine plastic pollution and developing scientific knowledge concerning the preservation of the sharks, its emblem.
Today, in the Swiss towns of Le Locle and La Chaux de Fonds, Ulysse Nardin remains devoted to its quest for watchmaking perfection in four collections Marine, Diver, Blast and Freak In 2022 the brand continues to pursue its Vertical Odyssey, voyaging from the abyss to the cosmos with its high flying watches.