Since 2001, the Freak has been rewriting the rules of conventional high-end watchmaking. On debut, it disrupted the traditional world of Swiss Haute Horlogerie, disposing with aesthetic and technical norms. Here was a watch with no dial, no hands and no crown. And yet it was a mechanical watch, conceived by some of the finest minds watchmaking had ever known. Over the past two decades, the Freak has become a fearless 21st century watchmaking icon, the Millennium’s first collector’s watch and the author of a roadmap to destinations unknown that countless others have since followed. The watchmaking landscape will never be the same again – because of the Freak.
The Freak’s story has continued to gather momentum. Further inventions. New materials. Always the unexpected. And then in 2019, Ulysse Nardin broke the conventions of the unconventional Freak by introducing the Freak X. The story? Still no dial. Still no hands. But this time, it did have a crown.
An iconoclast to replace an iconoclast?
The Freak X was aimed at a new generation of Freak collectors. Its form was simplified – see the addition of a crown – but it was still an outlandish expression of analogue watch design. The movement bridges still doubled as the hands, and the movement included advanced developments such as the lightweight silicon balance wheel with nickel flyweights.
The look was distinctly Freakish, but this was different again. This was the easy-going Freak.
The Freak goes into stealth mode
At Watches and Wonders Shanghai, Ulysse Nardin has taken the Freak X undercover with the Freak [X OPS] – as in, “operations”. Its black DLC titanium case, bezel and crown, khaki green carbon fibre composite flanks and fabric strap convey an adventurous inspiration to the Freak [X OPS]. The innovative material used in the case flanks originally appeared in the Freak X Magma. There, it was a mix of carbon fibre and red, marbled epoxy resin. Here, the mix is with green epoxy resin.
In green, it has an easy-going, casual luxury feel to it. Backed up by its fabric strap, it appeals to sporty and adventurous collectors. This is fine watchmaking for life’s mavericks, a design that twists the principles of traditional horology into a high-concept wristwatch.
The Ulysse Nardin backstory is eternally tied to exploration and expertise. In the beginning, the company made trailblazing marine chronometers and supplied some of the world’s leading navies with innovative, high-calibre navigation tools. That same pioneering spirit lies behind the Freak [X OPS], a watch that captures a passion for finding new worlds and fresh expressions of established ideas.
Beating away at the watch’s heart is the UN-230 self-winding movement, a marriage of the bulletproof UN-118 and the high-tech UN-250 that gave the Freak Vision its unforgettable look. The watch is water-resistant to 50 metres.
Typically, mechanical watches hide their workings under a dial. But the Freak [X OPS] has no dial. Its movement doubles as its minute hand, while the hour hand is a pointer set on a rotating disc that sits under the movement.
The unconventional Freak [X OPS] has neither a big hand nor a little hand. Instead, its one-hour orbital carousel tourbillon becomes the minute hand, and the hour hand is replaced by a pointer on a rotating disc. A challenging design, but easy to read.
One of a kind
The Freak [X OPS] has case flanks made of Ulysse Nardin’s ultra-lightweight carbon fibre composite, a material inspired by the irregular patterns of Damascus steel and introduced in 2019. It’s produced by weaving carbon fibre with (in this case) a green epoxy resin, giving it its signature three-dimensional look. No two cases are the same.
Hours of darkness
The Freak [X OPS] is powered by UN-230, a self-winding movement with a 72-hour power reserve. The movement’s flying carousel with its silicon balance wheel and escapement are suspended by a bridge that acts as the minute hand; a second bridge serves as the hour hand.
The hour and minute indicators and hour markers are coated in a matching khaki green Super-LumiNova® that glows green in low-light conditions.