The Ulysse Nardin Freak ONE is the latest flagship model in the now-larger Freak watch collection. The Ulysse Nardin Freak ONE debuted in a black and gold form and was reviewed on aBlogtoWatch. Today, I go hands-on with the black and khaki green version of the Freak ONE known as the Ulysse Nardin Freak ONE OPS. I got to see this watch at Dubai Watch Week 2023 and was instantly impressed with how the engineers at Ulysse Nardin continue to make the Freak watch both practical and pragmatic while retaining its weird character. When the Freak family of watches debuted over 20 years ago, it was called the “Freak” not only for how it looked but also for how it operated. The case had no crown, so the user needed to turn either the bezel or the caseback to set the time or wind it. Of course, there was the main allure of the Freak which was the silicon-based gear train that also doubled a minute hand. Much of that still remains today, but the Freak as a watch has become much less freaky to live with. Note that in the Freak ONE, the silicon used is DiamSil coated. This strengthens the silicon with a diamond coating, which is an important element in making the silicon far less brittle.

One of the most impressive elements of the in-house-made Ulysse Nardin caliber UN-240 is the automatic winding system. The movement itself is made up of 229 parts and operates at 3Hz with 90 hours of power reserve and indicates only the hours and minutes. You can still wind the large mainspring barrel by turning the caseback of the watch, but now there is an automatic winding system. The system has the funny name “Grinder” and was debuted by Ulysse Nardin in the Freak Vision watch in 2018. Grinder might be a silly name, but it is apt for the system that requires the smallest of movements to power motion that winds the mainspring barrel. While I’ve not lived with it long enough to know how it operates compared to a traditional automatic winding system, in theory, the increased winding efficiency of the Grinder should allow it to keep a mainspring barrel wound with comparatively less motion. The system is complicated and expensive, so I don’t think it will turn up in significantly less expensive watches soon, but it is interesting to imagine how a system like Grinder could replace many traditional automatic winding systems in more pedestrian timepieces.

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Despite the black and dark khaki green colors of the Freak ONE OPS, reading the dial isn’t too bad thanks to the beige-colored hour markers and hand arrows. Otherwise, you need good eyes and light to admire the “Freak” parts of the dial which includes the gear train and silicon parts of the escapement and regulation system. The bezel around the dial is produced from a carbon alloy known as Carbonium, which offers a pretty organic texture. The case itself is 44mm wide in DLC-coated titanium. The case is also 13mm thick and water-resistant to 30 meters. This relatively modest water resistance rating is due to the complexity of the case needing to have turning bezels that connect to the movement on both the top and bottom of the case. Note the small tab on the lower part of the top bezel which says “Freak” that you lift when you want to unlock the bezel to set the time.

Two straps are offered with the Freak ONE OPS, including one that is mostly black and one that is mostly khaki green. While I don’t per se mind the larger size of the case, I felt like the strap was overly thick and didn’t need a bulky deployant clasp. What can make a larger-sized watch like the FREAK ONE more comfortable to wear is to pair it with a snug strap that is not thicker or bulkier than it needs to be. This isn’t a huge deal, but I think many people will want this operations watch to be more practical to wear and will ask Ulysse Nardin to supply a standard ardillon buckle with the Freak ONE OPS and other models in the collection. Overall, this is a trendy and cool version of a horology fan’s nerd watch. With the military-style colors and use of trendy organic materials, you have a high-complication exotic mechanism, along with a fashionable wearing choice. The price for the reference 2403-500-8A/3A Ulysse Nardin FREAK ONE OPS watch is $66,500 USD. Learn more at the Ulysse Nardin website.

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