Since releasing its original Freak, watch brand Ulysse Nardin has used the line to push the boundaries of time display and material use. When the Freak X debuted a few years ago, the brand created what it called the “daily Freak,” with a traditional crown and lower price point. It recently added to the Freak X line with its Freak X OPS. I’ve always found the line interesting and was excited to get hands-on with one.
As with all other Freak models, the distinction between a traditional dial, hands, and movement is blurred almost beyond recognition. Green lumed hour markers extend outward from a track with machined gear teeth and meet a sloped, machined metal chapter ring with minute markers. The time is displayed by “hands” extending from the movement itself, much of which is seen from the front of the watch. A visible silicium escapement beats away at 21,600 vph as the entire mechanism rotates as time advances. This assembly sits below a boxed sapphire crystal and consists of 405 parts. Despite the mass of such a mechanism, the UN-230 manufacture movement provides 72 hours of power reserve (aided by a visible automatic winding rotor visible through a sapphire caseback).
The hour indicator protrudes from the center of it all, while a one-hour orbital carousel tourbillon forms the counterbalance of the minute hand. You might expect that this complication would make it difficult to read the time, and you would be correct. While the green tips of the indicators have lume applied, they are still fairly dark during the day, and the lume is not particularly bright either. The hour hand can also be obscured by the tourbillon at certain times of the day. I do think that I would adjust to it over a longer period of time, but this is no tool watch. It’s more of a mechanical piece of art that also tells time.
I did find this application better to look at than a typical skeletonized watch. It has an extreme sense of depth for a watch that isn’t that thick, and I still found it more legible than many of those types of watches. Additionally, since it has a solid dial, there is no magnification of arm hair, which often occurs in other dial-less watches.
While I didn’t find the time easy to read, I did find the Freak X OPS enjoyable to wear. The first thing you’ll notice when picking it up is how shockingly light it is. The external case (complete with numbered side plate) is constructed from the brand’s “Magma” carbon fiber. The watch’s tactical-looking green and black pattern (created by blending carbon with a green resin) surrounds an internal titanium skeleton. A green nylon hook and loop strap further minimizes weight and makes the watch even more comfortable to wear. It is extremely light but still has the feel of solid build quality.
At 43mm wide and 13.88mm thick, the Freak X is not a small watch. Its dark color and feather-like weight, however, make it shrink visually. It has the feeling of wrapping around your wrist rather than sitting on top of it. I’d say this makes it easy to forget you’re wearing it, but it’s unlikely that I’d ever stop thinking about a $33,800 tourbillon watch being strapped to my wrist. At least with 50m of water resistance, water splashes won’t be a concern.
The Ulysse Nardin Freak X OPS is not inexpensive for most people. That being said, it is priced lower than the original Freak, yet still offers a tourbillon, visible movement, and novel time display. I enjoy outside-the-box watches as well as unique colors and case materials, so I was able to see the appeal of the Freak X OPS immediately. While I can’t see this being someone’s only watch, I found it a compelling alternative to more obvious sports watches from more popular brands. It’s distinctive without being as in your face as something like a Hublot. Combine that with supreme wearing comfort, and this is a watch that I could see myself wearing regularly (were I in the position to buy one).
The Freak X Ops is available now for $33,800 USD. You can learn more about Ulysse Nardin and the entire Freak X lineup on the brand’s website.