The image that springs into most people’s minds when discussing camouflage generally contains some combination of muted natural colors, a blotchy or digital pattern, or perhaps a heavily textured surface like a ghillie suit. However, over the course of history, camouflage has taken innumerable shapes, colors, and textures, but perhaps none other is as striking or unusual as dazzle camouflage. Originally developed in World War I as a way to break up the visual silhouettes of British naval vessels, this jagged assortment of black and white stripes attracts the eye but makes discerning the shape, speed, and direction of the object difficult. This dramatic pattern has survived into the present day, with similar designs used by automakers to disguise prototype cars during road tests, but until now, the design has seen very little use in the world of watchmaking. Ulysse Nardin aims to change that with a stark, high-impact new interpretation of the complex Freak X series that blurs the line between horology and pop art. The new limited-edition Ulysse Nardin Freak X Razzle Dazzle adds a new, visually arresting dimension to one of the brand’s most spectacle-driven lines for a camouflaged watch that refuses to hide.
Ulysse Nardin renders the 43mm case of the Freak X Razzle Dazzle in black DLC-coated titanium. With a matte blend of brushed and sandblasted surfaces, this stealthy case design leaves minimal flash in images to distract from the visual complexity of the dial. Likewise, the overall case design is futuristic but simple, with a handful of distinctive touches like a notched bezel and layered construction to augment the unbroken flowing line that runs from tapering lug tip to lug tip. Around back, a sapphire display caseback gives a view of the simpler, less embellished rear side of the movement within. While the overall package is undeniably striking, it is notably fragile, with a water resistance rating of only 50 meters.
Referring to the dial of the Ulysse Nardin Freak X Razzle Dazzle is slightly disingenuous. Technically, this is a fully skeletonized design, with the surface beneath the handset formed entirely by movement plates. That said, the full arrangement of plates still allows a detailed view of the movement’s inner workings courtesy of the Freak X’s signature element – the carousel movement. Thanks to a planetary gear smoothly integrated into the ring supporting the hour indices, the gear train of the Freak X Razzle Dazzle rotates along with the distinctive oversized minute hand, with several elements, including the silicium balance wheel mounted directly to the hand as a counterweight. The blued surfacing of the balance helps to cut through the monochrome design of the rest of the watch, immediately picking these out as focal points in images. That said, the main plate that serves as the base for the overall design is no shrinking violet in the Freak X Razzle Dazzle, either. The angular, zigzagging pattern of black and white zebra stripes that gives this model its name is less disorienting than it is dramatic, giving a starkly pop-art flair to the Freak X’s design. While this does affect legibility slightly, the laser-etched pattern on this plate more than makes up for it with its sheer visual wow factor.
The in-house Caliber UN-230 automatic movement is on full display inside the Ulysse Nardin Freak X Razzle Dazzle. Contrasted with the rotating dazzle camouflage spectacle up front, the view of the Caliber UN-230 through the caseback is clean and restrained, almost minimal, with a radially brushed black finish across the movement bridges and skeleton rotor with hints of brightly polished elements poking through the gaps. Performance for the Caliber UN-230 is solid, with a 72-hour power reserve at a 21,600 bph beat rate.
To complete the intricate black-and-white colorway of the Freak X Razzle Dazzle, Ulysse Nardin delivers the watch with a pair of straps. Both options follow the same pattern, with rubber-lined leather in a modernist perforated pattern finished with deep black point de bride stitching. Delivered in both optic white and black, these straps add a touch of visual texture to the overall package while harmonizing with the monochrome design.
By adding a dazzling new camouflage texture to the already eye-catching look of the Freak X line, the limited edition Ulysse Nardin Freak X Razzle Dazzle creates one of the brand’s most striking modernist looks to date. Only 30 examples of the Ulysse Nardin Freak X Razzle Dazzle will be made, available now through authorized dealers at an MSRP of $27,300. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.