Having said that, I think that if the scientific community were serious about needing non-electronic timekeeping that is very accurate and reliable, they would eschew traditional metal materials for a lot of the silicon and other systems employed in timepieces such as the Freak Vision. In a sense, it feels as though Ulysse Nardin is perfecting a technology that might not be needed for a few more generations. That is, of course, an entirely different conversation.
The UN-250 movement is like most other Freaks in that the gear train is not only in silicon but also visible on the dial. In fact, the gear train structure doubles as the minute hand. Reading the time is always fun for novices since they typically don’t know how to read the dial. Ironically, the time is very easy to read if you know what you are looking at. A rather small hour hand is seen via the broad arrow on the dial, and the large boat-hull shaped titanium structure is the minute hand. The blue metallic color of the dial is attractive and pairs well with the titanium and platinum case materials.
Visually, the Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision watch is a delight to behold, given the constant animation of the moving parts, such as the balance wheel and the escapement. The dial also changes the way it looks throughout the day as the dial disc and the minute hand structure morph over the 12-hour cycle. The balance wheel, itself, is produced from silicon with an interesting spoke-style design. Pieces of melted nickel create the weights on the balance wheel. Given that the balance wheel physically moves around the dial, Ulysse Nardin calls it a “flying carousel,” which is sort of true (and sort of a misnomer given that most carousels (like tourbillons) are balance wheels that rotate on their own axis. But at this point, it’s just splitting hairs. Whether or not the Freak Vision is or isn’t a flying carousel really doesn’t matter to me.
Another distinctive element of Freak family watches is the lack of the crown on the case. Herein lie two of the quirkier elements of the Freak watch. To manually wind the watch, you need to apply decent pressure on the caseback and wind it with your fingers in the direction of the arrow. This is, of course, not always necessary, since the watch also has automatic winding. In order to set the time, you must first flip up the small tab (labeled Freak) on the lower part of the bezel, and then turn the bezel, which adjusts the time. I think it is pretty cool that the case retains 30 meters of water resistance even though the caseback and bezel are designed to be turned in this manner.
One strange side-effect to the turning bezel is that the three triangular structures on the dial (presumably there to give your fingers something to grip on to) are never in a symmetrical position. They merely stay wherever they fall after you’ve correctly set the time. I found this quirk to be a bit endearing, but my mind immediately went to the many collectors who are quite keen on everything being perfectly symmetrical.
Like previous Freak family watches, the Freak Vision’s case is 45mm wide. It isn’t terribly thick at about 13mm, and the lug-to-lug distance is about 54mm. The case is produced with a middle-body in 950 platinum and a bezel, caseback, and folding deployant clasp in titanium. The blue sections of the bezel and the side of the case are coated and don’t feel like the vulcanized rubber used in a similar fashion on some legacy Freak collection models. Notice how, on the left side of the case, is a plate with the serial number of each timepiece. Over the dial and caseback are sapphire crystals. If I had to improve upon the watch, I would probably opt for a dial crystal that had a better AR-coating, so as to reduce glare. This is crucial, in my opinion, because glare hinders one’s ability to properly inspect and appreciate the dial. Not only is the Freak Vision’s dial cool to look at, but the large titanium structure for the minute hand and gear train is also decorated with attractive hand-polished angles. It is best to admire this craftsmanship without crystal glare interference.
On the wrist, the Freak Vision is no doubt a large timepiece, but it’s surprisingly comfortable. It comes on a matte blue alligator strap and, according to Ulysse Nardin, a sailcloth strap is also included. I actually think an attractive rubber strap would also look good and help maximize wearing comfort.
It’s never been easy to position the Ulysse Nardin Freak in any existing class of watches — even today when it isn’t the only watch on the market with silicon parts. Nevertheless, the distinctive character of the Freak puts it in a class of its own, and I think that (budget willing) Freak watches are inherently collectible. Ulysse Nardin offers true mechanical innovation and excellent performance in a well-designed package that doesn’t try to be anything other than a Ulysse Nardin Freak. The confidence of the Freak collection is inherent at this point, and I love how Ulysse Nardin seems to enjoy “competing with themselves” but regularly upping the ante of what a Freak timepiece can do. The Freak Vision is the latest and greatest member of the Freak collection, but it actually isn’t the most expensive Freak watch made — not even close. Ulysse Nardin produces Freak watches with tourbillons inside that cost a lot more than the Freak Vision. That said, I think the Freak Vision is the most practical higher-end Freak watch ever made. It not only has an excellent and interesting movement but an inspired visual design that looks optimistically to the future. Price for the reference 2505-250 Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision watch is $95,000 USD. Learn more at Ulysse Nardin here.
>Brand: Ulysse Nardin
>Model: Freak Vision reference 2505-250
>Price: $95,000 USD
>Size: 45mm wide, approx. 13mm thick, and approx. 54mm lug-to-lug distance.
>When reviewer would personally wear it: It’s a statement piece for those who love mechanics. Ideally worn in a setting in which people seeing it on your wrist are curious to know the story of what they are looking at.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Watch-lovers seeking something legitimately interesting and high-end, but anti-classic should flock to this and other Freak models.
>Best characteristic of watch: Ulysse Nardin manages to effectively build upon the technology that made the Freak family popular, by adding an interesting automatic winding system and a satisfying constant-force escapement system. Wearing comfort is good, and the futuristic case design feels correct for our era.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Manually winding the watch can be a bit frustrating, given the pressure required. It just isn’t a luxury experience on par with the rest of the piece. Winding the watch or setting the time almost always covers the case with fingerprints, so always bring a cloth. Crystal has a bit too much glare. As an American English speaker, I sort of wish Ulysse Nardin would consider a different name aside from “Grinder” for the automatic winding system. There are many connotations to the term “grinder,” and I’m not sure any of them are well-suited to the luxury watch experience.