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Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision Watch Hands-On: Experience The Grinder

Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision Watch Hands-On: Experience The Grinder Hands-On

At SIHH 2018 Ulysse Nardin debuted a totally redesigned member of the ongoing Freak collection, known simply as the reference 2505-250 Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision. While the Freak Vision is thoroughly part of the Freak watch family, it looks and feels like something totally fresh and distinct. The Freak Vision arrives just one year after Ulysse Nardin debuted an exciting concept watch known as the Freak InnoVision 2 (aBlogtoWatch article and video here). The InnoVision 2 presented a case and movement with numerous innovations in both technique and materials. If I had to summarize the purpose of the InnoVision 2, it would be “how to make a mechanical watch perform even better by using parts that are not metal and produced using novel techniques with modern engineering principles.”

Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision Watch Hands-On: Experience The Grinder Hands-On

All images by Ariel Adams.

Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision Watch Hands-On: Experience The Grinder Hands-On

[Editor’s Note: Ariel Adams here, and I want to simply say that I accidentally wore the Freak Vision timepiece upside down while shooting it during the hectic trade show environment at SIHH 2018. The Freak has always been one of the easiest watches to mistakenly wear upside down – so please have that in mind when seeing the watch on my wrist. Thank you.] The 2018 Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision contains some of the innovations from the InnoVision 2, even though some of the more exotic innovations (such as glass parts) could easily require a few more years to get right. If I had to guess, I would say that while the innovations in the InnoVision 2 lead to greater mechanical performance in a controlled setting, during real world use there are likely some reliability and durability concerns which still need to be sorted out. With that said, one of the most impressive innovations of the InnoVision 2 watch has made it into the Freak Vision – and that is the “Grinder.”

Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision Watch Hands-On: Experience The Grinder Hands-On

Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision Watch Hands-On: Experience The Grinder Hands-On

View the above link and watch the video in order to get a more detailed description of what the Grinder is all about. In short, it is a novel type of automatic winding system for a watch, that uses all silicon parts. What makes it impressive is its ability to offer winding of the mainspring with extremely small movements of the case. In a traditional automatic winding system, an oscillating weight needs to travel a relatively wide arc in order to generate winding power. With the Grinder, much more sensitive movements of the winding system allow for power generation. This leads to an automatic winding system in the Grinder which is far more efficient and useful than traditional automatic winding systems. At least, that is the idea…

Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision Watch Hands-On: Experience The Grinder Hands-On

Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision Watch Hands-On: Experience The Grinder Hands-On

Equipped with the Grinder (visible through the back of the watch), the Freak Vision is the first automatic winding version of the Freak ever produced. This is a big deal because even though previous versions of the Freak have a power reserve of up to a week, winding them was not always pleasant on the fingers. That is because the Freak cases are designed to be both water-resistant (to 30m in most instances such as here) and have top and rear bezels that rotate. The top bezel on the front of the watch (released with a small tab located at 12 o’clock) is used to set the time, while the rear bezel is used to wind the watch. With the Grinder, the need to manually wind the Freak Vision movement becomes optional as opposed to necessary.

Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision Watch Hands-On: Experience The Grinder Hands-On

Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision Watch Hands-On: Experience The Grinder Hands-On

Freak fans will immediately notice that aesthetically, the Freak Vision is a very different beast compared to previous Freak models. The watch is actually easier to wear and thinner than previous models, but still existing in a bold 45mm wide case. I think you’ll agree that even at 45mm wide, the crown-less design of the case still wears very well on my smaller-sized wrists. The case is in two materials including a precisely machined grade 5 titanium bezel as well as a solid platinum middle case. It also has an excellent modern look to it. Overall I think that from a design and performance perspective, the Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision takes traditional haute horlogerie into the modern age without abandoning the past (music to the ears of most Swiss watchmakers).

Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision Watch Hands-On: Experience The Grinder Hands-On

Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision Watch Hands-On: Experience The Grinder Hands-On

Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision Watch Hands-On: Experience The Grinder Hands-On

Like Freak watches before it, the Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision is “read” by looking at the rear disc hour hand (that has a white arrow indicator) along with the large minute hand structure which is actually comprised of the main gear train. For this new generation of Freak Vision watches, the minute hand assembly has a new look meant to evoke the shape of a boat hull. One of most impressive elements of this is viewing the in-house designed and produced “Ulysse Nardin Anchor Constant Escapement” which is a key part of the regulation system. This includes the wide-sized all-silicon oscillator (balance wheel) that uses melted pieces of nickel as “inertia-blocks” on the oscillator. This also includes a constant force system in the escapement, which is really about ensuring a stable flow of energy to the movement as the mainspring winds down. The result is constant amplitude, which allows the watch to offer the same level of accuracy throughout the period when the mainspring winds down.

Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision Watch Hands-On: Experience The Grinder Hands-On

Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision Watch Hands-On: Experience The Grinder Hands-On

The movement inside the Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision is the in-house caliber UN-250. Functions include just the time, with automatic winding, and a lot of fancy silicon parts. The oscillator operates at a frequency of 2.5Hz, and has a power reserve of 50 hours. Note that Ulysse Nardin considers the system to represent a tourbillon-esque “Flying Carrousel” since the regulation system makes a complete revolution around the dial each hour given that it is connected to the minute hand. I look forward to seeing how Ulysse Nardin not only advances the new systems in the UN-250 movement, but also adds further complications in the future. For many people this type of movement is just right, as it offers the time and the simplicity of enjoying the mechanism.

Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision Watch Hands-On: Experience The Grinder Hands-On

We included the Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision as one of the top 10 watches of SIHH 2018 because of its compelling looks, dedication to real innovation, and logical extension of where the high-end direction of Ulysse Nardin products should be going. Ulysse Nardin will not produce the Freak Vision as a limited edition, but I don’t expect them to produce that many of them. Price for the reference 2505-250 Ulysse Nardin Freak Vision in platinum and titanium is 95,000 CHF. ulysse-nardin.com

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  • Good Gene 42K18

    In Fluffya we call this jawn ‘The Hoagie’. Go Iggles!

  • Good Gene 42K18

    Sorry to blow up your spot, Big A, but I think you’re wearing the watch upside down. The bezel locking mechanism is supposed to be at 6 o’clock.
    Speaking of the bezel, I bet those 3 tabs not always lining up will give some people fits.

    • Piero

      How is it possible that in such a watch the 3 tabs on the bezel are not aligned with the hour markers???? This is really aggravating because I like the watch…

      • Good Gene 42K18

        I assume they’re just for gripping and every time you adjust the time the relationship between tabs and markers changes. You’d have to get lucky to have them land right on an hour marker.

    • I agree. The first photo was confusing, until it dawned on me that the watch was up-side-down……

      • Ariel Adams

        That was a “trade show fatigue mistake,” accidentally wearing the watch upside down. I will however say that 50% of the time I wear a Freak watch I make this mistake. It is amusingly (to me) the easiest watch I’ve ever seen to wear upside down and not realize it for hours.

        • I can certainly appreciate a “trade show fatigue mistake.” Thanks for the review.

        • Good Gene 42K18

          And the brand name spinning around, I get it. They should differentiate the 12 o’clock hour marker a little.

  • Total lust – one of the few roughly 100K watches that seems worth the price – not in terms of cost of production but in terms of my desire for it and the uniqueness is oozes both in design and materials & execution. Grail list updated. How much can I get for a kidney?

    • IG

      One can just hope that the 30m water-resistance was enough.

  • Bozzor

    A watch that I appreciate, admire and respect…but absolutely don’t like.

    • OK, I’ll take your’s.

      • Bozzor

        The day I can afford this watch…well, it will be the day I think I can get a 75% discount… 🙂

        Actually, I am curious: what sort of discounting is there on ultra high end (say US$ 50K and up) watches like this?

        • I dunno, but like most watches at retailers, you can probably negotiate anywhere from 5% to 30% depending on how much they want to move the stock. Precious metal watches have more room to negotiate also.

          • Bozzor

            So same rules and ratios as the lower end (i.e. sub US$ 10K) then. Well, either way, I just can’t come up with that sort of cash for a new Ulysee Nardin watch. But maybe, just maybe, if the stars were aligned and a used GMT Perpetual came along with a desperate owner needing the cash…

  • ProJ

    Sorry, can anybody explain how the time is read on this watch?

    • ProJ

      Nevermind, just read Ariel’s statement in the article. The arrow on the rear blue disc is for the hours, while the small arrow at the tip of the gear mechanism is for the minutes. Cool.

    • Good Gene 42K18

      It’s a little easier to read when it’s worn right side up, but the big white arrow on the blue wheel is the hour hand and the little white arrow opposite the carriage is the minute hand.

      • ProJ

        Thanks for explaining. Agree with you on the way it should be worn.

      • Ariel Adams

        Yes, this is easiest watch in the world to accidentally wear upside down. At the shows when we have just a few minutes sometimes with products, and we’ve seen hundreds of watches these mistakes can happen 🙂

        • Good Gene 42K18

          I refuse to accept your excuse because we both know that it was all Zen Love’s fault 🙂

      • Pete L

        Thank you, I though I was going crazy trying to read the time! Perhaps Ulysses Nardin put the strap on the wrong way round?

  • Good Gene 42K18

    In honor of Ariel’s obvious curiosity for intricate things and his funky style, here’s a Ludovic Ballouard. Second pic on a hip croc bund, which I know he loves. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c82f31a641cb29454e52522d78c510ca6a0d1bb1570e017d0b2e51ec656f7b7f.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/acc566a559b165dc4b2beafa53afee18dfa6cd70d9b6094a06c609b08746c4d2.jpg #UnshakableHorology #ABTWUD? #ZeeHashtagzDoNuzzing

  • Good Gene 42K18

    Curious Seiko, eh? https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/52636a927d24cb806ab38ed7fa30aba31a070e04586881db176621d192949baf.jpg Now let me fix your whole industry. #UnshakableHorology

    • IG

      Looks shite.

      • Good Gene 42K18

        Not much better the right way ’round.

  • Yan Fin

    Interesting. Intriguing. Useless.

  • SuperStrapper

    A cooler family of watches likely doesn’t exist. Not my favourite Freak in terms of aesthetics, but this one is so technically compelling. It’s likely a stepping stone for the brand into a lot of other great stuff throughout their catalogue.

    Lovely photography as well.

  • That’s so cool I don’t even mind not being able to read the time.

  • R Ramki

    Deserves the spot in the top 10, an incredible feat of design and engineering. Really hope these can approachable someday

  • David

    I would have made the same error. I would expect the bottom centered triangle to be the twelve o’clock position

  • R Khalifa

    I like the creativity of the Freak watches (although this is not my favorite iteration), but there is something fundamentally wrong when you have a watch that a professional watch reviewer can’t tell top from bottom. Frankly, that’s called bad design.

  • Jay Wick

    Now if a 6
    Turned out to be 12
    I don’t mind. I don’t mind.
    Swatch may be pointing their plastic movements at me
    But I’m gonna wave my Freak flag high!

    • Points for effectively quoting James Marshall H.

  • Ulysse Nardin is one of my favourite brands. For a good reason. If this would have been a RM it would have been 10 times more (and called a bargain).

  • BNABOD

    Ok is it me or is it not very well finished . The jewel bearings are not super neat and overall when zoomed in i don’t get the industrial but superbly finished feeling. At the price I want superb.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    It’s bold, it’s innovative, it’s forward thinking, it’s quite unique in its design, it’s awful.

    • Well the minutes are easy enough to read.

      • Raymond Wilkie

        Sold !

  • Ulysses31

    It’s a freak. It’s a weirdo. Nice winding system. The three triangular “claws” around the bezel look like cheap folded metal though, yuck.

  • Simonh

    The Kings Clothes..

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