I’ve been interested in dial decoration for a long time. That’s certainly not to say that movements no longer interest me, but finding a way to tie the dial into the concept of the movement without busy skeletonization, or brutal ham-handedness, is really, really hard. However, the Ulysse Nardin Freak X Marquetry watch might just have cracked it.
And “cracked” may be the operative word. The “shattered silicium” pattern displayed on the dial is superb. I love enameling — especially cloisenné — and I’ve always championed it as the finest method of dial decoration. That said, it is undeniably more suitable for dress watches than those designed for sport. What Ulysse Nardin has done here is to bring an artful technique to a very masculine sports watch with utter aplomb.
It feels a little unwarranted to skip by the (magnificent) movement as if it doesn’t matter a jot, but this release is not about the beating heat of the Freak. In summary, the Freak X will be Ulysse Nardin’s most affordable Freak yet. It retains the core features of the classic model, but simplifies some of the construction aspects. All in all, as categorically expensive as it remains, the Freak X is the most accessible and, in many ways, wearable of the family.
Caliber UN-230 powers the Ulysse Nardin Freak X Marquetry, providing 72 hours run-time. Impressive as the new UN-230 is, it is the dial that adds real value to this edition of the iconic family. The focal point of the Freak has always been the movement of the movement on the dial. Now, though, it has a rival for your attention.
Roughly 120 pieces of silicium, cut with a plasma accelerator, decorate the dial. The effect is certainly novel, and I believe incredibly attractive. It would seem, given the highly controllable nature of the cutting process, that basically any conceivable design would be achievable. This opens up a raft of possibilities for UN, and any other brand thinking of piggy-backing on their innovation.
Two dial variants are available. The bluest of the two backgrounds is cut through by a gilded X. A silver X adorns a background of a darker, purplish blue. The shades of blue/purple used are not entirely homogenous, so the interplay of light with each of the individual segments is really something to behold.
Following the SIHH release of the Ulysse Nardin Freak X, which was heralded as an entry-level option for thriftier fans of the Freak line, the Ulysse Nardin Freak X Marquetry is a slight upgrade that uses the stripped-back affordability of its recent forerunner as a base for some typical extravagance. I love the technique, but not so much the design. I think the scope for using this new decorative style in other watches in subtler ways is very exciting. I’m so much a fan of it, I’d actually like to see it in a much simpler watch. I don’t need the Freak’s dial-side dance to entertain me when I’ve got the endlessly nuanced light show of the dial for company. Price for the Ulysse Nardin Freak X Marquetry watch is POA. Visit ulysse-nardin.com to learn more.