When it comes to the various brands and manufacturers that have helped shape the modern mechanical watch industry, no conversation could be complete without including Ulysse Nardin. Back in 2001, Ulysse Nardin became the first watch manufacturer to incorporate a silicon escapement when it introduced the inaugural Freak model; however, this was hardly the only unusual and groundbreaking feature of the watch. Created without a dial, hands, or crown, the Ulysse Nardin Freak was unlike any other wristwatch, and it set the standard for truly outside-the-box designs by doing away with a number of key features that are typically considered to be essential on most watches. Its latest release unveiled this year at Watches & Wonders Geneva 2023 is a new Freak watch. The Ulysse Nardin Freak ONE pays tribute to the defining elements of the original Freak, while simultaneously incorporating the collection’s most notable innovations and moving the Freak forward in a thoroughly modern direction.
Crafted from black DLC-finished titanium with a 5N red gold bezel, the case of the Ulysse Nardin Freak ONE measures 44mm in diameter by 12mm thick. Sapphire crystals are fitted to both the dial side of the watch and its caseback, although just like the original Freak watch from 2001 (and all of the subsequent Freak models that have followed in its footsteps), the new Freak ONE doesn’t have a traditional winding crown, and this enables it to have a completely symmetrical case profile. Like the original Freak model, the time is instead adjusted by rotating the bezel, which features a notched design that recalls the appearance of the bezel fitted to the very first Freak. Sitting between the lugs on the 6 o’clock side of the case is a locking mechanism for the bezel, and lifting it up allows you to rotate the bezel while pushing it down locks it into place and prevents accidental adjustment of the time. Despite the fact that the external bezel of the watch is mechanically connected to its movement, the Ulysse Nardin Freak ONE still offers 30 meters of water resistance to protect against daily moisture exposure and incidental contact.
In much the same way that the Ulysse Nardin Freak ONE doesn’t have a winding crown, it also lacks a traditional dial and hands. Taking the place of a dial is a rotating black disc (which Ulysse Nardin calls a barrel cover), and it features a prominent sunray pattern engraved on its surface. The disc rotates once every 12 hours, and it is fitted with a V-shaped indicator filled with Super-LumiNova that allows the disc to function as an hour hand by pointing out the current hour against the chapter ring located along the periphery of the display. Similarly, the balance, escapement, and gear train aren’t buried within the movement but rather reside on a large bridge that sits above the hours disc and functions as a minute hand, making one full rotation once every hour. Additionally, since the balance and escapement are mounted on the minute bridge and are constantly rotating, the minute bridge also functions as an orbital 60-minute flying carousel tourbillon. To complement its contemporary black and rose gold profile, the components that form the minute bridge are finished in rose gold to offer contrast against the black sunray-finished barrel cover that sits below it.
Powering the Ulysse Nardin Freak ONE is the manufacture Caliber UN-240 automatic movement. Consisting of 229 components, the Cal. UN-240 runs at a frequency of 21,600bph (3 Hz) while offering users a power reserve of approximately 90 hours. In addition to displaying the hours and minutes, the Cal. UN-240 also technically offers a 60-minute tourbillon due to the fact that the movement features a flying carousel design that rotates along its own axis. Additionally, in order to increase performance and longevity, the escapement is treated with Ulysse Nardin’s patented DIAMonSIL coating which is a diamond and silicon plasma surface treatment that first made an appearance inside the Freak back in 2007. Lastly, automatic winding for the new Freak ONE is carried out by Ulysse Nardin’s proprietary Grinder winding system, which consists of a rotor connected to a frame with four blades to provide twice the angular stroke and increased winding efficiency. That said, despite the fact that the movement is self-winding, it can also be manually wound by rotating the caseback, similar to the Freak Vision watch that debuted the brand’s Grinder winding system back in 2018.
The new Ulysse Nardin Freak ONE is available with the option of either a black rubber strap with a “ballistic” texture (ref. 2405-500-2A/3D), a two-tone rubber strap (ref. 2405-500-2A/3A), or a matte-black alligator leather strap (ref. 2405-500-2A/3C). Additionally, the rubber straps are made with 30% recycled material from Ulysse Nardin’s Swiss strap manufacturing partner BIWI, and all of the different strap options are completed by black DLC titanium and 5N red gold deployant buckles. As the brand’s new flagship watch, the Ulysse Nardin Freak ONE is naturally quite a bit more expensive than many of the other Freak models in the current lineup, and it is accompanied by an official retail price of $68,600 USD. That said, the Freak ONE incorporates many of the collection’s key features and distills them down into a timepiece that pays tribute to the pioneering history of the Freak, while still being a timepiece that keeps its focus firmly planted on the future. For more information on the Ulysse Nardin Freak ONE, please visit the brand’s website.