HANDS-ON: The Ulysse Nardin Freak X Magma is the creativity you asked for, but do you really want it?Zach Blass
Watching on from the sidelines, consumers on social media constantly beg the watch industry to put the novel in novelties, asking for original, fresh, and forward-thinking designs in a conventional and traditional industry. Instead, we get 1mm variations in size, a new dial colour, and the crowd goes wild to the extent that boggles the mind. In other words, people don’t know what they want. If you’re a watch lover that genuinely seeks a different view of things, the Ulysse Nardin Freak X Magma is for you, and it’s coming in hot.
The 43mm case is made of both carbon fibre and titanium. The carbon fibre is composed of a red polymer, while the titanium is DLC treated to a shade of black. The bezel is rendered in DLC-treated titanium, with both brushed and sandblasted finishes. This pairing of carbon fibre and titanium not only provides the watch with a magma-like aesthetic to live up to its name, but also a robust case that will protect the carousel tourbillon within. The watch is water resistant to a depth of 50 metres, so you do not have to worry about the fire going out if the watch gets wet.
The dial inversely complements the case aesthetic, opting for a predominantly stealth black tone with pops of red luminova on the hands and markers. While not particularly skeletonised, the movement is effectively the dial here. You can see the road of teeth the balance wheel will follow, its motion known as a carousel tourbillon complication. Upon closer inspection of the dial, you’ll see a circular brush along the hour track that expands across the teeth of the carousel complication until its inner core, which switches to a grained and sandblasted finish – effectively matching the composition of the case bezel.
Because the teeth, gears, and plates beneath the hands are rendered black, the carousel seemingly floats above the dial as if it is slowly revolving in the depths of space. It draws the eye to what is really the star of the show, the motion of the carousel truly making the watch feel alive. It is really neat visually, because the watch is not stagnant and will change in appearance throughout each hour.
The Ulysse Nardin Freak X Magma is powered by the Caliber UN-230 manufacture movement. It is essentially a carousel tourbillon module paired with an existing automatic movement from the manufacture. The idea behind the movement is to create the effect of a tourbillon by having the balance wheel rotate in tandem with the minute hand – making one full rotation each hour.
By doing so, the balance finds itself in an array of positions and orientations that work to counter the effects of gravity on timekeeping. It is a really interesting solution, and provides a more cost-approachable means to the tourbillon effect.
The strap paired with the Ulysse Nardin Freak X Magma is not just some generic leather slapped on the case of the watch. I really appreciate the attention to detail here. The leather strap, on its top side, has a really neat gravel-like texture that helps drive home the volcanic magma aesthetic. It would have been easy to just include a standard black strap with red accents, but in a detail-driven industry it’s nice to see Ulysse Nardin go the extra mile.
I really applaud the effort here on all fronts. The Ulysse Nardin Freak X Magma is an incredibly original design that considers every detail. The stealth black touches make the finishes less obvious, but when you look closer, you begin to see no stone left unturned. Anything black on the dial has received a brushed, spiralled or sandblasted treatment and the carousel complication on its own is a value proposition. Most tourbillon-driven watches command incredibly high premiums and prices, but Ulysse Nardin has provided a more affordable solution to prospective buyers, with little to no compromise in horological value.
Ulysse Nardin Freak X Magma pricing and availability:
The Ulysse Nardin Freak X Magma is available now for a price of $27,000 USD.