Tactical green for the new Ulysse Nardin Freak One OPSFergus Nash
Although the Freak has been a boundary-pushing legend for Ulysse Nardin since 2001, it seems like 2023 has become the year of the Freak. Starting out with the Freak One back in March, we saw the most refined and elegant rendition of the Freak yet. Then in September we got a militaristic update of the ‘affordable’ Freak X, exchanging its magma-infused carbon composite with a khaki green. Now, the Ulysse Nardin Freak One OPS combines elements from both for a tactical, high-luxury experiment.
The Freak One’s case didn’t need too much modification to fit the OPS theme, which is short for ‘operations’ in the military sense. The DLC-coated titanium ensures that it’s light on the wrist, while still remaining scratch-resistant and rugged. The lugs are brushed for a little bit of extra sheen against the matte surfaces, but the main update is the bezel. Appearing like wisps of silver smoke, their Carbonium is made from 95% up-cycled aerospace material. Its swirled texture adds to the Freak’s sense of eccentric mystery, and also somewhat disguises the notches cut into the bezel’s shape.
At 44mm wide, the Freak One OPS is definitely a bit of a monster, but that should be expected from a Freak. It’s designed to be as glaring as possible, almost daring people to sneer at it. It’s a surprisingly comfortable wear though, with short lugs and a 12mm thickness ensuring it doesn’t feel too much like an anchor on the wrist. The titanium helps too, reducing the overall weight. It’s not something you’d want to take swimming thanks to the 30m water resistance, but it should be up to the task of other outdoor activities.
The Ulysse Nardin Freak was one of the first watches to begin breaking down the barriers of movement and dial, beyond the art of skeletonisation. Reimagining a flying tourbillon, the balance now traverses the dial within its own minute hand in an arrangement called the “flying carousel”. In this version, the bridges between components are black-coated and harshly bevelled in a way which looks incredibly industrial, and the sheer width of the minute hand evokes power. The hour hand is just a large arrowhead which looks to be floating, individually travelling underneath the minute hand.
The dial itself is quite minimal, but still decorated with radial stripes. It’s almost like a macro version of a sunburst brushing, more suited to a tactical aesthetic. The khaki green colour is complemented by the cream coloured printing and luminous paint, while the contrasting black leans into casual styles. By far the most standout feature is the electric blue balance wheel, proving that the dial and the movement cannot be truly distinguished.
Ulysse Nardin have labelled this movement the UN-240, and you interact with it on every level of the watch. Through the bezel, you can adjust the time by lifting the lock and simply twisting it around wherever you need it to be. Winding the watch is done in a similar manner but on the caseback bezel, which surrounds a sapphire crystal to showcase the Grinder automatic system. You may have noticed that the Freak doesn’t have a crown, and it doesn’t need one thanks to those features. The large, silicon balance is a significant part of the movement because the Freak was the first watch to use that material, and Ulysse Nardin have since improved it again with a diamond coating now known as DIAMonSIL. This gives it added shock and abrasion resistance, in addition to silicon’s natural magnetic resistance and longevity. Operating at 3Hz, the power reserve lasts for 90 hours.
With integrated fitment, the Ulysse Nardin Freak One OPS comes on a khaki green rubber strap with contrasting black edges. The texture makes it look woven, and the underside is ridged to promote airflow and reduce sweating. The rubber is made from 30% recycled material, and the pin-buckle hardware is made from the same black DLC-coated titanium as the case.
Although the Ulysse Nardin Freak One OPS is definitely one of the more attractive Freak references to be released, it’s still definitely an oddity. Splashing out this amount of money on something so niche is quite a big commitment, but the materials, artistry, and horological significance are definitely worth it. The biggest factor if your personal taste, and whether this is the flavour of Freak for you.
Ulysse Nardin Freak One OPS pricing and availability
The Ulysse Nardin Freak One OPS is now available from Ulysse Nardin’s website and retailers. Price: US$66,500, CHF 63,000
|Model||Freak One OPS|
|Case Dimensions||44mm (D) x 12mm (T)|
|Case Material||DLC-coated titanium with a Carbonium bezel|
|Water Resistance||30 metres|
|Crystal(s)||Sapphire crystal front and back|
|Strap||Khaki green and black rubber|
|Movement||UN-240, in-house, Grinder automatic, DIAMonSIL escapement treatment|
|Power Reserve||90 hours|