The Ulysse Nardin Freak One is a super-freak and chic The Ulysse Nardin Freak One is a super-freak and chic

The Ulysse Nardin Freak One is a super-freak and chic

Kylie Lloyd-Wyatt

Ulysse Nardin’s original Freak shook the watch-o-sphere to the core when unveiled at Basel in 2001. It was like nothing anyone had seen before; a complete reimagining of how a watch can function and display time where there was no crown, no dial and no hands. Seemingly so complex with a gear train sprawled across the dial, but deceptively simple to read, its classic yet contemporary cleverness and sheer beauty became an almost overnight zeitgeist for watchmaking in the 2000s.

The initial idea to reimagine the flying tourbillon movement came from Carole Forestier-Kasapi. Under the direction of storied watchmaker Ludwig Oechslin, the tourbillon movement became not only the mechanism for keeping time, but also the method for reading it and with that, the Freak was born. Of course, its conceptual mechanical innovation was not the only first in the original Freak, its silicon mainspring was also pioneering.

Since its release, the Freak line has been a repository for iteration and innovation including the novel use of materials and experimentation with mechanical concepts. The brand has also experimented with different aesthetics, varying from more modern and tactical executions in chrome, greys and blues to the inclusion of rose and yellow gold, and even diamonds to add touches of elegance.

This year’s iteration, however, is arguably the most well-balanced and refined culmination of all the versions. There are nods to the past, most notably the gold bezel and gear train bridges taking inspiration from the original Freak, the notching on the bezel inspired by more recent editions and a more streamlined case shape from 2019. The 44mm case in grade 5 titanium is only 12mm thick, making this watch surprisingly light and easy wearing despite appearances, and the matte black DLC finishing with ballistic black rubber strap gives it a somewhat stealthy look. Though the movement in this watch is quite durable, ignore any nautical suggestions the anchor may give off, as the Freak One’s 30 metres of water resistance will limit its utility to the yacht deck.

The openworked 18k rose gold gear train bridges set against subtly guillochéd anthracite plates make the movement the true centrepiece and gives the One a refined presence that seamlessly merges technicality with elegance. Lumed arrows at the tip of the main gear train and on the hour disk makes the time easy to read in any light, in combination with peripheral 18k gold hour markers and quarter indices. The bezel, also resplendent in 18k rose gold, contrasts the anthracite to provide more balance. The notches are geometric and intentional, a more sleek and modern twist on the scalloped older versions, making moving the bezel easy. The movement is protected by a slightly raised sapphire crystal.

Technically, the UN-240 manufacture movement is a flying carrousel where the movement components themselves tell the time in place of hands. The main gear train on the dial interfaces with gears sitting under the bezel and completes a full revolution about a centre point once an hour. Thus, the main gear train doubles as the minute hand. An hour arrow sits on a disk and completes a full revolution once every 12 hours about the centre point, and thus hours and minutes are read from the same peripheral markers. The balance wheel is crafted from a single piece of silicon and interacts with a highly durable diamond-coated silicon lever escapement to provide durability, shock resistance and antimagnetic properties: the culmination of “Freak” mechanical innovation across the years. The movement is self-winding, offering up to 72 hours of power reserve when fully wound, and beats away at 21,600vph.

Ulysse Nardin Freak One pricing and availability:

The Ulysse Nardin Freak One is available now. Price: CHF 65,000 (with VAT), US$68,600 (ex VAT), €69,600 (with VAT), £60,330 (with VAT)

Brand Ulysse Nardin
Model Freak One
Reference Number 2405-500-2A/3D
Case Dimensions 44mm (D) x 12mm (T)
Case Material Grade 5 titanium and 18k 5N rose gold
Water Resistance 30 metres
Dial Guilloché anthracite
Crystal(s) Sapphire
Strap Black rubber
Movement UN-240, in-house, automatic, silicon escapement
Power Reserve 72 hours
Functions Flying carrousel tourbillon, hours, minutes
Availability Now
Price CHF 65,000 (with VAT)
US$68,600 (ex VAT)
€69,600 (with VAT)
£60,330 (with VAT)