2001 was a momentous year for the world of watchmaking. Amidst the ticking symphony of conventional watches, Rolf Schnyder, a maverick in the industry, envisaged a timepiece that would defy every norm. His audacity to challenge the status quo and his unwavering belief in the boundless potential of horology led to the creation of the FREAK, a watch that would rewrite the rules of timekeeping.

At the heart of this conceptualization was Dr. Ludwig Oechslin, a luminary watchmaker known for his unconventional approach to horology. Collaborating with Schnyder, Dr. Oechslin poured his genius into the FREAK’s blueprint. The watch’s core innovation lay in its very structure – devoid of hands, dial, bezel and crown. It was a complete rethink of what a timekeeping device can be and an embodiment of Schnyder and Dr. Oechslin’s shared philosophy of pushing boundaries and embracing the extraordinary. Their collaboration culminated in a timepiece that was more than a watch; it was a manifesto of innovation that heralded a new era of watchmaking.

Today, the Freak series is growing from strength to strength. Collectors love the fact that at the heart of every Freak timepiece is advanced technology and unorthodox architecture, but they remain accessible, user-friendly and durable. They’re hardy yet versatile enough for everyday use, or to grace wrists as statement pieces. This is perhaps best encapsulated in three of its most groundbreaking expressions: Freak X, Freak S and Freak ONE.

Freak ONE

The Ulysse Nardin Freak ONE is a horological marvel that seamlessly amalgamates innovation with the expression‘s rich lineage. This avant-garde timepiece draws inspiration from the inaugural Freak model, proudly upholding its distinctive trio of characteristics: the absence of a conventional dial, hands, and crown. 

Central to its performance is its automatic Caliber UN-240 Manufacture movement. Its patented Grinder winding mechanism is ingeniously crafted to harness energy from subtle wrist motions. The rotor links to a frame hosting four blades, doubling the angular stroke akin to a bicycle’s four pedals for enhanced efficiency, surpassing traditional winding systems. Its cutting-edge silicon hairspring is treated with DIAMonSIL – a groundbreaking fusion of synthetic diamond and silicon plasma surfacing – and showcases remarkable resilience against abrasions and shocks. 

Ulysse Nardin Freak ONE is as much a work of art as it is a marvel of engineering. (Image credit: The Ulysse Nardin)

The Freak ONE also has one of the most impressive cases in modern watchmaking. The 44mm black DLC-coated titanium case with its satin finish exudes a modern and sophisticated charm. The 12mm height ensures a comfortable fit, allowing it to slide effortlessly under shirt cuffs while still commanding attention. The rose gold 5N bezel adds a touch of opulence that beautifully complements the titanium case. It’s the perfect balance between boldness and elegance, making a statement without overpowering the overall aesthetic. The contrast between the black case and the rose gold bezel is simply stunning. What’s truly remarkable is the black titanium case back with the sapphire insert. This feature not only showcases the intricate mechanics of the watch but also adds a layer of depth and dimension to the design. 

The fact that the Freak One’s case is water-resistant to 30 meters is a testament to its practicality. This watch isn’t just for show; it’s built to withstand everyday challenges.

Notably, the Freak ONE’s design encapsulates the essence of its predecessors, seamlessly melding the notched bezel reminiscent of the original 2001 Freak, the open gear train reminiscent of the 2013 Freak Cruiser, and the legibility cues from the 2018 Freak Vision. The watch’s aesthetic allure is further enhanced by the black DLC-coated titanium and rose gold detailing, echoing the elegance seen in recent iterations such as the Freak S.

Freak S

Ulysse Nardin Freak S‘ double oscillator is fast becoming one of watchmaking’s finest complications. (Image credit: The Hour Glass)

Building upon the legacy of the Freak Vision, this mechanical masterpiece introduces a plethora of advancements that redefine the boundaries of watchmaking technology.

The Freak S showcases the pinnacle of innovation: a double oscillator featuring a differential with automatic winding that stands twice as efficient as traditional methods. This remarkable feature has become the signature of the new UN 251 Manufacture movement. Positioned on distinct planes as if on two launching pads, the two XXL silicium balance wheels with inertia blocks are linked by a differential, which draws the average of their rates. This orchestration of micromechanical artistry results in a mesmerizing 3D effect. The oscillators, positioned at a 20-degree incline, appear to perform a rhythmic tango, a symphony of precision beating at a frequency of 2.5 Hz (each). This balletic display not only enhances the timepiece’s visual allure but also underscores its functionality—stabilizing the barrel’s energy distribution and maintaining a consistent amplitude.

Furthering its avant-garde narrative, the Freak S embraces a new case design that harmoniously blends materials like ceramic, titanium, and gold—a homage to the original 2001 Freak’s aesthetics. As the bezel is rotated, the Freak S’s time can be set effortlessly in either direction, breaking free from the conventions of traditional watch crown adjustments.

Freak X

The Freak X is a bold entry point into Ulysse Nardin’s Freak series. (Image credit: Ulysse Nardin)

The Freak X is a bold entry point into Ulysse Nardin’s esteemed Freak collection, carving its own identity while retaining the essence that defines its lineage. While sharing certain aesthetic and functional elements with its other Freak counterparts the Freak X ventures into uncharted territory with a flying carrousel movement rotating around its own axis. The central bridge orchestrates the minutes, while an artful wheel indicates the hours in what is sometimes dubbed the ‘baguette’ movement.

Its movement, UN-230, seamlessly blends the essence of UN-118 and the FREAK VISION UN-250 calibers, especially with the latter’s feather-light silicium balance wheel, notable for its expansive width, nickel flyweights, and stabilizing micro-blades.

Compact yet commanding, the Freak X flaunts a more manageable 43mm size, a departure from the standard 45mm. This resizing accentuates its readability and operational convenience, ensuring a seamless user experience. Notably, a crown takes center stage for time correction, deviating from the crown-less design of the iconic Freak Vision and Freak Out models, which rely on the bezel for time adjustments.

The transformation isn’t limited to the movement; the case itself undergoes a profound change. Characterized by graceful curves and rounded lines, the case design is a departure from its predecessors, exuding modernity and sophistication. The FREAK X caters to discerning tastes, with titanium, rose gold, black DLC, and Carbonium® variants.

written by.

Suffian Hakim

Senior Writer, Augustman Singapore
Best-selling novelist, playwright and screenwriter Suffian Hakim is AUGUSTMAN Singapore's Features Editor. He writes articles on arts, culture, entertainment, cars, watches, travel and more - all in an effort to properly investigate and define that nebulous, all-encompassing L-word: lifestyle.
Ulysse Nardin Breaks New Ground With The Freak X, Freak S and Freak One
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