The term “horological icon” gets thrown around a lot, but Ulysse Nardin’s Freak makes a very strong case for being one. Introduced in 2001, it was a watch that was unlike any other. It had an unusual tourbillon and the entire movement was, basically, the watch’s minute hand. These features have come to define the Freak, and even today, Ulysse Nardin’s Freak watches still look refreshing and radical. Now, fans of the Freak will have more options as Ulysse Nardin has expanded the Freak collection with four new watches called the Ulysse Nardin Freak Out.
One of the reasons for the Freak Out collection is to make the Freak accessible to a wider audience. And to do that, the Freak Out watches all come with titanium cases instead of the more common precious metals found in other Freak watches. The case design is borrowed from the Freak Innovision 2 watch that was showed off earlier. Case diameter is a hefty 45mm, but because the Freak Out watches have titanium cases, it should be quite light to wear.
The UN-153 motion comprises the brand’s DIAMonSIL escapement, which feature the variable inertia balance wheel, also known from the UN-118 movement along with the silicon hairspring out of Sigatec. Sigatec is a company that is co-owned by Ulysse Nardin. The name DIAMonSIL Comes from DIAMond and SILicon. It is lubrication free and expands durability significantly. The escapement wheel and wheel are assembled from this material.The movement’s balance wheel vibrates at 28,800 vph (4Hz) and the variable inertia balance is adjusted by four in-set screws on the balance wheel instead of the common smooth balance wheel adjusted by means of a regulator. The motion has a power reserve of 52 hours.We adore the design, the blank finishing, small design feats such as the large blued screws, the anchor-shaped rotor with two small anchors and a blue UN logo. Finishing is a key contributor to the price of a watch. Perhaps it is the factor that distinguishes watches more than quality. The Ulysse Nardin Marine Chronograph Annual Calendar motion shows finishing of round Côtes de Genève, pèrlage and angling.All models in the Marine collection are available with rubber band or alligator strap, and so is this Marine Chronograph. The double-folding grip in stainless steel is well shaped and finished. Moreover it works great, and feel really secure. For the review we had the version with black alligator leather strap which proved to be a absolute delight to wear.
Look closely at the case and you will find that there’s no crown. So how does one adjust the watch and wind the movement? In between the lugs at 6 o’clock is a small lock that releases the bezel. This adjusts the time. To wind the hand-wound movement within, simply twist the entire caseback. Because the bezel and caseback are used to adjust the time and wind the watch, water resistance is just 30m.
Like all Freak watches, the Ulysse Nardin Freak Out’s baguette-style movement doubles up as the minute hand. The movement within is the in-house Caliber UN-205. It is wound by hand and features a generous power reserve of 7 days. It wouldn’t be a Freak if the movement didn’t have silicon components and the Caliber UN-205 features Ulysse Nardin’s new Anchor Escapement, which replaces the traditional anchor and anchor wheel with two silicon impulse wheels and blades, and a silicon hairspring that beats at 4Hz.
As I mentioned earlier, there are four new variants. The sportiest of the lot is possibly the Freak Out Full Black, which has, as you might have guessed, a full black PVD treatment for the case and dial. The Arabic hour markers and movement are silver, which makes it striking and easy to read. Next up, we have the Freak Out Black Gold. This has what looks like a raw titanium color case and a contrasting gold gear train for the movement. If you like blue, there’s the Freak Out of the Blue, which also has a raw titanium color case, but a rich blue dial and a silver gear train. Finally, the last watch of the collection is the Freak Out Blue Gold. This has a raw titanium color case, a rich blue dial, and a gold gear train for the movement. All four Ulysse Nardin Freak Out models will come with matching color sailcloth straps with a folding buckle.
The Ulysse Nardin Freak has long been a shining example of high-end horology and the move to make it more accessible should be applauded by collectors. What’s remarkable also is that these Freak Out watches still retain all of the characteristics that make the Freak so special in the first place, like the the baguette tourbillon movement and crownless case. The Ulysse Nardin Freak Out is priced beginning at $48,000 CHF. ulysse-nardin.com