Ulysse Nardin Blasts The Freak S Into Space at Watches & Wonders 2022
When the original Ulysse Nardin Freak model debuted in 2001, it caused a stir in the watch world. Conceived by master watchmaker Carole Forestier-Kasapi, the crown-less timepiece was a bold idea that challenged the precepts of how a watch communicates the time to its wearer. Since then, the Freak has become one of a handful of disruptive yet breakthrough concept timepieces to have made a serious impact on the watch industry.
Into the Future
The very essence of the Freak’s loaded-up carousel minute indicator has always carried a spirit of futurism. But, today, at Watches & Wonders in Geneva, Ulysse Nardin debuted a new version that draws even more direct lines to outer space. Dubbed the “Freak S,” it has a starry aventurine-dial with a bulked-up carousel execution and the brand’s first automatic double oscillator with a differential.
“The Freak is a watch whose revolutionary soul is regularly fired up by new technical challenges,” Ulysse Nardin CEO Patrick Pruniaux said in a press release. “Like the heroes of Homer’s Odyssey who visited many unknown lands, we at Ulysse Nardin continue to explore all possible roads offered by science to ensure constant improvement in the precision and functionality of our time-keeping instruments.”
In Freak timepieces, the carousel minute indicator carries the mechanics of the watch. They move, spin, and ride along on the arm as the minutes tick away.
However, the new Freak S manages to improve upon that already loaded carousel with a new and groundbreaking inclined double oscillating system with a regulating differential, a first for the brand. And, bless their skill, the symmetry of the “twin-turbine” mechanics inspired the brand’s designers to reach for the stars.
The carousel, which previously had a more linear or vaguely uneven pinched ovate framework, is now a bold, double-reactor starship, replete with metallic rose gold bridges and eerie blue balance wheels pitched at 20 degrees like wings.
Due to their relative positions and gravity, these two wheels never oscillate at the same rate. But between them, the differential (the rest of the starship’s engine) regulates those frequencies to deliver constant force.
A New Frontier
This masterful execution creates a much more pronounced carousel presentation – it’s big. So big, it led to the next design innovation on the Freak S.
On previous Freak models, a large arrow, disassociated from the carousel, indicated hours on the dial. In the Freak S, there just wasn’t room to do that. Instead, a bold white marker, the same shade of white on the nose of the starship for the minutes, rotates on its own bridge, actually riding under the overhanging rose gold hour indices. There is an arrow on the new indicator, but that is the only visual nod to the previous system.
The Freak S Design: Future and Past Collide
In a way, these changes represent a tidal shift in the Freak’s overall design language. However, they also seem to be a logical next step, or evolution, of the collection’s existing DNA.
Even with the older Freak’s hour function, all you really saw was that single dominant carousel. The hour hand was there but subdued. In the Freak S, the interstellar carousel takes center stage completely, as it should. Yet, in an obvious reference to the 2001 Freak, the 45mm case of the Freak S is inspired by the original and stacks black ceramic, black DLC titanium, and rose gold up to the rose gold bezel.
Of course, when you’re talking about science fiction, you’ve got to give a little nod to the steam-punk element of the genre. The Freak S’s black crocodile strap counter-balances the technicality of the timepiece with some heritage white, gold stitching, and hashing accents that inject the proper dose of Jules Verne into the scenario.
Pricing & Availability
Inside the Freak S, the new UN-251 calibre boasts a 72-hour power reserve, and the case is water-resistant to 30 meters – just in case a splashdown is required. Beam in a cosmic aventurine dial that picks up the rose gold hardware in its tiny golden star flecks and the signature bezel panel at 6 o’clock boldly labeled “FREAK,” and your space opera is complete – albeit limited to 75 journeys.
Finally, the Ulysse Nardin Freak S lists for $137,200. For more information, visit the Ulysse Nardin website.
(Photography by Liam O'Donnell. Images © Ulysse Nardin)