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Watches and Wonders 2023: Ulysse Nardin

Ulysee Nardin Freak One

The iconiclatic Freak receives a sophisticated update. 

Although only one new watch was presented by Ulysee Nardin at the Watches and Wonders 2023 event in Geneva, its heritage and legacy cannot be overstated. Loaded with noteworthy features that defied the conventions of high watchmaking and marked the beginning and the new millennium at its launch in 2001, the Freak continues to fascinate today, updated for a new generation of watch lovers.

Ulysee Nardin Freak One
The Ulysee Nardin Freak One in DLC-coated titanium and rose gold.

The brainchild of genius watchmaker Dr Ludwig Oechslin and the brand’s late owner Rolf Schnyder, the Freak remains an impressive technical feat. Like its predecessors, the new Freak One has no conventional watch hands, and the orbital flying carrousel movement rests on a single bridge above the dial, showcasing the Dual Direct Escapement and exposed gears. The movement bridge doubles as the minutes hand, making a complete revolution in 60 minutes. The hours, on the other hand, are indicated by a disc below the bridge, rotating around the dial in 12 hours. In addition, the patented winding system features no crown whatsoever. Instead, the winding mechanism is located beneath the dial, and winding is done by turning the caseback. Adjusting the hours and minutes is done via the rotating bezel, giving the Freak One a clean, sleek, sporty, and futuristic design. A silicon hairspring, which debuted in the collection in 2008, also makes an appearance in the Freak One.

Ulysee Nardin Freak One
A close-up of the Ulysee Nardin Freak One's orbital carrousel tourbillon.

Created under the supervision of Jean-Christophe Sabatier, chief product officer at Ulysse Nardin, the Freak One boasts a slimmer and more elegant profile, with a reworked rose gold bezel adorned with arrowhead and lozenge grooves for a more futuristic appearance and better grip. Housed in a 44mm DLC-coated titanium case with a satin finish, the watch is an amalgamation of elements from previous models to create a modern and up-to-date design, while still maintaining its roots to the original Freak, which gives it a distinct and otherworldly feel.

Ulysee Nardin Freak One
The Ulysee Nardin Freak One boasts a slimmer and more elegant profile.

The hour disc, which also serves as the movement cover, is decorated with a sunray finish. The escapement is treated with DIAMonSIL, a synthetic diamond and silicon plasma treatment, making the movement more resistant to shocks and abrasions. The bridges are in rose gold, while the markers and Arabic numerals are transfers filled with Super-LumiNova that alternate with gold indexes, all situated on the outer flange. The minutes pointer is located on the tip of the second wheel, and the hours pointer is also coated with Super-LumiNova for optimal legibility in the dark. In addition to winding the movement manually via the caseback, the manufacture Calibre UN-240 with a 72-hour power reserve also boasts the “Grinder” self-winding system that is twice as efficient as the oscillating weight is connected to a frame carrying four blades, which gives the twice the angular stroke.

Ulysee Nardin Freak One
The Ulysee Nardin Freak One is an amalgamation of elements from previous models.

The combination of black and rose gold creates a contrast that exudes luxury, making the Freak One a striking watch. This is a sophisticated update that should appeal to long-time fans of the Freak and new converts alike. It is a versatile watch suitable for any occasion, from casual weekends to boardroom meetings and even black-tie soirees. Owning a Freak One is a unique experience guaranteed to leave a lasting impression.

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A familiar face in Malaysia's horological publishing scene, Leong has been involved in lifestyle journalism since the mid-1990s. Besides watches, he takes a keen interest in cars and men's fashion.