In 2001, an unexpected iconoclast emerged: the Freak. It also developed groundbreaking innovations that came to characterize mechanical watchmaking in the 21st century. A remarkable amount of change has occurred in the Swiss watch industry in the previous 20 years. It’s been a season full of bold new approaches to performance, production, and design. Invention perpetually repeats itself.
The word FREAK and Ulysse Nardin go hand-in-hand. Ulysse Nardin has submitted over 20 patents for the Freak watch since 2001. The watch is distinguished by its lack of a crown. But despite that, it’s still a freak. Ulysse Nardin, now operating on its own, has recapped its origin narrative with the Freak ONE unveiled at Watches And Wonders 2023!
Do you wish to know the story of a FREAK?
Under the direction of eccentric owner Rolf Schnyder and master watchmaker Dr. Ludwig Oechslin, Ulysse Nardin released the Freak in 2001. It was an outlandish invention, a flying saucer in a country that valued tradition and conservative. Schnyder thought the only appropriate name was “Freak” due to the lack of a dial, hands, and crown.
A mechanism on the rear of the case wound the watch after it had been set with the bezel. Without hands, the time was displayed by a carrousel tourbillon that rotated once every hour.
The Freak was like a watchmaking workshop for Ulysse Nardin. The brilliant Dual Dire Escapement by Dr. Oechslin was based on this idea. It also appeared to be the first Swiss watch to use a silicon escapement, which would make it a technological milestone. Silicon has many desirable qualities, including its low friction and high resistance, its elasticity, and the fact that it can be manufactured to extremely precise tolerances. That was a dramatic and costly change for the watch industry to make in 2001. Twenty years later, it has become widely accepted. In a way, the Freak can be said to have inspired every modern watch made with silicon components.
Jean-Christophe, Ulysse Nardin’s Chief Product Officer believes the Freak’s creators were ahead of their time. “Rolf Schnyder and Dr. Ludwig Oechslin were, and I say this with great affection, freaks,’ he says.‘They were independent in their thinking and courageous to the point of madness. They took a huge gamble, knowing they might be outgunned by players with greater resources. They don’t get all the credit they deserve. They were the Lewis and Clark of 21st-century watchmaking. Everyone since has followed the path they laid out. Two decades later, the Freak is Ulysse Nardin’s inimitable signature. You can’t counterfeit the Freak. It’s just too difficult”, he further added.
All About The Freak One
More than two decades after it first rewrote standards for luxury timepieces, the Freak is still instantly recognizable by its lack of a display, hands, and crown. Ulysse Nardin has created the Freak ONE, more than two decades after it debuted the original Freak, in honor of its delightfully unconventional timepiece.
The concept of the Freak remains daunting 22 years after its initial debut. Among the cutting-edge works of modern watchmaking, it is also a technological marvel. The first version radically altered people’s ideas about what a mechanical watch could look like and how it should function because of its innovative combination of cutting-edge technology and avant-garde design. This was the ideology of the rebels. One of those “what the Freak” watches…
This year, Ulysse Nardin unveils the Freak ONE, a timepiece that harkens back to the original concept of the Freak and the watch that helped establish the brand. The Freak ONE is a new timepiece that takes design cues from the original Freak by omitting the dial, hands, and crown.
For regulation, a silicon hair ring was introduced in 2008, and in 2007, the escapement was coated with DIAMonSIL, a revolutionary synthetic diamond, and a silicon plasma surfacing procedure that makes the movement abrasion and shock-resistant.
The Freak ONE is a fusion of the aesthetic dynamics of all Freak models, from the notch in the bezel of 2001 original to the open gear train of the 2013 Freak Cruiser and the legibility codes of the 2018 Freak Vision. Black DLC-coated titanium and rose gold accents are reminiscent of the Freak S from last year.
“The Freak ONE is a fresh expression of who we are. It’s a highly technical watch, but it also has intense emotional value. When you set the time with the bezel, you experience something vital. This is what makes the Freak so special and why true collectors love it”, says Jean.
Bezel and locker
The bezel controls the Freak’s unique time-setting mechanism. When the 6 o’clock locker is called out, the system is unlocked. When you turn the bezel, the hands of the watch automatically follow the rotation of the watch’s internal mechanism. By returning the locker to its original position, the bezel will no longer interfere with the time-setting mechanism.
Protective sheath for a barrel
The revolving hour disc is the black sunray-engraved barrel cover, which rests beneath the mechanism. Every 12 hours, the V-shaped pointer, which is filled with Super-LumiNova® to assist low-light legibility, completes a full rotation.
The complete gear system, a gigantic silicon oscillator, and its orbiting 60-minute flying carrousel tourbillon are all supported by the Freak’s signature minute bridge, which floats just below the sapphire crystal. Ulysse Nardin uses their unique DIAMonSIL coating on the escapement.
The Grinder® winding system
The automatic movement of the Freak ONE can go for up to 72 hours without needing to be wound. The Grinder® winding technology, which is patented, is made to harvest power from even the slightest wrist motions. The system’s angular stroke is doubled thanks to the rotor’s connection to a frame with four blades, much like a bicycle with four pedals instead of two. The result is a system that is twice as efficient as conventional windings.
Strap made of integrated rubber
Ulysse Nardin’s commitment to a greener tomorrow is an ideal that the Freak ONE shares. The Swiss manufacturer BIWI, a partner of Ulysse Nardin, created the watch’s rubber strap using 30% recycled production waste. The Freak ONE’s ergonomics and comfort have been upgraded with its new, water-resistant strap.
Ulysse Nardin’s newfound autonomy is defined by the Freak ONE, which replaces previous flagship watches as the company’s focal point. There has always been a market for the Freak among collectors and explorers with a taste for the unusual and experimental. After more than twenty years, the Freak ONE finally reveals its backstory.
MOVEMENT & FUNCTIONS: Caliber UN-240 Manufacture Automatic movement, 72-hour power reserve, Hours, minutes Flying carrousel movement rotating around its own axis Silicon oversized oscillator and balance spring DIAMonSIL treatment to escapement
Grinder® automatic winding system, blades technology
Rose-gold-coloured bridges with Super-LumiNova®
Black engraved sunray pattern on the barrel cover
229 components, 15 jewels, Frequency 3 Hz, oscillations 21’600 V/H
CASE: 44mm black DLC-coated titanium case with a satin finish, rose
gold 5N bezel, black titanium case back with sapphire insert, water-resistant to 30 m, height 12 mm
STRAP & BUCKLE: Black rubber ‘ballistic’ textured rap (2405-500-2A/3D)
Black matt alligator leather strap (2405-500-2A/3C)
Two-tone rubber strap (2405-500-2A/3A)
Black DLC-coated titanium and rose gold 5N deployant buckle
Rubber straps made of 30% recycled rubber from production waste by BIWI, Switzerland
PRICES: 65’000 CHF (tax incl.), 60’330 GBP (tax incl.),
69’600 EUR (21% tax incl.), 68’600 USD (tax excl.)