The Freak has always been an important watch, since it was first introduced in 2001. Not only for Ulysse Nardin, but for the entire industry. You may look at it as another impressive and technically advanced watch, with a strange way to display time, however it is so much more than just that. It has to be see as a proper laboratory of research, a watch that, 15 years ago, created a massive break all conventions of how a movement should/could be construct. Ulysses Nardin have redesigned the Freak a bit and it looks good! We go hands-on with the Ulysse Nardin FreakLab.
Ulysses Nardin might be very well known for the Marine Collection however this brand has a very rich repertoire including what used to be the very first perpetual calendar that could be adjusted forward and backward. Ulysses Nardin has an impressive R&D presence and the ability to innovate, to use unknown techniques and to really implement them into working retail watches. Last year, they introduced a new Anchor Escapement (into a showcase watch) that is now implemented into a watch that will be in stores soon. We also have to consider the Freak, a watch that you may regard as an impressive piece of horology, with a very cool look and a unique display.
However, if we look back to the year 2001, when the Freak was first introduced, it was at that time a stupendous piece of innovation that introduced for the first time in a watch for sale, featuring a material that we’re all familiar with now: silicon. Indeed, in2001 he Ulysse Nardin Freak was the very first watch to incorporate an escapement made of silicium. In 2005, Ulysse Nardin chose to use a diamond escapement and that same year, they’ve been introducing the Dual Ulysse escapement. For Baselworld 2015, Ulysse Nardin comes with a new redesigned and technically updated edition of the Freak, the Ulysse Nardin FreakLab.
The concept behind the Freak is unchanged with the FreakLab: same overall design – meaning no crown, no hands, no dial, that same horological module on the top to indicate time – but the new one comes however with some technical updates. The top module – that is in fact a large part of the movement that comprises the gear train, the balance wheel, the balance-spring unit and the Dual Ulysse silicium escapement (that can be seen in blue) – still indicates the minutes (and thus rotates on its own axis once per an hour, creating a 1-hour tourbillon) but had been redesigned. It is now more compact to have the balance-wheel and balance-spring at the center of the movement. This operation lightened the dial and made it easier to read the hours (that are still indicated by the the lower deck).
The Ulysse Nardin FreakLab comes with a very unique escapement called Dual Ulysse silicium escapement that gets rid off the traditional pallet fork and escape wheel. Two silicium impulse wheels, each with eighteen active, meshing teeth, alternately activate a stopper which transmits its energy directly to the balance staff, first in one direction, then in the other. This mechanism requires no lubrification and always delivers its force in the direction of the rotation of the balance wheel, minimizing friction. The other novelty of the Ulysse Nardin FreakLab is its anti-shock device that protect the balance wheel – the UlyChoc. A classical system comprises five micro-elements: the block, the setting, the jewel, the counterpivot and the spring. The new UlyChoc mechanism reduces the numbers of parts and comes with a very complicated silicon spring that avoids forces of play and friction, enabling the balance staff to be perfectly re-centered in the event of an impact and that replaces three of these functions in a single part.
The caseback reveals two interesting features. The first one is a view on the very large mainspring, with an aperture that also allows a display of the power reserve (the closer to the center the spring is, the more wound it is). The second feature is a rotating bezel used to wind the movement. As you may have noticed, the Ulysse Nardin FreakLab doesn’t have any crown. The winding of the movement is operated while turning anti-clockwise the caseback. Now you may also ask yourself how to set the time.
Time can be adjusted very simply on the FreakLab, just by turing the bezel. By opening a safety clip between the lugs at 6 o’clock, the bezel becomes free and then can be turned clockwise to adjust the minutes and hours and anti-clockwise to adjust the date – yes, this is another novelty of the Ulysse Nardin FreakLab, as is now features a date complication, displayed in a window at 4 o’clock.
The Ulysse Nardin comes in a 45mm case made of 18k white gold with a black alligator strap. It keeps the iconic look of the previous Freak, with the same sculpted bezel, the dial and the horological module inspired by the sailing world and the same interesting technical features: a 1 hour tourbillon carrousel, a 8-day power reserve, the unique winding and time-setting mechanism and the innovation spirit. This new edition is cleaner, easier to read and still improves a concept that we really like here at Monochrome-Watches.
The Ulysse Nardin FreakLab will be priced just under CHF 100.000. More details on Ulysse Nardin Official Website.