2001 stands out in history, marked by events that significantly shaped our future – some fascinating, some terrifying. In the realm of watchmaking, 2001 witnessed a groundbreaking moment with the unveiling of the Freak by Ulysse Nardin – a “horological UFO with no dial, no hands, no crown, and a novel silicon direct impulse escapement,” as described by our own Xavier Markl. I encourage you to delve into his detailed review of this “avant-garde masterpiece that smashed all conventions and pioneered silicon in the watch industry” and the subsequent editions. And talking about this, there’s a new edition of the Ulysse Nardin Freak One, and it’s coming in a rather polarizing colour scheme.
Since 2001, the watch without a crown for winding and time setting, devoid of conventional hands for indicating hours and minutes, and lacking a designated dial has spawned numerous variants. The newest addition is the Freak One, introduced earlier this year, featuring a 44mm black DLC-coated titanium case with a rose gold bezel. For Dubai Watch Week, Ulysse Nardin presented the Freak One Ops, essentially the same model but exuding an aura and appeal of camouflage and military aesthetics – Ops, short for operations, clever.
The Freak One Ops maintains the 44mm black DLC-coated and satin-finished titanium case of its predecessor, only this time showcasing a notched bezel crafted from Carbonium. This material, with a unique aesthetic, has been utilized by Ulysse Nardin since 2019 (Skeleton X). Produced under high pressure and at very high temperatures, it comprises two-thirds carbon fibre offcuts from the aerospace industry and one-third high-temperature epoxy. The recycled material significantly lowers the environmental impact of Carbonium production; a talking point watch owners will likely take pride in or use it as a diversion to steer the conversation away from the humble 30-meter water resistance.
Now, virtually everything visible under the sapphire crystal constitutes a movement component. The khaki green barrel cover with a sunray pattern is a captivating backdrop for the time-reading spectacle. The narrow outer chapter ring with Arabic numerals at 3, 6, 9, and 12, along with less obvious applied indices, constitutes the dial surface, subtly complementing the camouflage aesthetics of the timepiece. The main bridge structure with gear train components and minutes marker forms the brand’s signature anchor emblem. A flying balance bridge is a counterweight to the unconventional minutes hand, rotating alongside the gear train above the dark green surface. The hour pointer on a rotating disc and the minute pointer at the end of the 60-minute orbital flying carousel tourbillon, replacing the minute hand, along with the Arabic indices, are treated with a beige Super-LumiNova that emits a green glow in the dark.
The bezel-operated time-setting system, featuring a locker at 6 o’clock, enables the rotation of the entire movement. The patented winding system on the back necessitates twisting the outer caseback ring counter-clockwise to wind the watch.
Ulysse Nardin powers the Freak One Ops with its in-house UN-240 automatic movement, boasting a good 90-hour power reserve at a 21,600vph beat rate. It incorporates the brand’s proprietary Grinder winding rotor system, designed for ultra-fast bidirectional winding from even slight wrist motion. While the Grinder is undoubtedly a technically impressive piece of engineering, the caseback view lacks the dynamism of the dial side.
To complete the military-inspired look of the Freak One Ops, Ulysse Nardin pairs the watch with an integrated khaki and black “ballistic” rubber strap or a two-tone rubber strap, both crafted from 30% recycled rubber and secured with a black DLC titanium and black ceramic folding buckle. The retail prices are CHF 63,000 or EUR 67,500, VAT included. More details at ulysse-nardin.com.