The revolutionary impact of the first freak more than two decades ago is still challenging fine watchmaking. When it was introduced in 2001, the Freak did more than simply shift expectations of Ulysse Nardin watches: it created a new paradigm in Swiss fine watchmaking.
Mechanical watches coming out of Switzerland at the time had hands that showed the time, a dial for them to sit on, and a crown set into the case flank to adjust them. But the Freak had none of these. With no dial, no hands and no crown, it re-set the industry’s mindset. Could unconventional watch design, backed by huge advances in mechanical movement creation, catch the eye of 21st century watch buyers?
You bet it could.
In the two decades since the Freak first appeared, it’s become a cornerstone of high-end contemporary watchmaking. Technologies it pioneered, chiefly in the use of high-tech silicon to mitigate the stresses placed on some of the watch’s moving parts, have defined industry norms. It may have sat outside the Swiss watchmaking comfort zone back then, but where the Freak went, everyone else followed.
Those early models have turned into collector favourites, while further iterations have amped up the story, often by elevating the Freak’s technical capabilities, sometimes just for the thrill of stretching its boundary-less aesthetic.
Among them, and as its name suggests, the Freak ONE has remained the centre point for the collection. The Freak’s Freak. No dial. No hands. No crown. It epitomises the independent, free-spirited thinking that has always defined the Freak, and Ulysse Nardin.
At Dubai Watch Week, Ulysse Nardin continues the Freak’s story with the Freak ONE OPS – as in “operations”, a khaki and black watch that convey an adventurous inspiration. As before, it’s backed by cutting-edge technology developed in Ulysse Nardin’s independent integrated manufacture, only now with a casual look.
For over twenty years since it breathed into life, there’s still nothing quite like the Freak.
Freak (One Ops)
The Freak one gets the camouflage treatment For Dubai Watch Week, Ulysse Nardin has created the Freak ONE OPS, a Freak ONE, but with a twist. The new piece measures 44mm in diameter and is cased in black DLC titanium, complemented by a khaki green palette that characterizes the special sunray-patterned barrel cover and the watch’s integrated rubber strap pairing.
The material story continues in the bezel, which is made of Carbonium®, an innovative material with exceptional strength-to-lightness properties that’s produced using the same carbon fibres found in state-of-the-art aircraft wings and fuselages. In fact, Carbonium® is made using offcuts from the aircraft manufacturing process, reducing its environmental impact by 40 per cent compared to other carbon composites. The manufacturing technique is organic, meaning the marbled finish found in the Freak ONE OPS’s bezel is unique to each watch.
Given the watch has no dial, the Freak ONE OPS’s calibre UN-240 Manufacture movement is clearly visible, its flying carousel simultaneously relaying the minutes indication as it rotates on its own axis. Also on display are the oversized oscillator and balance spring, both in captivating blue silicon, recalling the existential role silicon has played in the Freak’s unconventional legacy. The movement is automatic and carries a weighty 90-hour power reserve.
There’s a choice of two integrated straps: one in black and khaki “ballistic” rubber, and an alternate two-tone rubber strap, also in black and khaki. Both have black DLC titanium and black ceramic folding clasps. The straps tell Ulysse Nardin’s environmental story, too. They’re made using 30 per cent recycled rubber from production waste.
The result is a bold, muscular piece that amplifies the Freak’s story of daring design and in-house technical know special Freak-Tures the Freak (One Ops) is no ordinary watch.
Typically, mechanical watches hide their workings under a dial. But the Freak ONE OPS has no dial. Its movement doubles as its minute hand, while the hour hand is a pointer set on a rotating disc that sits under the movement.
The unconventional Freak ONE OPS has neither a big hand nor a little hand. Instead, its one-hour orbital carousel tourbillon becomes the minute hand, and the hour hand is replaced by a pointer on a rotating disc.
The Freak ONE OPS has a black DLC titanium case, topped with a bezel made of Carbonium®, a material first used in fine watchmaking by Ulysse Nardin in 2019. It’s produced under very high pressure and at very high temperatures using carbon fibre offcuts from the aviation industry, meaning its environmental impact is 40 per cent lower than other carbon composites. The fibres measure just 7µm and are weaved together in an organic fashion to create a unique finish every time.
The Freak ONE OPS is powered by UN-240, a self-winding movement with a 90-hour power reserve. The movement’s flying carousel with its silicon balance wheel and escapement are suspended by a bridge that acts as the minute hand; a second bridge serves as the hour hand.
See the light
The hour and minute indicators and hour markers are coated in a beige Super-LumiNova® that glows green in low-light conditions.