At a press conference held beneath the minimalistic curves of London’s Serpentine Gallery, in the presence of Patrick Pruniaux, the watch brand’s CEO and Stéphane Von Gunten, Research and Innovation Director, Ulysse Nardin unveiled its latest concept watch, the FREAK neXt: a concentrate of technologies in the same spirit as past innovations.
Ulysse Nardin has been at the cutting edge of watchmaking since its foundation in 1846. Technological exploration is more than a method, it is a philosophy, a raison d’être, a daily driving force.
With the new FREAK neXt concept watch, the Swiss manufacture proves that the adventurous spirit of the FREAK collection is very much alive and driving Ulysse Nardin’s technical departments more than ever. The new FREAK neXt is the current quintessence of all the technical and watchmaking skills of the Ulysse Nardin Manufacture, unveiling an oscillator of truly spectacular design.
So what’s the latest from the depths of Ulysse Nardin’s new “laboratory on the wrist”? After 10 years of continued research, development and improvements in collaboration with Sigatec – a firm co-owned by Ulysse Nardin that specializes in the production of silicium micro -components – the Manufacture is now in a position to present what appears to be the pinnacle of a paradigm shift in mechanical watchmaking that began in 2015 with the Ulysse Anchor flying escapement: the new neXt flying oscillator.
THE “NEXT” FLYING OSCILLATOR AND ITS 3D DESIGN
First came Ulysse Nardin’s flying tourbillon and flying anchor escapement. Now, we present the flying oscillator!
“The balance wheel regulates even better as it has a great moment of inertia and performs rapid oscillations of great amplitude.” Léopold Defossez
That is precisely the challenge that the new FREAK neXt has successfully taken on. Toying with the limits of the physics of materials, the new Freak neXt flying oscillator presents an entirely innovative 3D design. Based on flexible mechanisms using the elasticity of silicium blades, a principle that is truly mastered by Ulysse Nardin, this oscillating regulating device does away with the central pivot, its center literally suspended in mid-air. The central idea of this regulating organ is to totally eliminate the axis of the balance wheel in order to create a virtual pivot point. This is a radical development that hugely improves the traditional principle of balance spring regulation introduced in the 17thcentury. The neXt flying oscillator, with its 3D multi-layer construction – four layers of blades and a solid layer that serves as a flywheel – is a highly significant technological development for watchmaking research. This new oscillator eliminates the necessity for pivots and jewels. The new FREAK features a “suspended” beating heart that “levitates” without a balance-cock (balance bridge). The direct result of this system is none other than the total elimination of friction on the bearings, optimizing the global quality factor and therefore the movement’s energy consumption. The only remaining friction is with the air. No more – or very little – friction, no more contact, no more wear, no more oil. Made up of 32 silicium micro-blades measuring 16 micrometers in width, connected to one another without contact with the mainplate – forming 16 triangles superimposed in 4 parallel layers – the oscillator beats to a highly efficient frequency of 12 Hz, for a remarkable 70-hour power reserve. The frequency has been multiplied by 3 while at the same time increasing the power reserve by 30%. This incredible technical feat is made possible thanks to the elimination of friction, particularly given the fact that the energy consumption depends on the frequency, cubed (if the frequency is doubled, the consumption is multiplied by 8).
But this major innovation comes as no surprise. It is the last stage in a decade of developments for FREAK concept watches at Ulysse Nardin with the 2014 launch of the Ulysse Anchor escapement, followed by the Grinder, also fitted with blades, presented in 2017 on the Freak Innovision 2 model.