Dubai Watch Week: Ulysse Nardin’s Freak Gets Tough with the New Freak [ONE OPS]!
When the original Freak timepiece debuted in 2001, it went a long way toward redefining the traditional watchmaker Ulysse Nardin as one of the most avant-garde forces in the watch world.
By loading up movement components on a single rotating flying carousel that doubles as a minute hand, eschewing the hour hand for a bold arrow indicator that rotates along its own disc, and removing the crown, the Freak challenged how we look at not only a high-horology and ultra-technical watch but how we envision time itself.
However, despite its revolutionary construction and unusual time display, after 22 years and multiple, almost experimental variations that showed off the flexibility of the approach – including the Freak Vision, the somewhat more traditional crown-sporting Freak X, the space-age Freak S, and the story-resetting Freak ONE that built on the brand’s innovative Grinder winding system – the Freak doesn’t feel quite so, well, “freaky” anymore.
Freaking Into the Field
While just as artful and innovative as its predecessors, the Freak [ONE OPS] that debuted at Dubai Watch Week 2023 points to the idea that Ulysse Nardin’s Freak collection is less oddball objet d’art and more of a recognizable watch design platform, ready for the masses.
That is because, when you look at the Freak [ONE OPS] and mentally skip over the component-loaded carousel minute hand, everything about it screams field-ready: The 44mm black DLC titanium case and gorgeous, aircraft-derived Carbonium bezel combine both durability and the comfort of lightweight materials with a dazzling, unique-to-each-watch carbon fiber eye-show to create a chic façade on a watch that could otherwise have just emerged from the trenches.
Similarly, its large arrow indicators for minutes and hours with vintage-inspired beige lime are a natural pivot for a watch that needs to be legible by necessity. There are two available straps: a black-and-khaki ballistic rubber version and a traditional rubber option. Both of which are crafted from 30 percent recycled rubber).
Of course, while the timepiece’s sunray-patterned barrel cover isn’t really a “dial,” per se, Ulysse Nardin’s choice of green khaki for this plate is at once subdued and utilitarian, which, in turn, enhances the legibility of the cardinal Arabic numeral indices, chapter hashing, and bar indices (all of which are also feature beige Super-LumiNova).
The Art of Tenacity
Lastly, even the complexities of the flying carousel arm seem to have been stripped down to their essential components with matte black bridging, presenting a message of appropriate ruggedness and utility. While the often-seen UTC coding of a traditional field watch is missing, and you might not want to tap the Freak [ONE OPS] too hard with a trenching tool, the overall effect of its design is undeniable: This timepiece is artful and tough.
Speaking of toughness, Ulysse Nardin’s signature Grinder winding system deviates from a traditional rotor-based winder enough to surmise some extra-rugged qualities.
Now, I don’t know if there are studies to confirm this; however, regardless of whether it’s true, the Grinder system is certainly efficient because it uses a central ball-bearing oscillator to take advantage of even the slightest of wrist movements. That motion is then translated to four blades and delivered to the mainspring, resulting in twice the torque of traditional rotors as well as drastically reducing friction.
Pricing & Availability
Given this unexpected execution, what is Ulysse Nardin signaling here? Could we see more releases of sportier Freak ONE and Freak X models down the line? Could a Freak pilot’s watch be on the horizon? What about a dive watch?
Not to totally freak you out (pun intended), but could there someday be a chronograph that expands on the exquisite DNA of the Freak? Only time will tell (pun not intended).