Le Freak, C’est Chic: Ulysse Nardin Unveils the Freak ONE at Watches & Wonders 2023
A new and edgy Freak that continues the concept of “No dial. No hands. No crown”? Sign us up!
For over two decades, Ulysse Nardin has tickled our horological fancies and titillated our watch curiosities by periodically adding more Freaks to our lives. Time and time again, the brand has proven its surplus of moxie through these releases that have, on occasion, been imbued with the devil-may-care attitude for which the Le Locle, Switzerland-based brand, has come to be known.
How It Started
It was in 2001 that collectors and press alike met the original Ulysse Nardin Freak.
A culmination of the 1980s partnership between Rolf W. Schnyder and Ludwig Oechslin, the Freak would mark the first time a major Swiss watch brand brought silicon components into the spotlight. And while it was another four years before fans of the watch could get their hands on the next version, it was clear the impact of the Freak had been made, and the watch enthusiast community wanted more.
Post the OG Freak of 2001, Ulysse Nardin has since presented the public with multiple versions, starting with the sophomore releases: the Freak 28,800 V/h and the Freak Diamond Heart, both introduced in 2005.
In contrast, the Freak DIAMonSIL saw the light of day in 2007. And in the process of this model’s design and development, Ulysse Nardin continued its forward-thinking innovation by using a synthetic “nanocrystal” diamond escapement grown on a silicium part. Hence the name: DIAMond-on-SILicium.
By 2010 the devil on our shoulder (or, rather, wrist) appeared with the introduction of the Freak Diavolo as well as a new colorway for the collection: black and red (in lieu of the blue tones featured on prior iterations). A few years later, in 2013, the Freak Cruiser came out and contained more of the brand’s aquatic DNA, embracing the brand’s anchor motif more than ever before. But it was 2015 that saw the Freak’s oscillator moved to the center by way of the Freak Lab.
Then, in 2018, the look of the Freak’s case and bezel changed pretty radically for the first time since its introduction. That year, the Freak Vision offered buyers a sleeker version of what was becoming an iconic timepiece by replacing the “waves” on the bezel with 3-D elements that made sense and that, honestly, looked damn good.
How It’s Going
The new Freak ONE draws design inspiration from the original 2001 version by going back to its three main visual characteristics: no dial, no hands, and no crown.
As you can see, the newest Freak boasts a notched bezel similar to the inaugural model. However, the Freak ONE also pays homage to other versions in the Freak collection through both its outward aesthetics and, in other cases, its technical features.
For example, the ONE’s open gear train takes its inspiration from 2013’s Freak Cruiser, while its legibility codes are reminiscent of the 2018 Freak Vision. Even the black DLC-coated titanium and rose gold detailing of Ulysse Nardin’s latest novelty is a recent reminder of the design of last year’s Freak S.
But what can we expect from the Freak ONE that will excite us AND keep our attention until the next Freak comes along?
For one, there is no other watch out there like the Freak. That, alone, is enough to excite the industry every time a new version comes out. Moreover, you don’t have to be a collector to appreciate what exactly is spectacular about this series of watches; just having a pulse or at least part of a brain will suffice. But for this 2023 version, there is so much more to this timepiece to get that pulse quickening.
The Freak ONE contains the calibre UN-240 manufacturer’s automatic movement with a 72-hour power reserve and, as is typical of this collection, a flying carousel movement rotating around its own axis.
The 44mm black DLC-coated titanium case has a soft, satin finish accentuated by a 5N rose gold bezel and a black titanium caseback with a sapphire insert. The watch is water-resistant to 30 meters, which, for a brand with such strong ties to the water, shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.
While Ulysse Nardin often flies under the radar of mainstream watch purchasers, those who believe in the brand and look to it with an understanding and appreciation for ingenuity are the ones who will influence the others who simply just don’t get it.
Thankfully, enough of us out there genuinely do. We get it. And we want more.