The Ulysse Nardin Freak S Nomad

Watches and Wonders: Avant-Garde Design + Exquisite Guilloché = Ulysse Nardin’s New Freak S Nomad

Already a trailblazer in horological innovation, distinguished by its cutting-edge movement construction, avant-garde aesthetics, and ingenious material use, the Freak collection can now add “intricate guilloché” to the list.

By Henri Lee

The “no dial, no hands, no crown” engineering feat achieved by Ulysse Nardin when it introduced the first Freak watch in 2001 cannot be understated, especially considering that it was the first-ever watch to incorporate silicon into its movement.

The creative boundaries were pushed even further in 2022 with the introduction of the Freak S, a watch boasting a pair of mesmerizing oscillators.

Now, at the Watches and Wonders 2024, Ulysse Nardin unveiled the Freak S Nomad, captivating watch enthusiasts worldwide by blending the charm of traditional watchmaking into the brand’s flagship Freak collection.

Let us delve into the key components of this striking novelty and uncover the unique elements that set it apart.

A Flying Carousel

Carousel movements date back to 1892, and like a tourbillon, its original purpose was to minimize the influence of gravity on a pocket watch movement by continually rotating the balance wheel and escapement.

So, naturally, the designers at Ulysse Nardin took the concept of the carousel complication to an entirely new level for the Freak collection.

Thus, like all Freak models, the entire intricate movement powering the Nomad is now the carousel and is on display for all to see. Moreover, since the Freak line eschews traditional dials, the minute hand has been replaced by the nose of the Nomad’s spaceship-like Calibre UN-251 Manufacture movement, which makes one revolution every 60 minutes.

Twin Oscillators

When the Freak S debuted in 2022, it added a double oscillating system to its movement, offering a spectacular visual effect that resembles “a space vessel with twin reactors.” Beyond looking cool, the purpose of dual oscillators and dual gear trains is to improve the chronometry performance. There are two common approaches.

The first method involves positioning the two oscillators closely together but not touching each other. The idea is to synchronize the oscillators through the resonance effect.

The second method utilizes a differential to mechanically average out the errors in rate from the two oscillators. So, assuming one oscillator’s rate is +3 seconds per day while the other is -2 seconds per day, the timing accuracy after the differential would be an impressive +0.5 seconds per day.

The Freak S also adopted this approach, and on the Freak S and Freak S Nomad, we can clearly see the vertical differential mounted on ball bearings connecting the two oscillators. Plus, since the two balance wheels on either side of the “spaceship” are tilted 20 degrees, they are simply mesmerizing to behold.

A Rotating Hour Disc

Beneath the carousel lies a rotating hour disc with a luminescent indicator on its edge to point to the hour markers along the inside of the case. For the Freak S Nomad, the hour disc (which completes one revolution every 12 hours) is decorated with a diamond guilloché pattern finished in a sand-colored CVD, a high-performance thin-film coating process.

The guilloché work is meticulously performed on a rare 18th-century rose engine by a skilled artisan, one piece at a time. And to accomplish this pattern, the entire disc must be continuously engine-turned to avoid any defects, requiring a high level of skill, focus, and patience from the craftsperson.

The intricate guilloché offers a stunning backdrop for the futuristic, spacecraft-like carousel roaming through space and means this tempting novelty seamlessly weaves traditional watchmaking and cutting-edge technology together.

Setting & Winding Without a Crown

Setting the Freak S Nomad is achieved by turning the bezel, which rotates the entire movement, to position the hour and minute indicators accordingly. To prevent accidental movement of the bezel, there is a locking tab engraved with “FREAK” at 6 o’clock.

Additionally, the innovative Grinder winding system utilizes a peripheral rotor, making this automatic winding mechanism twice as efficient as conventional designs. However, if manual winding is needed, it can be done by turning the caseback.

Impressively, the Freak S Nomad boasts a 72-hour power reserve, a remarkable feat considering the energy required to drive the carousel, hour disc, and two separate gear trains.

Notably, no crown is needed for setting or winding, a testament to the ingenious design of this timepiece.

Pricing & Availability

The Freak S Nomad has a lightweight titanium case and locker, as well as an anthracite PVD-coated titanium bezel. Meanwhile, its flanks are carbon fiber and double as the watch’s lugs.

Finally, the 99-piece limited edition Freak S Nomad, which has a diameter of 45mm and a perceived height of 13.66mm, comes with an alligator and a rubber strap and is priced at $148,300. Visit the Ulysse Nardin website for more information.

(Photography by Pierre Vogel)

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