ver the past two decades, the Freak has become a fearless 21st century watchmaking icon, the Millennium’s first collector’s watch and the author of a roadmap to destinations unknown that countless others have since followed. The watchmaking landscape will never be the same again - because of the Freak.
The Freak’s story has continued to gather momentum. Further inventions. New materials. Always the unexpected. And then in 2019, Ulysse Nardin broke the conventions of the unconventional Freak by introducing the Freak X. The story? Still no dial. Still no hands. But this time, it did have a crown.
An iconoclast to replace an iconoclast?
The Freak X was aimed at a new generation of Freak collectors. Its form was simplified – see the addition of a crown – but it was still an outlandish expression of analogue watch design. The movement bridges still doubled as the hands, and the movement included advanced developments such as the lightweight silicon balance wheel with nickel flyweights.
The look was distinctly Freakish, but this was different again. This was the easy-going Freak.
At Watches and Wonders Shanghai, Ulysse Nardin has taken the Freak X undercover with the Freak [X OPS] – as in, “operations”. Its black DLC titanium case, bezel and crown, khaki green carbon fibre composite flanks and fabric strap convey an adventurous inspiration to the Freak [X OPS].
The innovative material used in the case flanks originally appeared in the Freak X Magma. There, it was a mix of carbon fibre and red, marbled epoxy resin. Here, the mix is with green epoxy resin. In green, it has an easy-going, casual luxury feel to it. Backed up by its fabric strap, it appeals to sporty and adventurous collectors. This is fine watchmaking for life’s mavericks, a design that twists the principles of traditional horology into a high-concept wristwatch.
The Ulysse Nardin backstory is eternally tied to exploration and expertise. In the beginning, the company made trailblazing marine chronometers and supplied some of the world’s leading navies with innovative, high-calibre navigation tools. That same pioneering spirit lies behind the Freak [X OPS], a watch that captures a passion for finding new worlds and fresh expressions of established ideas.
Beating away at the watch’s heart is the UN-230 self-winding movement, a marriage of the bulletproof UN-118 and the high-tech UN-250 that gave the Freak Vision its unforgettable look. The watch is water-resistant to 50 metres.
NO DIAL Typically, mechanical watches hide their workings under a dial. But the Freak [X 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.
NO HANDS The unconventional Freak [X 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. A challenging design, but easy to read.
ONE OF A KIND The Freak [X OPS] has case flanks made of Ulysse Nardin’s ultra-lightweight carbon fibre composite, a material inspired by the irregular patterns of Damascus steel and introduced in 2019. It’s produced by weaving carbon fibre with (in this case) a green epoxy resin, giving it its signature three-dimensional look. No two cases are the same.
HOURS OF DARKNESS The Freak [X OPS] is powered by UN-230, a self-winding movement with a 72-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.
GREEN LIGHT The hour and minute indicators and hour markers are coated in a matching khaki green Super-LumiNova that glows green in low-light conditions.
2303-270-2A-KAKI/0A (black strap)
2303-270-2A-KAKI/0B (green strap)
MOVEMENT AND FUNCTIONS
Caliber UN-230 manufacture automatic movement
Flying carousel movement rotating around its own axis
Balance wheel and escapement in silicon
Oversized oscillator in silicon
Black movement with indexes and bridges in khaki green Super-LumiNova
206 components, 21 jewels
Frequency 3 hz, oscillations 21’600 vph
Khaki green carbon flanks in ‘Magma’, an original composite, blending black carbon fibres and green epoxy resin
Black DLC titanium case and bezel
Black DLC titanium case back with transparent sapphire opening Perceived height 10.7 mm, overall height 13.38 mm
STRAP AND BUCKLE
Khaki green fabric strap
Black fabric strap (recycled fishing net) Hook and loop fastener