The Freak was incredible when it was first presented, at Baselworld in 2001, and 14 years later it is still an innovative timepiece. Who knows what Ludwig Oechslin’s original inspiration was, possibly Corum’s baguette movement, but the idea of making the movement become the minute hand, so that it gradually rotates around the dial and can be considered a one-hour tourbillon, was a stroke of genius. After 2001 the Freak became a testbed for other design features, and in 2005 it was presented with a new escapement, the Dual Ulysse, without the traditional pallet fork, but with two impulse wheels that mesh together. They are made in silicium and so need no lubrication.
This year, the FreakLab has yet more technological innovation. The gear train is smaller, and the balance wheel and spring have been placed at the centre of the movement. The balance staff is protected against shock by a new shock-absorbing system named UlyChoc, a patent-pending invention in which a single component made of silicium performs what is normally done with three parts. Lastly, a date window has been added. The hour indicator is simply placed on the “lower deck” with the teak-like fluting, and so that whole inner section of the dial, including the Ulysse Nardin name-plate, gradually rotates. Below, a drawing of the Ulysse Dual escapement.
Luckily, all this technical stuff has not marred the watch’s quirky character, its whimsical lightness of concept that makes it a watch perfect for the 21st century. The vaguely sail-like indicators for reading hours and minutes and the anchor-like structures of the movement recall Ulysse Nardin’s nautical heritage. Setting the watch is easy and intuitive, with a rotating bezel with wave profile that can be rotated clockwise to set the time, and anticlockwise to set the date. A safety clip at 6 o’clock, bearing the name of the watch, locks and unlocks this bezel. The bezel visible on the caseback side is used to wind the watch, with one complete turn corresponding to to 12 hours power reserve, reaching a total of over seven days. The degree to which the watch is wound can be judged directly by looking at the spring visible through the caseback window (shown in the photo below). The manually-wound UN-210 movement runs at 28,00 vph, 4 Hertz. The white gold case is 45 mm in diameter.
Reference and price
The Ulysse Nardin FreakLab is reference 2100-138. It is already available in boutiques, and the price is 95,000 Swiss francs, €95,000, £68,900.